Response to the 2011 riots

I wrote this on TwitLonger back in 2011. I’m putting it here just so I don’t lose it as I think it’s not a bad bit of writing. It was written in response to the summer riots that started in London and, somehow, ended up at the end of my street, where I used to live.

Apparently it got read out on Radio Merseyside at the time but I couldn’t tell you, I wasn’t listening.

Anyway, I was angry and sweary and it’s really raw. Here you go, anyway.

August 11, 2011

My opinions on the last few days
Or, what I’ve learned from living near a riot.

Hello. Sorry to put this out like this but I don’t have a blog apart from The Twilight Zone Network website and this has no place there – although there are plenty of Zone episodes which ring surprisingly true to the events of the last week. Apologies for length too, don’t worry I won’t be upset if you don’t bother to read this.

First, an introduction. I live two minutes away from Lawrence Road in Wavertree, Liverpool, You might have heard of it. There have been four burning cars on it over the last few days, shops have been smashed. A newsagent was looted. It featured on the front of the Guardian website yesterday.

Lovely, isn’t it? (Sorry this image has been removed from the internet for some reason since 2011, maybe copyright, It’s not too different from the picture below on this page, though.)

Then the BBC wrote a piece about how plucky residents were for continuing as normal despite waking up in a supposed war-zone. I may be editorializing there. It’s here it you want to take a look  I’ll be honest, I found it a little patronising.

I was a journalist; I’m now a copywriter (This isn’t true now. I work in a discovery and research team for digital projects) after the recession fucked my newspaper career. I don’t mind, I like the work and prefer writing for a website than print these days anyway, Oh, and I’m quite liberal as well – working class background too.

Right that’s the background, it’s kind of important, I always think, to know who’s giving you their opinion.

The rain put them off last night, the police are going to say it was them but in the past week I still haven’t seen a police officer on Lawrence Road, that’s not to say they aren’t there. Perhaps they are ninjas, perhaps I’m just unlucky but in my view I haven’t seen a single officer. This does not make me feel safe.

Lawrence is, as they say, a little cosmopolitan; there are plenty of companies setting up down there now. For years it was a bit crap with a couple of takeaways. Now it’s cafes and shops and proper businesses, the kind that make money. It’s quite nice. I like living there.

Lawrence Road
Over the next few days there will be plenty of debate about WHY. Why any of this has happened? Why do kids take to the street and smash shit up? There has been little of the looting where I am, after all.

Right wing-slanted people will say society is too liberal. They always do. This empty threat of throwing looters out of their homes and cutting their benefits is hollow, and the looters know it. Where are these people going to go? It’s nonsense.

I also wonder where this liberal society actually is, both parties are going to blame each other but we’ve had 12 years of centralist politics followed by a shift to the right. That’s it. We sent a lad to prison for 16 months for swinging off the Cenotaph for fuck’s sake. We are not a liberal society, we’ve got wars coming out of our arses; I’m not convinced we ever have been that liberal.

The left are going to say it’s tax and spending cuts. Sorry, I can’t agree with that either. These rioters are not protesting like the students did. There appears to be no real moral code for this at all. Just grabbing what they can or attacking the police.

I think it’s a mixture of a few things. A humid summer being one, violence in London showing that it’s possible to do it and get away with it being another.

But I still struggle to understand why people don’t mention this little stat more often. Youth unemployment hit a record high in February.

The odds of being in your early 20s and having a job are terrible. I’d be livid too, shit I was livid when I spent seven months out of work back in 2008 and I’m still a bit bitter about the lack of help I got, even now.

Then there’s the fact that we seem to live in a society which bases an awful lot on how big your TV is and what training shoes you have. What did people loot in London? JD Sports. It’s not even a good sports shop, but it’s there and people want that stuff. They are told they are worthless if they don’t have that crap. Plastic tat, from an early age, is drummed into people’s heads as the most important thing. So, given the opportunity to take what they want, people have done. It’s exactly what we’ve been telling them to do and exactly the reason this country is the power it is. The difference is now we’re shitting on our own doorstep rather than relying on cheap labour. (see told you I was a liberal)

There is another element to this, some people are wankers. I know this – you can see them on the news. But let’s not let people dumb enough to loot a shop in front of a TV camera tarnish an entire group. Despite how awful it is to do what that crowd has done.

Of course there will be scapegoats offered too, gang culture, rap, video games. It was 30 years ago when they blamed video nasties. It was bollocks then and it’s bollocks now. They are just more cheap excuses to offer an easy fix.

If you’re interested, I’ve been sleeping OK. My two cats are more likely to wake me up than a hoodie. I’m worried for my house, my wife, the car, even my bloody wheelie bin. I’m worried because I love my home and like what we’ve done to it. I don’t have much but it’s mine and the thought some nugget could destroy it fills me with horror.

But I also don’t think that’s really going to happen. I think it’s over and we’re going to deal with what’s happened OK. It’s made me proud of my area and defiant. I like that people are looking at each other and saying it’s kids from other areas travelling in – even if I don’t know if that fact is true. It means that people feel happy and confident in their area and want to pull together. So no, we’re not plucky and no we don’t live in a riot zone.

So amongst the racists, the political posturing and the bullshit there’s no easy answers – and that’s the one thing newspapers and politicians will never want to tell you.

But we’ve got to try and make sense of it and move on without point-scoring and knee-jerk reactions.

That’s what I’ve learned.

Also, cheers for reading this far.

Enjoy your lunch.

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