Stella Duffy sums it up very well here, and here (same article, on her blog and public address). My reply from PA System is below.
When we first arrived in London, we live in Brixton, and our closest bus stop was right by the Curries / Halfords which was looted. It was a strange way to start in a new place - from New Zealand, which is mostly white or Maori/Polynesian, to Brixton which is mostly Black. It felt strange being in a minority. Like most of east London, it wasn't a place I ever felt that safe, tho to be honest, nothing ever happened (even on a 4am very-drunk-walk from Brixton tube back home. In hindsight, this was possibly a bad idea).
For my money, tensions have been building in London and it's evident even in parts which are not at the bottom end (for lack of a better way to put it) like Tottenham. There has been a feeling of simmering anger and frustration which wasn't here last year. Oddly enough, we had a different government last year.
I still can't put my finger on a specific cause, especially around where I am in what can only be called the mild, mild west. The austerity measures, and the anger around the phone hacking things might be contributing to, tho I also think that a lack of any good news in the past 4 months, and no end in sight to the cuts, reductions, and general hopelessness that a lot of people feel.
The only specific thing I can put my finger on is the lack of any form of repercussions for people's actions. The kids who are rioting - and a lot of them are - know very well that as they are under 16, the worst they will get is an ASBO, which is often worn as a badge of pride. There will be nothing done about them, as the police and the system has been so de-fanged that it can't do anything except give them a slap on the wrist and let them go out again. There is no fear of their parents, as in most cases, they are just trying to get by, pay check (or benefit) to pay check.
So while it saddens me - and being that some of it is quite close to home, freaks me out - it doesn't surprise me. It will be very interesting to see what the government does. I suspect very little. (unless the riots move to Chelsea....)
This is also worth a read. Love this line:
The context is the example these thugs are emulating. Consider a guy who sees the police treating him as a suspect by default because of his age or attitude, who is considered a lazy parasite because he’s never been able to get a real job.
The example from his parents has been to treat others with disrespect while demanding it for himself.
The example he saw at school was that qualifications matter more than common sense, yet people with qualifications still end up unemployed.
The example of those in authority is to exploit every loophole to get rich and to suck up to the powerful and ignore their abuse of power.
The example he’s absorbed from media stars is to want more, more, more and blame the little guy for “piracy” when it doesn’t happen.
The example he’s seen of the law is that people who destroy the economy and society get paid off while everyone else ends up in court if they’re caught.
The norm he’s heard constantly is that bling is best and getting it on credit you can’t afford is OK.
He’s no money to spare, he’s one of thousands, and he sees no consequences to his actions if he can stay in the crowd and avoid the cameras. And he probably can.
Thanks Stella – nice reality check. I had to stop watching twitter – esp searching for my area – as it was winding me up to much. It ended up there was nothing, and most if not all of the twitter stuff was hoaxes and RTs
I hate that they’re attacking their own back yards. Young people smashing in and stealing from and closing the shops where they themselves work, eat, shop.
I hate the consumerism of the rioters. I wish they were chanting slogans, I wish they were carrying placards, I wish there was a clear political point to what they’re doing. I wish they didn’t seem to be so clearly shopping. I do think that any riot is political, even without a clear political point, but I wish the people taking part in this one were channelling that energy into something constructive.
Yup, that bit has really got me. It’s not about Mark Duggan anymore – outside of Sunday afternoon, it never was. It’s about breaking stuff and stealing things. Pure and simple. It’ll be interesting to see what the official reaction is, bring both Boris and Cameron are, in theory, “back”. (one may be useful, even if he is a dick, the other is more likely to be a hinderance).
Broken Britain indeed. There is so little consequence for anyone doing anything anti-social here, that something fairly major is going to have to change to make it better.