The destruction across my home of London town over the past few days has broken my heart. The streets I grew up around, and where I’ve always felt so safe, were turned into scenes from a bad zombie film. The department store where I first met Father Christmas was smashed, burned and plundered for the sheer hell of it. My home suddenly seemed insufficiently secure to protect my baby. I am angry as hell at these rioters for making me feel like this about the place I love so much. They’ve shown the very worst extreme of individualist greed, engendered by capitalism, that Babyface discussed far more eloquently yesterday.
They’ve broken our trust in our homes and our neighbours. And, in doing so, they’ve taken the public eye off the issue of what really happened to Mark Duggan, and created a swell of public sympathy for the Met.
But angry as I am with the rioters, my new mother anger hormones are getting worked up even more by the reaction of the average unthinking, knee-jerking, Facebook-ranting punter: calling for the army; calling for a locking-up-and-throwing-away-the-key; calling for more police; calling for ‘tougher measures’; or calling for any other vague and un-thought-through plan to solve a problem they don’t understand.
And I’m hearing a lot of names for these rioters: ‘scum’, ‘chavs’, ‘yobs’, ‘thugs’ etc. All terms which mark these people out as being a different breed to us. Perhaps they’ve always been there, lurking in caves between underground stations, feeding on rats, and biding their time before emerging into the streets to quench their thirst for ‘criminality’. Put like this, it becomes easier to fire a water cannon at them, shoot them with a rubber bullet, or carry any of the more barbaric actions suggested by contributors to the Daily Mail’s website comments section.
Because they’re not like us. They look remarkably like the people who, last week, sat next to us on the bus, queued with us in the supermarket, or worked alongside us in the office. But they’re now different. Throw the book/truncheon/bullet at ‘em. Far easier to do so than to engage with these people, and try and work out why they did this. And it’s certainly a lot easier to do so than to consider whether we might have anything to do with these people feeling like a sub-species.
The rioters who betray their neighbours with violence are, of course, spewed from the same flawed machine that produces the armchair critics who betray their neighbours with dehumanisation.
I certainly don’t have the answers (beyond knowing that only Marxism-Leninism can set you free) and, like everyone else, I’m just praying that it’s over now and we can sweep up, move on, and learn some lessons. What I am taking from this is the crucial importance that I raise my child to feel included in society. To respect and love his neighbours. To know that we are all in this together. And not to call people names.