Aug 10, 2011


I missed my blog post on Monday because I was sick. Thankfully it looks like it was just a brief bug and I'm feeling a lot better now.

The break gave me some time to get up to speed on the riots and subsequent looting that started last weekend in London, and spread to Birmingham and Liverpool. What started out as a peaceful protest over the shooting of Mark Duggan, a Tottenham resident, has, it seems, been used as a flashpoint for unleashing blind rage and greed. The rioters can't even claim to have been protesting anything anymore. It's just greed and a desire for violence.

I'm aware that there are people who believe that this was an inevitable result of marginalisation of lower classes and unemployment, but the fact remains that some people have decided they have a right to cause violence, injury and destruction to people, places and businesses that have done nothing to them. I've watched videos of people left beaten on the street, only to be robbed by opportunistic passers-by. I've seen images of buildings burning to the ground. Businesses left in ruins. People fleeing their homes. Double-decker buses reduced to crumpled slag.

There are places in the world where people stand and fight for their freedom, for their rights as human beings. In the UK there have been people, en masse, violating the rights of their fellow human beings, all to watch a building burn or get a free television. These actions have no noble motivations. They have no worth or value. They are sickening and selfish.

I am, however, glad to see that there are still some people with a sense of decency; evidenced by volunteer groups rallying across social media to help authorities with clean-up efforts. Now that things seem to be calming down, I hope that the damage can be repaired, and that the cost isn't too great. It's heartening to see how decent people are pulling together to repair what's been done and protect their communities, showing that they won't stand for this kind of behaviour.

I hope that when the last fires have died, and the last bits of rubble have been cleared from the streets, the people of England can look to that solidarity as a sign of that they can achieve. There'll be all manner of blame thrown around in the coming months. I would rather see individuals held accountable for their own actions, myself, than lay all blame at the foot of the police or the government. Choices were made, and there will be consequences.

By the same token, rather than see marshal law or "quick fix" answers like curfews or the banning of hoodies, individuals should take responsibility to rebuild their communities, stronger than before, and to remember these lessons. For every window broken, every car torched, let there be people there with the strength to rebuild. And let that decency spread into everyday life.


  1. Yes, people are using these riots as an opportunity to loot and destroy for their own pleasure. But these types of riots don't happen because people are selfish. They happen because of fundamental flaws in their society. Yes, these are individuals who made the choice to loot and burn, but when that many people choose to do that then the problem isn't with individuals, but the system in which they live.

    Societies are built around respect and mutual gain. We respect those around us with the understanding that they will respect us. We work with society and obey its rules because we benefit from it. The rioters have been abandoned by society. They are given no respect and have nothing to gain by obeying the laws of the land. You say that they have a choice. Until now that hasn't been true. Their one option was to conform and have nothing. Now they have been given a choice - conform and have nothing, or rebel and take what they want.

    Hopefully lessons will be learned. Huge sections of the UK system need to be reformed - education, social welfare, law enforcement and community development need total overhauls. Hopefully a new movement will arise that will give these people some representation, so that they can find another way to express themselves other that through violence and theft.

    But I doubt it.

  2. I feel these issues re-emerging here in the U.S. too. We've have gone through times, of course, of racial and economic inequality that have led to mob violence. But we seemed to be moving away from such things as the country really started to accept its diversity. As our economic woes worsen though, it seems like we are suspecting once again that the "haves" are becoming fewer in number but stronger in power. And even those who were middle or upper middle class are beginning to feel like "have nots." I worry that the anger we feel toward our government right now is being expressed individual to individual with intolerance and unkindness. But, I can only hope that when the riots there are over, there will be many who will look at their own behavior and feel shame. And it will be an opportunity to ask, "how could this happen? why did this happen?" and often, from such terrible events, positive change comes. Let's hope it's true.

  3. macd21: I agree with you that there's a greater societal issue showing itself here, but there is still the choice of the individual. Yes, conform and have nothing or revel and take something is a choice each individual has. But conforming has the indirect effect of not ruining businesses, or risking the spread of anger and hatred. There's an attitude there of "these people have more than me, so I deserve to take it from them." That is not excusable, regardless of the circumstances.

    I can certainly understand the feeling of abandonment, and the desire to lash out, but my fear is that incidents like this will lead to two opposing viewpoints, one that the individuals responsible should be summarily punished or beaten down by marshal law and military intervention, even going so far as to treat them more harshly than any other criminals committing similar crimes in other situations, and the other that, because some people are suffering and feel wronged by their government, that their actions should not have the proper consequences.

    We're not dealing with human rights issues, here. This is not a protest. It's street crime, on an immense scale yes, but it should be treated as such, and those involved held fully responsible for their actions, and suffer the consequences under law.

    Melissa: I honestly pray that some good can come from these last few days. Whether it's something simple like communities banding together to make things better, or as grand as governments working towards social reform, some good has to come from this.

    As an aside, I also believe that these events could have been kept from escalating as far as they did. There are a lot of riot-control measures that weren't employed to help the police on the street who had to deal with the violence; non-lethal measures to break up crowds that have proven effective in other situations.

  4. Paul, I hope so too. I can only guess that this took everyone by surprise and so the response was especially poor. I'm saying extra prayers for this to end and for people to come together again and for life to move forward in a saner way.

  5. Well said, Paul. What happened was rampant lawlessness and vandalism by youths who have no respect for anything or anyone. Some of the vandals and looters here in Manchester were 9 or 10 year olds. Did their parents know (or care) that their kids were in the city centre late at night?