It has been a demoralising week as England agonises over a nihilistic underclass soured by a society built on an obsessive consumerism in which they cannot partake and so abysmally lacking in communal values that they can wantonly destroy their own cities, and imagine that they have achieved some twisted social solidarity in the process.
Those aren’t my words, they come from David Hopps and appeared in the Sports pages on Wednesday.
We have had wall-to-wall coverage on television, endless hours on the radio, dozens of extra pages in the newspapers; ministers, finally, came back from their holidays, and Parliament was recalled; the police eventually flooded the streets, five people have died; and now at least we have calm. As for me, well I’m no clearer about why people rioted, nor what the causes are. What I do know is that our political leaders and commentators have on the whole rushed to produce (or be seen to produce) some tough-sounding measures, to appear to be in control. Most of these seem immediate, shallow, and far from addressing what surely are very difficult underlying issues. More time listening, learning, trying to understand, may produce more of benefit in the long term.
I have read a few pieces in the press which I think are worth highlighting:.
Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph:
Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain. If we are ever to confront the problems which have been exposed in the past week, it is essential to bear in mind that they do not only exist in inner-city housing estates. more here
Matt Cavanagh in the New Statesman:
But while it is clearly criminal as opposed to political, it cannot be criminality "pure and simple", as the Prime Minister suggests, because the pattern is clearly not random nor indeed typical of ordinary criminality. more here
Seamus Milne makes some powerful points:
But there's no mystery as to where the upheaval came from. It was triggered by the police killing a young black man in a country where black people are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than their white counterparts. The riot that exploded in Tottenham in response at the weekend took place in an area with the highest unemployment in London, whose youth clubs have been closed to meet a 75% cut in its youth services budget.
It then erupted across what is now by some measures the most unequal city in the developed world, where the wealth of the richest 10% has risen to 273 times that of the poorest, drawing in young people who have had their educational maintenance allowance axed just as official youth unemployment has reached a record high and university places are being cut back under the weight of a tripling of tuition fees. more here
A surprising piece from Russell Brand:
As we sweep away the mistakes made in the selfish, nocturnal darkness we must ensure that, amidst the broken glass and sadness, we don't sweep away the youth lost amongst the shards in the shadows cast by the new dawn. more here
And finally, the heroic efforts of reporter Paul Lewis have provided a continuous stream of front-line reporting over five days. Constantly on Twitter, daily in the printed Guardian, frequently on that paper’s Live Blog, as well as on radio 4 and Sky News. You can read his journal here.