I Was Here First
An angry man, scaling the cliffs of coherence and only rarely reaching the top.

Pour On Water

It’s 22:30 on the eighth of August, 2011 and I, like everyone else in Britain, am glued to my computer, scouring Twitter, the newspapers and the BBC for any information on the riots that are flaring up across the country.

And more than the riots themselves, what’s making me sick is the rampant politico-point-scoring that’s cropping up everywhere I look. From the bleeding-heart lefties, to the kill-’em-all-and-let-God-set-them-alight-for-eternity right wingers, everyone is using these riots to fuel their own agenda; framing the issue as a blow against austerity measures/immigration policies (delete as appropriate).

It’s pretty clear that for all the talk of disaffected, impoverished youths who have been let down by the system, there is no ideology behind these riots. What started out as a peaceful protest against the questionable shooting of a man quickly blossomed into an orgy of looting, violence and brutality for the sake of it. Yes, the sheer senselessness of it points to a failing somewhere in society. After all, rioters rarely leap from the womb fully-formed, with a Molotov cocktail in one hand and a broken bottle in the other. There are choices made by the government that have the potential to make a lot of people angry. But to lay the blame at the feet of society and say these people were driven to this? No. If you’ll pardon my French, go get fucked.

Everyone is feeling the pinch. Everyone is suffering. And everyone has a choice. They can choose to go smash a shop window and steal as much as they can carry, or they can choose to look around them and ask themselves how they can improve this shit situation that everyone is in. These people chose violence, and to say they were forced to take these measures is to say “whoopsiedaisy!” and wipe their asses for them after they’ve shit themselves. They are adults, and they made a choice, and to say otherwise is a terrible form of cowardice. As much as I might understand their anger (even though I’m unconvinced they have it), these people who are torching buildings with people still inside them are wrong. They are bad people, and they need to be punished as hard as they can be. Dissent against the government is a wonderful and necessary thing, but this isn’t dissent against the government. It’s war against innocents.

I’d be more forgiving of this rationale if the violence was being performed by the truly poor; the people who live twelve to a room and swap bottles for pennies, and who beg a living off the reluctant kindness of strangers. But when the looters are synchronizing via their Blackberry phones, posting pictures to the web using their internet connections and have electricity to power the TV and XBox they just stole, calling them “victims of a government-sanctioned poverty cycle” just doesn’t seem to hold water. These people don’t know poverty. These people know greed. You want to say they have no prospects? How about they go live in Uganda for a year, or Syria, or Haiti, and then we can talk about having no prospects.

And as for those vicious, sneering bastards lumbering on the other side of the fence, whose comments have even lost the no-phrase-more-fake opener of “I’m not racist, but…”: you did this. You’re so desperate to preach your xenophobic screed that you turn every situation in a soapbox, loudly proclaiming the evils of immigration which, as we all know, means “all the brown people”. And you marginalise people; you push them into a corner, and you make them feel unwanted, and you make them feel angry and, in the end, you give them that spark that causes them to react.

However, that’s all assuming this riot is race motivated, or contained purely within one (brown) demographic, as you’d love us all to believe. It’s not. Your narrative doesn’t jibe with the plot, but you’re screeching away regardless because you’re so desperately filled with hate and fear of anyone who doesn’t look and think like you. You’re disgusting. I don’t agree with their thesis, but the left have got it right; there are major socio-political issues that are underscoring these riots, and the issue is people like you.

So here’s me, looking out over the fraying edge and wondering what the Hell I can do. I think everyone’s in the wrong but I feel powerless to do anything, and I know, just from a glance at my Twitter feed, that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe millions of people feeling exactly the same as me; who don’t subscribe to any side but think the entire world has lost its mind for a while.

So, for those people: Look after one another, call up to see if your friends are ok. Everyone’s feeling a little scared that their place is going to spark up next, and a friendly voice can do wonders to take the edge off. Look around and choose to make this shitty situation better in any way you can.

And for God’s sake, if you hear a rumour, verify it before repeating it. We don’t need folks shivering under their duvets because of something a friend’s brother’s cousin’s aunt heard over a crackly radio.

Stick together. Stay calm, stay sane, stay safe, and I’ll see you in the morning.


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