We interrupt this incredibly important and vastly interesting three part injuries blog (ahem) to bring you this topical piece on the recent country-wide rioting.
(I began to write this blog on the day following the riots. Any allusion to “yesterday” or similar, is in reference to the events of the 9th August 2011)
THE EVENT & THE KNEE-JERK
It seems that there’s always stuff going down in London town: shootings, lootings, terrorist attacks, robberies, grand theft auto &c. &c. London is big news and all the time. Still, it was a shocking moment when it came to my attention that, not only were the riots that were breaking out in small pockets all over the capital not quashed on the afternoon in which they started, but that they were spreading. Even more shocking was the moment when it was made perfectly clear that they were spreading like a viral zombie outbreak up north. In other words: in our direction.
Now, Leeds in particular has a history of rioting, it not being the most affluent of places overall, and having a rather aggressive football presence. So, when word got out that there had been some “minor acts of violence” breaking out around the less prosperous parts of the city, our concern proved to be unwarranted. I can only presume that the West Yorkshire police are so deft at diffusing this sort of situation that it was nipped in the bud before it had even begun, but I could be wrong. At around 4:30pm on 9th August 2011, I rang my mother, who had recently e-mailed me the news of the suspected spread to the North East, and said that all appeared to be under control. What my mother didn’t tell me, is that she could hear police sirens starting up in the distance where she was. Manchester. At approximately 9pm my mother rang me and told me to put on the TV*.
I just want to take a moment to say that I wouldn’t call myself particularly patriotic. I love this quirky little country for its oddities; my family and friends are here, of course, and, although generally cold, wet and windy, we don’t have to concern ourselves with surviving hurricanes or monsoons and the like. I would have said that I had a minor attachment to Manchester and Glossop, but that I could take or leave it. But the minute I saw the destruction in Manchester city centre, my hackles rose and I v.nearly heaved. The next thought that ran through my head was, get in car, drive to Manchester, grab nearest little scrote and squeeze his throat until he turns purple, all the while shouting: “Get your hands off my city, you fucking wankers!”
… Yes… well…. quite…
I surprised myself with the violence of my feelings. I even jumped to my feet and did a little pace up and down the room while I calmed down.
Usually an early-to-bed-early-to-rise kind of gal**, I stayed up until midnight contacting people via the various social networking sites that I frequent to check that everyone was present and correct.
And, rather tangentially, I have to say: bravo for open social networking! Here’s to microblogging and Facebook. Blackberries may have allowed these riots to happen, but Twitter encouraged the clean up of the city and I would have given anything this morning to go to Manchester and help to eliminate any trace of scummer madness. And not only that, Twitter was a constant source of information, advice, footage, photographs, consolation, support and much needed humour.
Similarly, but of course in no way shape or form comparable in terms of tragedy, to the footage of the attacks of 911, I could not stop watching the same bulletins over and over of streets that I’ve worked on, bars that I’ve been tiddly in, shops I’ve shopped at, restaurants I’ve had dates in, curbs I’ve tripped over and, more importantly, the v.heart of a city I’ve called home for twenty seven years, being vandalised and raped in such a slap-dash, carefree fashion. How. Very. Dare they?! New recordings were being submitted throughout the night – images of young teens in hoodies, generally dark in hue***, were leaping from vans and running in swathes to pillage their own city. They looked like a small, evil army of hoods. They looked like terrorists. They were akin to the Klu Klux Klan. Like some sort of beastial, soulless creatures from a horror film. And the average age appeared to be around the fifteen years mark. So who was driving them?
Of course, the media didn’t help. As usual the emotive language was a laughably obvious ploy to whip everybody into a frenzy that could only serve to create more drama and more news. So nothing new there then.
THE CALMER ANALYSIS
I could go on until I wear myself out about the effect it had on me and the events that went on until the wee hours of the morning. But I won’t. Clearly, I haven’t previously seen enough action in such close proximity or I wouldn’t be flapping as I am, and people all over the world have been through much worse things and kicked up less of a fuss, so I’ll put my knee-jerk reactions to bed.
I do, however, want to delve into the cause and effect, rather than the event itself. Because, even though it’s taken me this amount of words to reach my point, I truly believe that what has happened to Britain over the last few days should be enough to make the people who can make a difference in the world take a step back and realise that something is v.amiss if we have children fighting the class battle for us.
For it is a class battle. True, these kids are running around with state of the art Blackberries and credit has a lot to answer for in this modern world which we inhabit. And, true, when asked why they were rioting and looting, these kids gave mediocre to downright preposterous answers like: “I fuckin’ ‘ate the police – they treat us like we’re all thugs, innit?****” and “Well these rich bastards ‘ave all got plasma screens, so why ‘aven’ I, innit?” Even if these children understood the class war they were waging, they certainly got the wrong end of the stick when they started trashing little kebab shops and independent news agents; when they moved away from the rich chains to ruin the livelihoods of people just doing their best in the world.
