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In The Absence Of Law And Order Society Will Surely Destroy Itself
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Below is a decent op-ed piece in an Aussie paper about the riots.
WHAT a difference three months can make. On April 29, hundreds of thousands of mainly white, middle-class Britons took to the streets to celebrate being British as the royal wedding took place. Their cherished high streets were strung with bunting, the Union Jack hung from many windows. The joy of being a citizen of this nation was clear on the faces of many.
But yesterday, as a magnificent dawn broke, those Britons awoke - if indeed they had slept at all - under siege: the same high streets had been battered and torched, local shops, businesses and some houses pillaged and smouldering, the skies overtaken by surveillance helicopters. The ability to walk freely on the streets had been ripped away.
Many of the rioters who marauded through the streets of London, Liverpool, Bristol, Nottingham and Birmingham, smashing and grabbing whatever took their fancy and threatening lives and livelihoods, were under 18: school kids on holiday.
Gangs seen by the Herald comprised skinny, mostly black, teens wearing oversize tracksuits; in another age you might have told them to run along home. Indeed, the young age of many of the rioters led police to appeal to parents to contact their children and encourage them to return home.
Whether these appeals were made and fell on deaf ears, or whether there was tacit support for the actions of these rioters will be pondered. These kids will become the focus of police investigations, political posturing and plain old fear, as people eye them with suspicion: were you one of ''them'' on August 9?
Many, also, were not under-age. They drove to their destinations - and often there was enough co-ordination between rioters to enable this - and were physically too big to be children.
Deborah Rizzi, from Melbourne, lives in West London and reported driving through Peckham, in south London, on Monday before the traffic was blocked by men in hooded jumpers and carrying bricks. ''You could see the fire in their eyes,'' she said. ''Anything could have happened. I didn't feel safe in my car but couldn't move. It was terrifying.''
The analysis began as 24-hour news channels scrambled to cover the carnage and the inevitable questions were posed: how could police have ''surrendered the streets'' to these thugs (to quote The Times)? What power, if any, does the government hold?
But most importantly, what has triggered this outpouring of fury and insatiable, crazed greed for electrical and sporting goods, alcohol, mobile phones and, particularly, plasma televisions? For this is where the rioting was targeted: at things, not people - aside from the police. One man was shot in uncertain circumstances, but there were no other reports of the public being deliberately attacked or injured.
Community and youth leaders were quick to point at Britain's social system: the cliched but evidently real ''disaffected youth'' produced by a class system that pushes underprivileged, and usually black, families to the bottom of the pile; to grungy housing estates and tough schools where their children's prospects are limited even further.
Throw in a deep recession, government cuts to youth and policing services, social networks and mobile phones that allow rapid communication and it becomes evident that this was a tinderbox awaiting a match - in this case police killing a black man in an apparently botched raid.
As Nina Power wrote in The Guardian yesterday: ''Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10 per cent are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.''
Social networks and mobile phone technology undoubtedly played a major role in enabling the riots to reach such a scale, just as they had a hand in bringing down the governments of Egypt and Tunisia and helped co-ordinate the uprisings in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen.
Yes, as Twitter user Arneybolt flippantly put it: ''Youths in the middle-east fighting/rioting for freedom and human rights, youths of london rioting for plasma screens & 4Ones [mobile phones]!''
Nims Obunge, a pastor with the Freedom's Ark church in Tottenham, where the riots first sparked off on Saturday night, perhaps put it best when he said: ''Some of these young people feel they've got no stake in society and they don't think they're risking anything.''