English riots 2011

On a warm spring day, strolling in south London, I heard demanding voices behind me. A police van disgorged a posse of six or more, who waved me aside.

They surrounded a young black man who, like me, was ambling along. They appropriated him; they rifled his pockets, looked in his shoes, inspected his teeth. Their thuggery affirmed, they let him go with the barked warning there would be a next time.

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After the riots, poor repressed, criminalised

People who love to scream about stern discipline are having a fantastic time in post-riot Britain.

My favourite was a man on a Radio 5 phone-in, who ended his rant by yelling: “I TELL you how little discipline there is. My son gets homework and he’s allowed to do it ON HIS COMPUTER.

“We need to GET BACK to PENCIL and PAPER!”

And you felt that if you suggested “What about pen and paper?”, he’d shriek “NO! NOT PEN, YOU BLOODY LIBERAL. PENCIL! They have to SHARPEN pencils, it teaches them DISCIPLINE!”

“Mob rule”. “Wanton destruction”. “Mindless thuggery”. “Sheer criminality”.

Media, politicians and police always say the same thing about urban riots.

Riots can spin out of control and engulf ordinary people. But that does not alter the fact that they are rooted in social oppression.

Criminals may take advantage of riots, but they do not cause them.

The events in Tottenham, Hackney, Croydon, Birmingham, Manchester, and a dozen other urban areas are not some sinister eruption of an underclass of criminals equipped with BlackBerries moving from one hot-spot to another.

Dear Mr & Mrs Cameron,

Why did you never take the time to teach your child basic morality?

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