Putrid Modern Hell #20

by HST UK on October 24, 2011

I was glued to the 24 Hour News Channels for five solid days back in August. The first day, Tottenham was a hub of violent disorder. On the second, word spread through tweeters and Blackberry messages about the opportunity to get some free shit, and widespread looting took place across London amidst further destruction. The third saw a furniture store in Croydon go up in flames, as Police frantically chased shadows around numerous boroughs of London. The fourth and fifth saw copycat incidents of looting and disorder take place in other major English cities.

Then it all calmed down.

In the recent past the 2003 Parisian riots, and the North African riots have been about something specific. Be it, youth unemployment, or racial inequality or deposing a dictatorship. The UK riots started from an tragic incident, but the focus was all over the place, everyone was shouting at once, and though the noise was deafening, nobody got heard. Sure masked men have popped up in the news admitting their involvement in the trouble, and told reporters the reasons why they threw bricks at Police and nicked armfuls of designer goods, however there seemed to be a distinct lack of direction.

Whereas the Parisian riots went on over twenty days, the trouble in London appears to have ended, or at least dramatically subsided in less than a week, mainly because of an increased Police presence. Though it has been reported by the media that many criminal acts were organized using social networks, there seems to be a lot of incoordination. Say for example you are a teenager hanging around with your mates one average afternoon, you live local to an electrical superstore that is in the process of being looted, you’ve been informed police presence is minimal and you fancy a laptop or a stereo. I think you’re going to fancy your chances and try to grab some gear. Yes, some of the people involved in the looting were from privileged backgrounds; there were men, women, juveniles, middle-aged, parents, families, professionals, unemployed, black, white, Asian. They are all human, and the one thing they’ve all got in common is that they’re easily swayed by greed. Now, the door has been shut and because the threat of rubber bullets and water cans loom, people have decided not to risk it, not even in the name of protest.

A lot of the people involved in the riots had no connection to Mark Duggan, the man murdered by Police in the incident that triggered everything. They had no affinity with the man, or axe to grind with the authorities behind his death. Instead they merely saw a window of opportunity and smashed through it. This move was impulsive, and without undue thought.

Tottenham, where it all started, is a place what I would classify as a ‘dump’. At least it is along the High Road I’ve seen when on the way to White Hart Lane. England is full of these derelict, shambolic, areas that are desperately in need of redevelopment. Sometimes green shoots pop up from the concrete and individuals escape from these decayed areas, other times they live, struggle and die a stone’s throw away from where they were born.

Many smaller cities and towns on the UK rely on stable industries (albeit industries that are still vulnerable in the current economic climate) to provide secure jobs, however the urban sprawls of London, Manchester and Birmingham contain neglected areas with sectors long ignored by the governments and authorities that control and influence those major cities. It is only when major crime takes place that these boroughs get any coverage from the media. Most of the time, these places are ignored.

Innocent men died, people are going to be forever traumatized having lost their homes and jobs. Some of those arrested will learn the consequences of their actions; their lives too will be forever changed.

Why has this happened?

Perhaps because the vast majority of the people involved are directionless, the future is not so much as unwritten as completely unknown, it’s harder for these people to predict their lives, since on the surface they’ve no chance. This probably goes back to their parents’ generation in the seventies and early eighties under Thatcher’s governance. Many years ago people might have the safety net of a plethora of solid industries, a job was guaranteed upon leaving school, attaining a degree at a University meant that you would be rewarded. Providing of course you worked hard. Now, there aren’t many vibrant industries. Getting an education is no longer a passport to prosperity.

It’s noticeable that local MP’s and noble citizens have used the word ‘community’ because communities no longer exist in the real world. Or at least they don’t in the original sense of the word. There are online communities, where people meet on forums because of a shared interest. But, people no longer have an interest in where they live, nor do they love thy neighbours. It’s all for one, and unfortunately one is the lonely one.

The only fix lies in vast redevelopment, and the recreation of industry. Knock down the dead areas. Break things down and then build them back up. Trouble is there’s no money around. No hope, because just as how these disenfranchised people don’t know about their futures, the politicians that represent them and the country have no idea about the short term future of the economy.

Broken Britain may be fucked up beyond all repair.


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