Deptford, south east London, 9 August: A small impromptu crowd gathers discussing ways of portraying community solidarity, while a few passers-by stride hastily past boarded up shops and worried-looking shopkeepers. The air is full of tension while the normally buzzing-with-life streets of Deptford appear increasingly desolate. Unfortunately, this scene is not far from what one may encounter in the capital’s too many riot-stricken neighbourhoods.
The previous night saw young masked rioters swarming through Deptford’s high street bearing rocks and bats. In surprising contrast to people’s homes and lifetime businesses being burnt to the ground, as occurred in areas like Croydon and Clapham, Deptford’s rioters appear to have attacked a range of establishments which are often deemed to symbolize community-corrosive capitalism. The high street’s Tesco, Greggs, an H&T pawnbrokers and chain betting shops have all endured broken window fronts and looting. In Deptford’s street market square, a car was set alight.
…all-too-easy cause and effect judgement…
London’s holding cells are now filled to the brim with young rioters as a result of what the Metropolitan Police has called the “worst … in current memory”. In the capital alone, 922 arrests and 401 people were charged. While originally triggered by the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, 29 from Tottenham, the unprecedented and discursive bursts of destruction seen spreading from London to the UK’s largest cities escape an all-too-easy cause and effect judgement.
With a crumbling local economy, increasing youth unemployment, raised university tuition fees and a discontinued EMA fund, the nihilistic “lust for mayhem” often associated with youth riots usually serves to mask a much more complex and fluid situation.
…today’s youth is predominantly disaffected…
Whatever the causes, patterns and levels of disruption emerging from London’s riots, an awkward truth remains: a large percentage of today’s youth is predominantly disaffected, utterly disillusioned with the malfunctions and scandals of politics as well as with the daunting task of seeking employment in an elite-favouring, hostile and perpetually fluctuating economic environment. No one can deny that countrywide looting, burning and mugging are all disruptively wrong, but what they do offer is a rare glimpse into a society’s shortcomings and outright failures.