It has been a depressing few days for the country as we watch mindless yobs running amok throughout our cities pillaging, looting and vandalising with impunity. It has been like watching the opening scenes of one of those dystopian, post-apocalyptic horror films. On Tuesday it got even more depressing as Gloucester proved that it had enough brainless idiots of its own to jump on the band wagon and start making trouble in our city’s streets.
There is probably nothing much left to say about this sorry state of affairs, but I’m going to say it anyway.
Rioting is nothing new, but usually there is a spark – something that is universally recognised as starting it. This time there was an incident which initially sparked the riots: they first flared in Tottenham on Saturday following a peaceful protest over the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by police, but I’m betting if you asked the ‘rioters’ why they were doing it few would be able to cite this as the cause. Indeed those interviewed by the media have largely been as inconsistent as they are incoherent.
A number of ‘reasons’ have been suggested. Race, of course, but this doesn’t stand up as all races seem to be involved and all seem to be as bad as each other. The youth are blamed, but many of those arrested can’t be categorised as youths. Inevitably the whole thing is used as a blunt weapon to blame whichever brand of politics you want to pick on, but that mostly strikes me as cheap shots.
No, here are a bunch of stupid people looking for a chance to have a scrap, cause some trouble and steal some stuff and they saw an excuse to do so. Thankfully things were far less serious in Gloucester than elsewhere – maybe there are not as many idiots in the city as people often claim.
There obviously was a flash point waiting to happen though and maybe it was to do with disenfranchisement with the economic situation and the continued talk of austerity measures, as was previously seen in Greece. But this is not a good excuse. The country is skint; we can’t afford our borrowings so we have to cut back. That is inevitably painful.
Unfortunately we have all become accustomed to our standard of living and feel that it is an entitlement. When we are told that this is not the case the automatic reaction seems to be to act like a spoiled six year old told that his parents can’t afford to buy him sweets: stamp your feet and have a tantrum.
Like all tantrums it does more harm than good: in these times of austerity the policing and clean up costs are not going to help.
And the sad thing is, these morons are attacking their own communities. They are not getting back at big government, more often than not they are harming their poor neighbours who are trying to scratch together a living keeping their local stores going.
And on the broader scale, the fact that Gloucester was one of the cities involved is not going to help with its image and, therefore, its much needed regeneration. On Tuesday the Citizen reported that one in ten shops in the city are empty, we need more outlets to open in the Quays and the success of the King’s Quarter regeneration will be dependent upon enticing decent shops to set up there. None of this is going to happen if Gloucester is seen as the sort of place prone to riots and vandalism.
One good thing does seem to have come out of this though. Across the country the quiet majority of law abiding citizens are reacting with revulsion and horror at these acts. On the whole the usual sympathy and excuses for the perpetrators are absent and communities are coming together in a show of solidarity to help clean up the mess. Even the usual disparaging remarks from Gloucester people about their home city seem to have seen a welcome improvement in tone in relation to these events. Maybe we could hang onto some of that pride and community spirit and see some good come out of this mess.