Depressingly, as I grow older, I find myself referring back to a book that I barely paid attention to in English class at the age of fifteen because I was in love with the boy sitting next to me; 1984 by George Orwell. As the riots in the south of the UK continued to roar, this particular part of the book sprung to mind:
“Its started! he thought. A riot! The Proles are breaking loose at last! When he reached the spot it was to see a mob of two or three hundred women in a multitude of individual quarrels. One of the stalls had been selling tin saucepans. They were wretched, flimsy things, but cooking pots of any kind were always difficult to get. The successful women, bumped and jostled by the rest, were trying to make off with their saucepans while dozens of others clamoured round the stall, accusing the stall keeper of favouritism and of having more saucepans somewhere in reserve. Winston watched in disgust. Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?”
I felt the same sentiment as reports of the riots in London started rolling in through various news websites on my laptop. ‘IT’S STARTED!’ I thought, much sooner than I could ever have hoped. The shooting of Mark Duggan by the metropolitan police, which sparked the riots seemed to be long forgotten, and we were now witnessing the pent up rage of my generation domino out of control and onto the streets. I watched the images of violence from London on the edge of my seat with a swelling heart, and watched the drop points on maps indicating where the violence was spreading. Hearing that shops were the main targets, my heart jumped again. Finally, they are targeting the real culprits behind this mess we find ourselves in! I imagined the stocks of Vodafone, Topshop and other tax-dodging corporations being dragged out onto the street and burned into ashes. Maybe then David Cameron would feel inclined to go back on his decision to let these companies dodge billions of pounds in tax, enough to pay for everybody’s higher education.
But just as I was considering if it would be possible for me to get to London quickly enough to help my generation change the course of history, I started to notice a few things that made me feel uncomfortable. The footage of the youths shown carried no banners, and they were shouting no slogans. Not ‘NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE’, not anything else. But most of them, I noticed, were carrying bottles of wine and downing cans of beer. People were running down the road with trolleys filled with plasma screen televisions. This wasn’t anti-consumerist; this was consumption gone mad! My heart sank, why was it that they couldn’t fight about anything that mattered? Logging into Facebook was an equally stressful experience, status update after status update referred the youths involved as ‘delinquents’ and ‘uneducated’. It was as if everybody was addressing the point without really understanding it. The media echoed this sentiment. The mayor of London addressed a crowd (half of whom were heckling him) by saying that we should ‘forget about the social and economic stuff and focus on the troublemakers’. Unless he is implying that somebody tripped over the plughole to hell and these teenagers came rushing out of it in search of designer jeans, then I really don’t know what fucking ‘troublemakers’ he is talking about. David Cameron’s speeches followed soon after, with a tone like a menstruating Miss Trunchbull, reiterating that the perpetrators shall be punished, punished, PUNISHED! If anybody is under the impression that hard-line punishment and making examples of those involved is the solution to preventing this from happening again, they would probably benefit from knowing that the UK prison system has a 70% recidivism rate within the first year of release.
How many more riots will it take before the government starts to look after its country’s future? And how many more teenagers will have to fight each other before they realise that it’s not their fault that they don’t have one?
The early stage of this age of austerity has awoken a rage amongst its young citizens that is utterly valuable if we wish to overthrow it, it merely needs to be channelled in the right direction: Whitehall. I hope to see you there.