I live in a city that has a recorded history that dates back over 2,000 years. During this time, it has grown to become one of the most significant financial and cultural capitals of the world (although from last weeks antics, one might question the cultural bit.) London has experienced plague, devastating fires, civil war, aerial bombardment and terrorist attacks. Yes, and riots too.
In 1990, the people stood up against the infamous Poll Tax and were beaten by police, culminating in a riot in Trafalgar square. The 80’s in Brixton saw Black and Asian young people who were targeted by the racist SUS laws rising up against repression. In fact, London has a riotous history dating way back. The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 ended in London when the citizens opened the gates of the capital and allowed tens of thousands of peasants led by John Ball and Wat Tyler to enter and ransack the City. So it is nothing new here I suppose. But riots in the capital have always had an agenda, a cause. And more often than not lead to change, at least in some part.
Until now, Last Exit to Reality could find very little humor in what happened here. In fact, they even ransacked our office and took 2 pencils, 3 rubber bands, an opened pack of chewing gum and a five AA batteries. So it was no laughing matter. But as the dust settles there are a few things that come to light that are not only silly, but downright stupid.
Firstly, we are hearing stories of a guy that copped a 6 month jail term for looting a case of water because, he says “I was thirsty.” Another posted a photo of himself on a social media site featuring himself in front of his haul for the night. And yet another boasted on Facebook that he “had a good score in Croyden and got lots of stuff.” (He promptly lost his job and freedom.) There are other stories too. The kid who broke his foot when an ATM they were ripping out of the wall dropped on it, the kid that kicked a window in wearing shorts, only to sever some nerves and arteries. It’s a wonder some of these people can even walk and chew gum at the same time. They make common sense look like a master’s degree.
Secondly, the media. Struggling so hard to find the “cause” for all of this. Like some misguided preacher that has lost touch with his faith and is searching for reasons, for guidance. They feel they have this huge need to explain all of this. They want to make order out of chaos. Why they should have to look far at all is a wonder to me, when they can just look at themselves. Everyone’s moral compass is completely skewed when the media thinks that it is ok to hack into peoples phones, emails and private lives in order to generate a good news story.
While some of them are claiming it because of disenchanted youth why is it then that Superdrug (one of the hardest hit retailers) found that the most commonly stolen items during the riots were hair products and cologne? What, do they want to smell good and look trendy while smashing things?
Ok, I can understand going for a new pair of trainers, they have to get rid of the old ones they used to trash London as they are evidence, so they would need new shoes. And trainers are better to run from the cops. Ironically though, trainers are built to absorb impact, so seeing some scenes of idiots trying to kick in windows wearing a pair of Asics Gel Nimbus 13s’ is in itself a bit funny. They just keep bouncing off the windows. I bet the damage would have been much greater if everyone had been wearing a pair of Doc Martins.
And lastly, there are the “Experts.” Those who know the true meaning of what happened and why. Anyone can be an expert, they simply have to put “expert” in front of their name.
I have seen hundreds of theories as to why this all happened, ranging from “We is getting or taxes back”(from a highly educated London looter) to a backlash from chronic unemployment, slow economic recovery and cuts to public service spending by the country’s inane government. And everything in between. But in all the chaotic scenes shown on every news source available, there were no slogans, no chanting, no demands. These may be dubbed “The Consumerism Riots of 2011.”
This was an “I want one of those too” riot. In fact, not even really a riot at all. Essentially, what happened was looting for fun and profit. This is not people expressing their anger against an oppressive state. Most of these people don’t even know what an oppressive state is. Probably a lot of them could not even spell oppressive. This is because many don’t give a shit about school because they are way too cool.
One “expert” (one of the many that will surface over the coming weeks) said “There’s a racial dimension to the rioting and the looting, but it’s not one of racial oppression. But there is undoubtedly a quite strong class and economic element.” Tell that to the millionaire parents of the 19-year-old Exeter student caught looting in her BMW. Or the Ballerina, the Law Student. It sounds to me more like boredom brought on by having played to many PSP games. This was not a mob of downtrodden youth. Many had jobs and were university-educated.
Another expert that works with kids said “The government really needs to actually take time and listen to these young people because for a long time they have been crying in silence” adding, ‘This is what matters to me.’ They have really been crying for a long time.” Sorry but kids have always been “not listened to.” It doesn’t make it right, but does she really think now that ANYONE will listen after this behavior? Kids will be the new target of prejudice.
One kid, whom we here at Last Exit consider a true expert said “I was doing it cause everyone else was and it seemed so easy.” In fact, in a post riot interview with expert looters all over London, we found that the vast majority of people said that they were just looting to loot, with no reason, just because they wanted to do it. The truth is, it was monkey mentality, explained here by guys that wear white lab coats and use big words. (Good on you if you read through the whole 24 pages.)
Everyone is so quick to blame the government, the media, schools or anyone they can. But what about the parents of these kids ?(It WAS largely kids involved). Britain has passed laws that make it virtually impossible to discipline kids, at home, in school or anywhere. That surely doesn’t help. Kids today think there are no repercussions for their actions. An exasperated mother on BBC TV’s Question Time on Thursday said British society had given young people “all the rights without any of the responsibilities. I can’t even discipline my child. Children sue their parents these days.”
So now police and politicians will now play out the blame game for weeks to come. And probably there will be plenty of knee-jerk reactions, of which the British government excels at. It is clear that there are things that are badly wrong in our society. But stealing from shops, burning people’s houses is not a way to institute change. I have lived all over the world. I have seen worse poverty then Britain has ever known, greater divisions between rich and poor. I believe in people, I believe in change. If everyone did, and worked hard for it, together – then the world would be a better place. People need to lighten up, get over not having a 97 inch plasma super duper screen and just enjoy life.
Let’s find humor in life rather than greed and rampant consumerism. And if you see fit, could you please send your donations to Last Exit to Reality so that we can replace our stolen stuff and get back to work writing about really funny stuff.