The riots which started in London and then spread across the U.K. have perplexed much of the general public. Although what happend may seem like random acts of destruction, they were on closer inspection, a logical extension of the poor social conditions in England. We are witnessing an underclass disconnected from common values causing havoc on our streets. Yet this was not created over night. There are numerous underlying factors which are at the root cause of the problems. If we are to learn from the tragic events of this past month, there are many issues which will need to be dealt with and fast. This article is my attempt to shed light on the meaning of the riots.
I have heard so called experts try to turn this into a race issue. One politician interviewed on the BBC said it was the result of “white men acting black“. Another who runs a charity magazine, blamed it on obsession with black culture, from fashion to slang. It is surprising that in this day and age we have such rubbish being spouted from the countries leading commentators. The use of the word “Black” as a negative connotation, suggesting a lack of moral standard, is an uneducated and quite frankly racist response to the troubles. Anybody looking to demonise black culture are simply using the riots as a platform for their pre-existing notions about race.
At first glance, the events give the impression of the U.K’s very own Rodney King incident. What we do know is Mark Duggan, a black man who lived in London was shot dead by police sparking outrage amongst his community. A peaceful vigil turned violent, serving as a catalyst for the destruction that followed. And yet after a few hours it became clear that the riots had taken on a different perspective. Men, Women and Children of all colours began to loot and set fire to shop’s and business’s in one of the most horrific attacks seen on Britain in decades. Whatever basis Mark’s death had in the riots had long been replaced with an appetite for senseless vandalism.
But here is the truth: people were not acting Black or White, they were behaving the way they do in countless estates and neighbourhoods across Britain. Violent, angry and disconnected from Society. For anyone who lives in Wythenshawe, Hackney, Croxteth and areas like it, the scenes on television are nothing new. When this is all over and the streets are cleaned up, the costs will be paid for and it will become but a distant memory for the vast majority of people. Yet for others, there neighbours will have just returned home. There will be deaths in Manchester, London and Birmingham this year. Houses robbed and shops vandalised, but we probably won’t hear about them on the news.
Our youths are living in fear, they do not feel protected as being ‘one of them’, they are more scared of these criminals than we are. Yet i never hear the BBC worry about these conditions. We will no doubt hear every slur imaginable thrown at the working class in the coming months, those on social welfare will be met with hostility and contempt. All this however, misses the point. We can lock the rioters up, put them in National service and take away their privileges. The end result? they will eventually get out and we’ll have more angry yobs with no respect for anyone roaming the streets. In the aftermath, David Cameron spoke of a sickness within some sections of society. And I agree, but my take on it is somewhat different to his.
The fact is Britain has created a classist society where there is one rule for the rich and another for the poor. Police protection is almost non-existent in some areas, whilst the wealthy suburbs receive a completely different service. Hence why in poor areas theres a ‘them versus us mentality’ which isn’t universally shared. Since the 1980’s, Britain has embarked on reducing the working class standard of living to an all time low. Maggie Thatcher destroyed the Union’s whilst sending young men off to die fighting a pointless war. Her way of doing it was brash and in your face, but the governments that replaced her continued the agenda in a more subtle manner. Either way, what it boils down to is the abandonment of working class areas by the English government.
Education policy has become about one thing, paying for your right to be paid. School “catchment” areas stop people from being able to better themselvs. The facilities and standard of education in rough areas are far below that of Private schools. Attempts by children to move school, perhaps to a better area is blocked by the government. Even the most gifted child couldn’t thrive under this system. Ridiculous College fees mean any hopes they have of reaching University are gone. As sad as it is, Education for the “rich only” has long been a fact of English life.
In the 90’s it drove people to jobs in manual labouring. But now these jobs are gone. And who’s fault is it? the governments failure to regulate the banks. This has led to a rise in unemployment and left many people with a low level of education. Mistakes like this have consequences on a ground level. I am always bewildered by those who seek to demonise those caught in the welfare trap. For every man out there who looks to milk the system, there is another who is a genuine victim of the economic downturn. It seems people can’t distinguish between the thieves and the poor.
I hear a lot about community activists getting involved to help stop violence on the streets. But the truth is we shouldn’t need them. We don’t need more community activists, we need more jobs in the community. We need to put an end to the sons with no fathers. The kids having kids, the drug dealers and addicts that have long since given up on their values and work ethic. My heart goes out to the men who died in the horrific attacks in London. But we need to remember this, many more people will die this year if their is a continued failure to act. Britain is happy to sweep it’s problems under the carpet and leave the working class to deal with it. It’s only when these lunatics spill out onto their patch, the shops and business’s, that the issues are even raised.
You only need to take a look at the age profile of some of the rioters to get a sense of perspective. The question is what breeds ‘chav culture’? Why do we have ten and eleven year old kids with such anger in them. It’s fairly clear, environments breed personalities. If you were brought up by a dysfunctional family member, in an area with no job prospects, chances are you’d be out looting too. This is not my attempt to exscuse the rioters, i despise anti-social behaviour in all forms, it is more an unfortunate reality.
The government is to blame for the lack of investment in these areas. They’ve allowed them to rot whilst blocking out the only escape route: Jobs and education. We will not beat this problem by sending in police with batons. To get some grip on the problem, a complete 360 of ideas is needed. We need a fairer representation within the government of people of all backgrounds. Instead of the current corporate-driven illusion of democracy. Why not give empty college seats to those with no job prospects, reducing obstacles instead of creating them. If our politicians are serious about change they need to reach out to the youth and not hit them over the head with stricter sanctions designed to distance them further. Rumours say those on benefits may soon be asked to sweep the streets for free, why not take them on as trainee MP’s instead. We will never see the day because it would mess up the cosy world of luxury they live in.
Remember the MP’s expense scandal? that gives us a clear indication of where our politicans priorities lye. The police rarely come from the same backgrounds as the people in the communities they are meant to serve. This can lead to a lack of understanding or empathy on their part and it’s the reason why teens have began to protect themselvs with knives. If our MP’s and police don’t identify with the people they are meant to serve, how can we have a society that exsists in harmony? unfortunatly i must question the fabric of society that funds the system.
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan was supposedly about protecting the British people from terror. I don’t know about you, but i don’t feel any safer now than i did in 2001. If some lunatic wants to blow up a building, there is nothing that can stop him from strapping a bomb on himself. The government has a fund they call “the special reserve”, they used over 20 billion pounds of it to fund these wars (just like Thatcher). Perhaps if we had invested that money into creating a fairer society we would have gone some way to stopping the real terror on the streets. Just imagine what 20 billion could do to change our council estates. The blame game of race and class is a mirage designed to distract from the deeper roots which will continue to spring more violence. The creation of a three tiered society and a government that lumps it’s criminals in with it’s poor.