I read Ben Ralston’s article, and the comments, and felt compelled to write this in order to tell you, as a Londoner, what’s actually happening in London.
This isn’t a revolution. This is not the youth of London hitting the streets to protest against injustice. This is senseless rioting caused by greed.
Of course there is a context to what is happening — no rich kids are out on the streets — but this is not the same as the protests in Egypt or any other recent uprisings, where people are fighting for their political freedom. This is young people with nothing else to do going out, setting fires and looting from shops.
If you asked one of the rioters what they are fighting for, they would reply “a new 42 inch plasma T.V.” and then steal your bag. Please don’t romanticize this and imagine that there is a cause or ideal being fought for. Because there isn’t.
It’s 15-year-olds stealing £120 trainers that they don’t need and can’t afford. School’s out, it’s hot, and the youth is angry, sweaty and bored. The people involved in this aren’t political; they’re not thinking that this is going to further their cause. They’re opportunistically going out there and grabbing everything they can.
People are scared. I mean, proper scared. Leaving work today, there was no “ok, see you tomorrow, have a good evening!” Instead, we left saying: “Are you ok to get home? Has your area been hit? Are you safe?”
There’s a feeling of hysteria on the streets. Londoners are notoriously rude and keep to themselves, but suddenly everyone is talking, sharing their panic. On my way home someone even pulled over to tell me that there was now a riot nearby and to urge me to pass the message on.
Shops are closing early, people are being hurried out so that the shop can close, to hopefully avoid damage and to get the customers out and away from the angry mob that we’re all fearing is just around the corner.
Watching the news last night was shocking. People’s houses had been burnt down, there’s a scheme for people who been left homeless by the riots. A family was talking about how their family-run business had been burnt down, costing countless people their jobs and livelihoods.
And this is London. It takes a lot to scare us. The day after the 7/7 tube bombings, we all got back on the trains, stiff upper lip and all. But we are scared. There’s a feeling of war. I’ve heard people say “get the army out,” and the term “civil war” has been bandied about.
I saw a video of a young guy, who was bleeding and shaken, being helped to his feet. While he was getting up, someone came behind him, rifled through his bag and stole his stuff. Where’s the revolution in that?
I know that when an event is not happening near you, it can be difficult to actually understand what is happening, and you might even imagine that there is a good reason or altruistic motives behind what’s happening. So please, hear me when I say that this is madness. No one in London, be them old or young, black or white, rich or poor, supports what the rioters are doing. Look at twitter. I have yet to read a tweet praising the riots. Everyone is shocked and appalled.
No government buildings are being targeting. There’s no protest, demands or message. Instead, shops are being pillaged for everything that they have. One woman was even caught looting from the shop that she worked in! If I had a beef with the government, I’d riot and protest near the government — not by robbing my local family shop or burning my neighbour’s house to the ground.
While I see that there was, perhaps, a certain inevitability to these events. What’s happening is still out of order. This isn’t Egypt; we’re not trying to get rid of a dictator. England, as places go, is a decent place to live. We have free schools, free healthcare, a state funded benefits system and state given housing. Of course the quality of these services isn’t always great, but even in comparison to a developed country like America, there is care freely available.
This is a movement of greed. People want more stuff. There’s a growing feeling of a free-for-all; if enough people target a shop and do it violently enough, they’ll be able to clear it out and make off with all the T.V.s and trainers that they can carry.
So there, that’s the news on the ground. We’re all shitting ourselves, hoping that our families and friends are okay, and that our co-workers make it home, and that our city is still alive when we wake up.
Jade is pretty clueless about life, but seems to have gotten away with it so far. She’s worked as a football coach and an English teacher, but feels that her calling lies in drinking tea and laughing at herself. Having dipped her toe in the world of new age philosophy and yoga, she got scared and scurried back to her cave/bedroom. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter, though she mainly uses it to pretend that celebrities are her friends.