Riots are unacceptable in a democratic society. Peaceful protest, we are told, is acceptable. Riots, however, do not come in simple ‘one-size-fits all’ shapes and sizes and I am concerned that the ‘riots’ in London, and now across other cities in England, are being given a quasi-political, even justifiable angle because some people see them as being motivated by social exclusion and poverty.
Historically riots have had, if not a justified cause, at least a trigger which catalyse the riot that follows them. The death in Tottenham would seem to be the event that causes protests in Tottenham. But, it is difficult to see how this event, however terrible, caused riots in Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol.
The people involved in violence, robbery, afray and arson on our streets are criminals. They do not have a cause upon which to base their actions – other than a modern version of Social Darwinism in which their actions benefit them personally rather than as a social group. Ken Livingstone and Darcus Howe would seem to have us believe that this is social unrest with a political purpose, even insurrection, against a ruling political elite, as in Syria or Egypt, but this could not be further from the case.
If this was the case the groups of youths would presumably be sloganising their actions as anti-capitalist or anti-authoritarian. They are not. They are themselves capitalists because their actions are designed to achieve greater personal wealth at the direct cost of their neighbours.
Politicians should always be careful not to judge the specific actions of others with general solutions, but there can be little doubt that greed is at the basis of this activity, rather than social exclusion. If social exclusion was at the core of this problem I cannot understand how the benefits of a plasma TV or the latest Nike trainers are going to resolve that problem.
When looking at ‘riots’ in the past politicians have tried to rebalance society in the aftermath to try to prevent any future reoccurance but it difficult to see how riots are going to be prevented if the motivation of them is personal wealth and entertainment through violence.