Today I wheeled into Camden Town Centre and witnessed the aftermath of the thankfully minor troubles that took place last night. While some shops had been looted and many windows smashed, I know that the place I call home got off lightly. The footage on TV and photos and videos on line show the true level of damage and destruction left in the wake of the rioting that gripped London and the country beyond. As many people who read my blog must know, I am a bit of a lefty and so they may expect me to be one of those who explains away this orgy of crime and violence as a reaction to unfair treatment and lack of opportunity, but I must disappoint you.
I spent the day thinking about some of the claims from community leaders and some of the youths who were involved, but they just don’t stand up. Let’s face it, as a person who was born disabled I have experienced discrimination through out my life. As a young New Romantic in a small town I experienced some extreme treatment from the police and feel the sting of being excluded almost every day. Even this weekend I was not allowed into a restaurant in Brighton (called Picasso’s in Market Street) because I was in a wheelchair, so I know how angry being excluded can make you feel. I really wanted to throw one of the chairs outside the eatery through one of their windows for sure, but I didn’t. In the past I must admit I have reacted to blatant discrimination with vigour, and with some force. The difference is I did not target anyone else. The person who was the victim of my wrath was the person who had discriminated against me, not anyone who happened to be nearby. Or any local business that had some stuff I fancied.
And that is the true reason for all of this. However much people may claim otherwise, this whole chaos is driven by greed and jealousy. These gangs of youths are not fighting to get fairer treatment, they are going out to get stuff. In Camden, the 3 store was totally cleaned out of stock. Even the displays have been taken. I can see no way that this level of theft can be a political act. Other shops, like JD Sports and O2 where also ransacked, yet did the youths gather and march to Whitehall? Of course not. That would be an act of political rebellion. Looting and smashing things up has no real chance of changing the way any minority groups of treated, but it will mean the perpetrators will have new mobile phones, trainers and wide-screen TV’s.
The saddest thing is that these youths will effect the very places they live. Places that are already deprived. Sure Camden isn’t a seat of poverty, but it does have some very poor areas and is struggling in the current economic situation. How can looting and mindless vandalism lead to anything constructive? Some of the places worst effected will take years to get near to normality. Not only will it bring down the places were these young people live further, but it will give those who do discriminate against them the excuse to do so. By acting this way they have just conformed to the stereotype that society at large has of them.
So come on, stop this craziness now. Put this anger to good use, and stop making yourselves into the very thing that leads to the responses you claim to be reacting against. That way you will prove that all of this isn’t really just a way of stealing things you feel you should have. Don’t believe the crap that Rap stars tell you about the gangster life and if you really feel the need to do something, make sure it’s constructive. Use your anger to change things, not smash them up. But if, as I suspect, you’re only driven by selfish desire then I am afraid you will have no friend in this lefty liberal. And if I’m not on your side, then imagine what the Daily Mail reading man in the street thinks. He’ll be shouting “Hang ’em”, and remember that this squeezed middle and their reactionary politics decide what happens in our country. So if you thought you had it bad before all this, just wait.
As a foot note I would just like to praise the local police here in Camden. I found this piece of footage shot as the local troubles started, and was amazed at the bravery of the police involved. Going into the situation in nothing but their usual uniforms in such low numbers… they all deserve medals! Check it out –