But, regardless of the fact that, yes they were all vitriolic little fuckers with not a second thought for anyone but themselves, and, yes they rioted rather than protested, and did so in a hugely threatening manner. In fact, yes, it was terrorism through and through. Regardless, I say, of all this… they sort of had a point. And we all know it – somewhere deep within us. It’s there, we just don’t like to address it. The way we don’t like to address the human rights of criminals; see both sides of the story when it comes to biased media coverage; acknowledge the homeless and accept that something is v.wrong if a dog can live its life in perfect luxury because a human being will take it in and feed it, but that a man can starve on the street because he made a few improper choices.
Once the rage brought on by the riots had gone, I started to analyse the situation and went through many trains of thought. The first (and most important) being that “we,” the majority of my friends and I, were not well off growing up: our parents struggled, scrimped and saved, and probably still do, to provide us with the v.best that they could. So how the hell could these scrotes, these vermin, these nastylittlethanklessfuckers possibly say that it’s because they didn’t have enough money to buy the things that we have? Looking back over the long-winded question, I think it speaks for itself… it’s because our parents did do that for us. They sacrificed things so that we could have the things we needed and they let us know that they had done it – not to be mean-spirited, oh no; they let us know to instill in us respect and an understanding of the world, and to teach us the value of work and money. We working class kids were given the opportunities these rioters never had, not in the form of clothes and gadgets, but in the form of instruction and self-worth. With their unequivocal sacrifices, our parents taught us that if we wanted to be anything in the world, we had to damn well work for it, and they taught us that they loved us, would do anything for us because that’s how important we were. How important we are!
A SINGLE SCENARIO
A friend of mine coined the rioting kids “The Broken Condom Generation.” How v.apt. A teenager from this underbelly of society, which we try to pretend doesn’t exist, gets pregnant. She has no money, her parents give her no guidance or support; maybe they throw her out. The father of the child wants nothing to do with the pregnancy, and now her; after all, she is a slag, our teenage mother, and that kid could be anybody’s, innit? She doesn’t see the point in asking for help; she could go to a doctor, but s/he’d probably treat her like a slag too and what would be the point in talking to a posh bastard like that? So, she doesn’t look after herself and feed herself well – probably couldn’t afford to, even if she wanted to. The baby comes and our teenage mother is frightened, but knows that to ask for help will probably do her no good. She resents what this thing has done to her life and her body. She had nothing before, she has even less now. She’s angry, was angry before all this happened, but now she is frustrated beyond belief. She sort of loves this sprogger, but has no idea how to tell it. She treats it the way her parents treated her, because she has no reference point for treating it any other way. She has no help with the child and can’t afford to have it looked after, so she can’t get a job, not that she was thinking of getting one when she can just sign on, and anyway, she can’t do anything, she’s not good at anything, nobody would give her a job and she’s not going to suffer that kind of rejection. This child grows up in a similar vein: has never been encouraged or taught anything by its once teenage, now greying and haggered, bejogging-bottomed mother, so probably ignores the education that was shoved down its throat, because what’s the point in knowing all that stuff when the posh bastard teachers don’t give a fuck about you – they’re just paid to be there. When your parents don’t give a fuck about you, why would anyone else? The sense of worthlessness will fester and mutate with every generation, just like it did with every generation before it. And with this sense of worthlessness comes a resentment for the people who value themselves.
This, of course, is just one scenopsis in which we end up with the hooded hoodlum who stalks the streets with open beer cans braying abuse at anyone who isn’t like him/her. But, as far as the scummers are concerned, the people with self worth are the people who could help and they don’t and they’re so fucking smug with their plasma screens. And maybe we are. The media has a lot to answer for: it sells us the perfect lifestyle, the ideal home, it tells us the way we should look, the things we should own. It intimates that the people who don’t live this way are insignificant. So, we strive to live as we’re dictated to live; which means that we get into debt trying, work in full time jobs we hate, scrimp, save &c. We’re proud of our achievements. We’re proud that we aren’t like the scumming class. We look down on the scumming class. We look down at scummers… right down into their dirty, pocked faces. We call them scrotes, we call them scum, we call them pikies and chavs and scallies and skets. We can’t stand these people who use our tax to abuse the benefits system – tax that we’ve paid to enrich our own society, which we feel those types shouldn’t have a place in. I know, I feel it too – I can’t help it. “I work hard so that they don’t have to” is the condensed viewpoint. But the cause of this resentment from both sides is dividing the classes still further, to the point where the scumming class is actually being ostracised from society all together. We’re pushing these people out instead of looking at the class division and analysing why things are in the state they’re in. The sense of worthlessness swells through a sick sort of osmosis, and with it swells our distaste. We don’t look at the cause of poverty that has manifested itself thus… we just want it to go away and stop threatening our lives. We make them ever more inferior and the situation ever worse. But then again, why would you want to give some scumbag the time of day? One average person against one average chav is likely to get abused in some way, no matter how much respect said average shows said chav.
