Archive for August, 2011

Trying to make sense of the senseless violence

August 11, 2011

Over the past few days, many people have tried to analyse why the riots started. Many have said that they ‘understand’, even if they do not condone, the way young people in the UK are behaving because they are so ‘detached’ from society.

These thugs (and they seem to be aged between 10-20) are on a rampage smashing up shops, burning down homes and in the tragic event that unfolded last night, killing people in cold bold.

Some argue it is because of the government spending cuts to youth services, because many of these children need help and attention which has supposedly declined since David Cameron was voted in to head up the country.

Government spending cuts have not yet been put in place though, and statistics show British expenditure this year is actually up when compared to the same time frame in 2010.

I believe that instead of the government not giving these youths enough, they have given them too much. These children, most from the poorer end of society, have often been brought up in troubled homes, living on council estates and not having good role models in their lives. The British benefit system is so vast that many do not see the need to work – why bother when you can get given a house for free and an income for nothing?

The younger you are and the more children you have also increases your chance of getting up the free-housing ladder. If you’re an unemployed single mother, your prospects are greater still and it won’t be long before you’ll be getting benefits for your children, your rent paid for, exempt from paying taxes – such as council tax – and even enjoying free dentistry.

Looking at it this way, it is easy to see why many have jumped on the free-ride train.

Unfortunately, getting something for free doesn’t bring many people joy. How can you have appreciation for something if you haven’t worked hard to earn it? How can you feel a sense of purpose when you feel you have nothing to lose or anything to gain?

To say that these people are struggling to get work is a myth too. When I arrived in the UK, excited and disillusioned about the amazing journalism job I believed I would find within two months, it was disheartening when it took two years. Arriving in the middle of the recession meant I had to work in a call centre, become a shoe shiner, and work as a waitress in a diner – basically every scummy job you could think of aside from selling my body.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t awful and that I didn’t feel like packing up and going home. But I stuck at it and things slowly improved. What this does prove is that even when the UK was in its worst economic state it had seen for decades, during the recession of 2008-2009, jobs were still to be found. They’re always hiring at McDonalds as they say!

When I finally got some money in the door, I even managed a holiday on my minimal budget. But it was the best holiday I’ve ever had because I felt I’d earned it.

As these youths loot stores and steal their neighbours’ goods – many of which are small business owners who will lose their livelihoods as the items are stripped from their shelves – I can’t help but get the feeling that these thugs feel they deserve it.

The government has given them so much already – why not take a little more?

London’s looted as police tell us to stay indoors

August 8, 2011

Tonight as I write this, London is under siege. I can hear helicopters humming above my terrace flat and police sirens wailing.

Damage is widespread throughout Brixton

I’ve just returned from Brixton where the streets were eerily quiet. I was the only one heading on the bus into the area and cop riot vans raced past me, looking for where the incidents are.

Not a soul on the bus

The problem is – the riots are everywhere. What started in north London, from the shooting of one man (whether innocent or not is still unknown for certain) in Tottenham, has now spread to the south, Croydon. Along the way riots have started. The violence is everywhere now – from Hackney to Deptford; Oxford Circus to Islington. Police are warning us on the news that we should stay indoors.

When I got into Brixton, police were scattered out the front of shops that had been looted. There was little activity going on but the atmosphere was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The few people I passed were skittish, unsure whether they should be there.

Looters smashed into this phone store

I saw a woman, about my age, walking quickly past me carrying a bin bag, speaking on the phone in a panicked voice. It was only after a moment I realised she had a backpack and a big handbag in tow too. Shortly after, a man ran across the road dragging two suitcases, casting nervous glances over his shoulder. Then I realised – people were fleeing with their belongings.

Topshop and Morleys boarded up

I walked down the street and saw Topshop boarded up in an attempt to stop hooligans breaking in. Other shops weren’t so lucky. Across the road H&M had had its windows smashed, mannequins lying on the floor, arms broken and flung to the opposite sides of the shop. Dresses had been ripped from the hangers and clothes’ racks pushed over.

H&M

H&M

The Footlocker had been burnt, all three floors, and the alarm was repeatedly sounding. Although the fire was out, the area was still cordoned off as smashed glass scattered the footpath. Three policemen stood out the front, guarding it from further looting. I met some residents who were worried about the people who lived above the shop.

Mobile phone shop

McDonalds

Electronics store

I was surprised to see a mother, her two kids alongside her, racing excitedly up the street screaming into her phone about what was going on.

The mood was dark and few people were coming out of the tube station. As I headed back on the bus – the 109 that leads to Croydon, which is ablaze at this moment – I couldn’t help but notice the four men who got on behind me. I say ‘men’ but really they were probably only about 16. They seemed twitchy and were talking amongst themselves in low voices about getting to Croydon. I couldn’t help but feel that London is being over run by youths, who are no more than this age.

 

Riot van

As the tension builds tonight, the same question keeps arising on all the news channels – ‘How did we let the young people in this
country get to this point?’