Is anyone really surprised by the UK riots? The only thing that’s come close to shocking me over the past few days are the reactions of people who seem to think humanity has suddenly taken on some dark new direction.
In the words of my new found hero – the woman whose daring speech to rioters went viral this week – get real. Human violence and destruction, mindless or otherwise, have been around for millennia. At any given point, the events witnessed in London this past week are happening in cities across the world. It happened here when I was a kid. Civilisation has a thin veneer, and it doesn’t take much to smash it.
But, like the bookies’ windows and sportswear store shop fronts, everything will soon be back to normal. When the repairs are done, we can all get back to shopping and gambling. The question is, what happens to the hatred and complete lack of respect which precipitated these attacks?
Because, make no mistake, hate is at the heart of this. I have no illusions that the vast majority of those involved in looting and violence are apolitical in their motives. To restate, again, that these riots are mindless is entirely banal, and I’m sick of hearing politicians do so. What’s not being discussed by our corrupt elite is how it, and the rest of the state, helped to create the context into which these young people’s thuggery has so spectacularly erupted.
As the wonderful Darcus Howe says, this is not so much a riot, as an insurrection. I’m not completely convinced on that point, but I do think the powers that be, and the police in particular, have a lot to answer for. (NB: It should go without saying that trying to explain the reasons behind the rioting is not the same thing as excusing it.)
So, hate. I’m from a working class background, brought up on a council estate and educated at a dire state comprehensive. I like to think I’ve quietly shuffled up into the middle class (forgive me!) and my family and social circle reflect both these sections of society. I have no idea how representative my personal observations are, but I do know that a significant proportion of my peer group regard this country’s police force as absolute scum.
I’d like to make clear that’s not my own view. The force is a huge organisation and, of course, it contains honourable women and men. I even have good friends who are police officers! Past lovers, too. When my best friend is cursing the feds, I’m prone to respond with things like: “Yeah, but if anyone took your baby you’d be on the phone to them straight away wouldn’t you?”
Nevertheless, that still doesn’t change the fact that, in my experience, an unsettling amount of people despise the very institution we should trust and respect most. In some areas, among working class people – especially young adults and teenagers – it goes without saying that the police are the enemy. The pigs, the feds, the scum. Legalised bullying. And it’s not just a criminal underclass that thinks this way. Many of my university educated friends, professionals and city workers also hold such views. But what do you expect?
My social circle doesn’t respect the police. At best, we’re scared of them and, as has been demonstrated by the London riots, when that fear is removed, there is nothing else. The riots haven’t been so much a cry for help as a “Fuck you” to an establishment which only the biggest fool could seriously be expected to trust or admire.
You earn respect. I want to know why, you, the police have not secured ours. Society pays for you to serve and protect us, and yet you have positioned yourself as the enemy. I demand that you demand our respect. I demand that you stop colluding with corruption, protecting rich and powerful criminals, pulling the less able out of wheelchairs, killing innocent people and then refusing to accept responsibility. Beating men down as they walk home, kettling peaceful protesters, students. And what about those “pre arrests”, where you locked people away to ensure the Royal Wedding went off seamlessly – even though they hadn’t actually done anything? You didn’t want the world to know that some of us are unhappy with the establishment. Kind of backfired now, huh?
We need a real police force, one which is known to be decent, honest and fair. There has been more civil unrest in this country over the past six months than most people my age can remember, and I doubt this is the last of it. If the ruling class wants to avoid a revolution, it had better begin one – starting with an overhaul of the police, and an end to decades of corruption and state-endorsed violence. As my hero says, get it real.