Who are the rioters? Young men from poor areas … but that’s not the full story
[Guardian, Mon 9 8 11]
Indeed what is the full story?
I suppose, confronted with wanton, random, indiscriminate destruction – setting a car on fire, smashing someone’s shop up, I feel depressed. I relate to it through the gentler and enormously privileged lens of my occasional custodianship of the glades of Brockwell Park, and indeed any nice spots I come across. Too often the mark of ignorance left there. A fried chicken box, a ‘disposable barbecue’ (please ban them), bottles of booze, tissues, condoms. One time, a favourite spot was thus defiled, and I was overcome with anger and then depression. Which immediately lifted as I saw that my anger and depression would achieve nothing. There was only one thing for it – clear up the mess.
Look at this from an Oak’s point of view: Alright it wasn’t you that lit the disposable barbecue right up against my trunk, nor you that got smashed on licit moonshine outta Tesco and shouted obscenities and banalities gleaned from a short life stained by drugs and porn and social dysfunction. But I don’t care. I’ll be here after you’re gone and all I want right now is the damn remains taken away before the filth of it soaks into my roots.
Obviously, picking up litter is a tiny thing. Obviously I fantasised about waiting amid the gloom with a claw hammer for the next bunch of jack asses.
The rioters may or may not be the type of person who leaves their shit behind in places of natural beauty. They may even be rescuing beautifully made bicycles from the forces of destruction. But this just might be Guardianish balance gone too far. Alright, but what is this type of person who leaves disposable barbecues behind? Is any categorisation possible? Or useful? What if the full story – the real objective truth behind the smoke and sirens – is that there is no story?
No story. Try though we might to make one, e.g: ‘Seconds later there was a smash as the minicab office around the corner was broken into. Teenagers swarmed in, shouting: “Bwap, bwap, bwap.”‘ Did they make a London version of Dawn of the Dead yet?
The besieged Arab despot analysis is invariably, ‘Troublemakers have been bussed in from outside.’ Dave and Boris haven’t played the Al Q card yet. Perhaps they’re not besieged enough.
The East Ham youth worker quoted in the article offers probably the sagest appraisal, “They’re disconnected from the community and they just don’t care.”
Which doesn’t really say anything, does it? (Unless, possibly, we deduce they don’t care about a bloke shot by Police in Tottenham.)
I feel disconnected from the community (the pub? other people’s kids?) – why else am I up on Brockwell Park picking up litter?
But, you say, you care.
Yes, I suppose I do. But then again, I am immensely privileged. I have a bike and several small, heavy things designed in California and assembled in China. Thus ‘fulfilled’ – or at least, temporarily relieved of consumerist angst – I am free to care. It’s a privilege.
Guessing, of course, but Mr Tesco should be endowed with enough small heavy things to care too. At least about the disposable barbecues and ultra-cheap booze.