THE SO-CALLED “RACE” RIOT
(and perhaps another tangent)
Another problem caused by unemployment and unemployability within the heart of the great unwashed is that a burning grudge is held for anyone who has a job. We live in a blame culture and this blame v.much includes racial minorities, especially within little white pockets of the poverty traps. As far as the ignorant are concerned, our ethnic minorities are “taking our jobs,” even if these ignoramouses are not personally concerned with employment. When I looked at the hooded army going to war, what I saw was, yes the odd black face, but a mainly white mob of skinheads. And what they looked like to me were the type of people who vote for the British National Party. Who vote BNP through ignorance, and lack of education and understanding. Who vote BNP because they have hatred inside of them and need somewhere to direct it. Who vote BNP because it makes them feel part of something (like the family they lack); who vote BNP because it gives them a sense of purpose. This was a race riot as much as it was a stand against the unfair distribution of wealth in this country – as in, it wasn’t. Whilst these kids are making a point, they make it unknowingly. They are angry because of the class divide, because they are povery-stricken; yes, ultimately, that is true. But bizarrely, they are just using it as a fish story to let out the pent up aggression they feel as a result of this treatment . They don’t understand that there is a v.real reason to protest. They inadvertently fight the battle they’re just using as an excuse to make a noise. Like a child throwing a tantrum, they want attention; they want to be seen and heard, but now that they have the floor, they don’t know what to say. They are frustrated, but nobody has ever taught them to try to understand the inner fury, or how to harness their anger and use it to get themselves heard rationally, like adults. And if anyone tried to teach them, would they listen? This unleashing of bitterness has been brewing for some time, and now it has happened in the least effective way, leaving hard working people to pick up the pieces of their broken lives. This wave of hatred has washed over us, leaving nothing but more resentment in its wake.
And, just as an aside: I think some of our minority groups did us proud throughout this rioting. A great big hand should go to the Turks. Good effort!
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The problem that now presents itself is rather severe. These scrawny, scruffy little gits are going to become fully grown adults. They’re going to become physically more powerful. They’re going to have more children. They’re going to be able to vote! We can’t take that away from them even if we wanted to, and, really, what’s taking their rights away going to achieve if not more ascerbity?
If we could bodily take each individual scummer and dedicate our time to teaching each and every one of them the lessons they should have been taught about life from their parents; if we had the time to impress upon them the importance of their existence and make every attempt to hone them into people who wouldn’t pose a threat to our flimsy society, but instead enhance it, we could maybe make a difference. We could at least make a difference with some, if not all. But we don’t have the time or resources and inclination is wavering. Maybe an exceptional few will pull their socks up and decide to take a different path in life. But, essentially, here we are, with these soon to be fully fledged adult animals. The obvious thing to do would be to teach their offspring; start from the beginning, if you will. But you can’t take a child away from its mother just because you don’t like her, or because you have different values and, as the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. There seems to be v.little way to get through to this class.
And what of punishment? Our commonwealth hinges on recognition and retribution and the rioters must face disciplinary action. They deserve it. Much as I am erring on the sympathetic side, the rioters are still responsible for their own actions and they were not ignorant of the fact that they were breaking the law. We cannot appear to be approaching this issue all softly softly. People are outraged and justice must be done, as much for example’s sake, as much for peace of mind as anything. But we can punish these kids as far as the law will allow and then we’ll send them home again; back to their barren lives where they will feel even more rejected by the world they so wish to inhabit.
These people need representation. They need a voice. They need help and direction. We want to be an educated nation, but how can we be when a large part of the nation won’t listen to anything they’re taught, even if they do stay in school? We cannot shun these people and expect them to quietly live their lives on the edge of the western world, out of our way. We cannot ban them from having children and we cannot round them all up and monitor them – Hitler may have found that to his liking, but we do not live in a dictatorship. We might abhor the underbelly, but cannot want to live in a police state, even if we would be amongst the chosen ones. Surely it is in our interests, in so many ways, to face the music and deal with this situation. Do we not appear weak as a nation when we are not a united force, but fighting pettily amongst ourselves over the acquisition of “stuff”? If we begin to treat these people with genuine prejudice we will be starting a constitutional war. As a famous bard once wrote: If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
RECOGNISE THAT THE OTHER PERSON IS YOU
We need to recognise that, given different circumstances, we could have been those people. And then we need to take a good, hard look at the shallow consumerism that engulfs us and the celebrity that we strive for, and choose a social order that doesn’t pay footballers £16 million a year just to let half of our society rot in their own dearth like an inconsequential annoyance to be endured from time to time. In short, we need a national brainstorming session, and we need to listen to one another to figure out where to go from here. But my money (my own money, which doesn’t amount to much, but which I earned through my inherent self-respect) is on us going down the lazy root; the root that doesn’t involve the fat cats relinquishing their grip on more money than they have to. We, as a nation, will continue to excommunicate fellow human beings and call ourselves decent people. We will blame “them” for crimes, and they will blame “us” for their poverty, when each party should just stop with the ineffectual and destructive blame, and start working with the other.
* Rather difficult when one doesn’t have a telly!
** Yes yes, ok – I don’t mean when I’m out and about of an evening
*** The hoodies, not the people wearing them
**** I never know if that should have a question mark at the end of it by proxy. “Innit”, as a derivative of “is it not,” surely should have. And the thought of a chav ending his sentences with “is it not” is highly amusing.
Ragtime ~ E. L. Doctorow
The Bonny Lad ~ Jonathan Tulloch
This is England