Monday 8 August 2011

London's Plague

Having listened to a Radio 4 debate on the way home from Belfast, I have been wondering about the causes of and motivations for the London riots. Social deprivation? Or recreational criminality?

Ros Griffiths argued that there is a "catalogue of issues" and that the "fabric of society has broken down." By this logic, the violence is a tremor resulting from the impact of recession and consequent Government cuts, which will shape the coming decade. With high levels of unemployment and disenfranchisement amongst young Londoners, the death of Mark Duggan merely sent a ripple of desperate frustration across London. What has happened was inevitable.

Max Wind-Cowie, on the other hand, believes the riots to be nothing but an expression of criminal greed. Generations of disrespectful attitudes towards authority figures can only but cultivate a culture of delinquency amongst the London 'underclass'. On this perspective, there is no excuse - no social or political explanation - for the weekend actions of balaclava-clad boys looting their neighbours' shops.

So which is it? Obviously, there is a blend of both. I think there is a hard core of wannabe rioters (perhaps looking to the Ardoyne for summer inspiration) who are intent on retaliating for police recklessness; one might argue that they are hijacking the tragedy of Mr Duggan's death for their own questionable purposes. With the momentum of this destructive surge, there are bound to be some frustrated young people whose energies have otherwise been exhausted by the vision of London they've inherited. These are the fringe actors, but together they constitute a plague that is sweeping London.

Target the ringleaders and one might quell the violence. What will remain will be the discontent of a generation. Now, how to target that?

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