So the dust seems to have settled a bit around the UK, after the 'riots' of a few weeks ago.
I think most people have thought a lot about the reasoning behind the violence we saw here, and I've been at a few parties and with different groups of friends where the subject has come up. It largely seems to have followed the Conservative line of "this was mindless violence, the people should be punished, they deserve harsher and quicker sentencing than usual because the actions were so severe"
Well, I've found this rationale a bit problematic, and while I waited for alternative opinions to spread past the blog pages of national newspapers (like this great piece in The Independent and another in The Telegraph) and start influencing real public debate, national attention has seemed to move on to more justifed conflicts further afield.
So I wanted to get my thoughts down and see what responses were, because I'm worried that for the young people who were involved in these acts, not much has changed. And if nothing has changed, this could happen again.
Still from the Keep Aaron Cutting campaign site.
The thing that really struck me wasn't necessarily the 'mindlessness' of the actions, but of the targets. For me it raised some questions.
- What could lead someone to think there is no difference between a lone local hairdresser and a global electronics brand?
- How could someone not differentiate between members of their community and state police? And going further, why are the Police/state seen as the enemy at all?
I believe it's true that many of these acts were not pre-meditated, and many people now in custody probably did just get caught up in the moment. But I also agree that that's not always an excuse. But the idea that kids 'should have known better' doesn't wash for me either.
It seems like the answers to the questions above lead to some pretty long-term conditioning that these kids and their peers have gone through.
If everyone is against you, what difference does it make if you burn Oxfam or Foot Locker? If as soon as you do something, people distance themselves from you and persecute you, why would you ever attempt to reach out and empathise? If at least 1 in five of your friends are out of work and being forced to jump through hoops to receive £2.14 per hour while they look for jobs that don't exist, what faith do you have that polititians are on your side, even before they start calling you 'scum' and 'thugs'?
Just lots of questions really, but I hope that as a country we're able to think about answering them. There's a lacklustre speech from Ed Milliband that touches on some of the issues, but in that very middle-class way that doesn't even come close to the kinds of reform that's needed.
I leave you with this video shot before any of this kicked off:
What do you think?