London’s burning

Only in the UK could rioters in £100 trainers organising things on £300 smartphones claim to be in poverty…
Wessel Sleeking

We are sold on the notion that wealth and fame are the be all and end all. A feeling of entitlement to certain things is widespread: a widescreen TV and the latest mobile phone. Consumerism instructs us — and I include myself in this — on the things that we absolutely need in our lives. A path to unearned fortune, like a Lottery win, is a dream we’re all guilty of hoping will happen upon us.

Today’s aspirational role models are by-and-large vapid celebrities and footballers. Reality television shows offer a route to temporary and fleeting fame for no discernable reason. Depressingly, becoming a footballer’s wife is the ambition of many a young woman.

There is the growing inequality between the family struggling to make ends meet and the unfathomably rich bankers. The rich keep getting richer while bonuses don’t exist for the common worker — who the bosses think should be thankful for having a job in the first place — and any proffered pay rise lag below inflation.

Yes, the youth feel disenfranchised but I have a sneaking suspicion that a large majority of those on the streets didn’t cast a vote at any of the last several elections and therefore, in some people’s eyes, have absolutely no right to complain. There is the understandable apathy towards politics with many of the view that only the interests of the super-rich and big industry will be looked after.

Several of the current crop of government know a thing or two about laying waste to small businesses and premises through their days of dining with the Bullingdon Club. The riots have spawned reactionary comments from people with no experience of rioting, policing methods or crowd control: “Bring in the army!”, “Shut down Twitter!” — exactly the same actions that people were demanding mustn’t happen during the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East.

Admittedly, these were valid protests against brutal regimes, a lack of democracy and human rights violations. What we’ve seen on the streets of London and elsewhere is basic criminality. I’m not for a second condoning the appalling scenes of the last few nights but peaceful protests in this country are heavily policed and soon forgotten — if they are even noticed at all.

People feeling marginalised by unemployment, labelling, low prospects and benefit caps that fundamentally equate to social cleansing has led to a tinder box mentality. Something that was waiting for a spark to unleash the pent-up aggression. The shooting of Mark Duggan provided the excuse but this was purely circumstantial and could have been anything.

People who say that nobody saw this coming are wrong. The signs and associated commentary were there over a year ago.

I’m only surprised that it happened so soon.

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