“It’s all kicking off.” A phrase which now represents the recent riots that have been taking place around the UK.
I’m not going to use this as a means of making some sort of political comment on the whole thing, because as a normal human being and a law-abiding citizen, frankly I don’t care on the political aspect of it — if there even is one. What I do care about is that people in this country have the capacity to go completely batshit mental and smash the shit out of absolutely everything, then set fire to it just to make sure it’s good and properly destroyed.
A piece on the BBC earlier summed up pretty much what I think about the whole thing — a growing culture of consumerism, materialism and a sense of misplaced entitlement among young people is highly likely to blame. Evidence of it is everywhere, and as an ex-teacher I frequently came face to face with the kind of behaviour which, left unchecked, could (and did) escalate into something altogether more sinister.
Parents do need to take more responsibility for their children and be able to tell them “no” rather than pandering to their whims. In the first school I taught in, the most unpleasant child in the class would never turn up to his detentions because, I quote, “Mum says I don’t have to do detentions”. In the face of such defiance from not only the child but the parents too, what exactly is the educational system expected to do in order to instil a sense of “good citizenship” in these little scruttocks?
It’s not all kids, of course, but any time an event like this comes along — particularly one of this magnitude — it’s easy to quickly decry all children and teenagers as “feral” and start advocating increasingly Draconian societal measures. That’s possibly not the answer, as it would likely lead to even greater social unrest — unrest which the previously “nice” kids might feel compelled to join in on.
What is a problem is the gang culture that is growing and spreading in our towns. When I worked in retail in Southampton, we used to have an almost constant gang presence in the store thanks to the fact that we offered, in effect, free Internet access. Hordes of youths in hoodies, ill-fitting trousers tucked into socks and several tons of cheap “gold” jewellery frequently spent the best part of a day in the store, intimidating staff and customers alike, until we got to a stage where enough was enough and we had to start taking tougher action.
The presence of these individuals was enough to be intimidating, but then you looked at what they were doing online. Most of them made use of the social networking site “Bebo” at the time, and most of them were on there “repping” whatever gang they happened to come from around the city. In some ways, it was sort of hilariously pathetic, as these kids boasted about how hard they were, how excellent their rapping was (spoiler: it wasn’t very excellent) and how badly they were going to “murk” their rivals from the next postcode over. But on the other hand, the obsession with guns, violence and materialism coupled with severely short tempers was somewhat sinister — and it made running across these individuals outside a disturbing, unpleasant experience. And they knew it.
The scariest thing about these riots is seeing that the people that I fear are capable of scary shit. Having your fears justified only makes them more scary.
At the time of writing, at least, things do seem to be calming down a bit. I hope this momentary madness passes and the devastated communities affected by the chaos can regroup, rebuild and move on. And that the scumbags responsible are brought to swift and humiliating justice.