In the wake of the riots that tore through the outer boroughs of London and continued across the cities of the UK and across the Atlantic, many are quick to point fingers at the rioters and the government, and many a quick to speculate how this may affect, “Brand London”. However, few have commented on the likely effects this will have on the relationship British society has on the youth, a relationship already strained by severe cuts, mistrust, and fear.
Many have been quick to blame David Cameron’s conservative government and the cuts that have undoubtedly hit the worst of hardest, as Professor John Pitts, a criminologist and youth culture expert, said:
“Many of the people involved are likely to have been from low-income, high-unemployment estates, and many, if not most, do not have much of a legitimate future…Those things that normally constrain people are not there. Much of this was opportunism but in the middle of it there is a social question to be asked about young people with nothing to lose.”
This train of thought can be continued in order to blame the cuts for the riots, an honest reaction to social mistreatment, an argument dismissed by most of society as an unnecessary validation for mindless violence by people who care little for society and no respect for the people of this society who provide funds for the government support received in these difficult times.
Unfortunately, as much as people would wish to believe this to be an act of mindless violence, unprovoked, and un-blamable on society, we must consider the affects that the cuts have had on these areas. Haringey Council, the local council of Tottenham where the riots started, closed 8 out of 13 youth clubs. This combined with low unemployment is bound to create a sense of boredom, of apathy, and of a feeling that they have been left behind by the society they are supposedly a part of. Add to this a sense of discrimination against youths, a discrimination that intensifies as we move into the inner cities and there seems to be an inevitability that this growing boredom encourage the youth to live up to the opinions society has about them.
We must not be mistaken and attempt to create a legacy around these events as a social revolution. The acts of those days, do however show the incredible power and strength this faction of society has and, most freighting of all, how little moral or social compass they have for directing this power. This was not a protest in reaction to mistreatment by society, but rather this was a natural reaction to such mistreatment, easily avoidable.
The true costs of the riots are not simply economic costs and the cost to the reputation of London. The true cost is that the reputation British youth has developed, a reputation of criminality, directionless, and capable of anything is a reputation the proved right to be fearful of and for generation to come prejudice against inner city youth will be justified, however right or wrong this may be, by the events of three nights one summer.