The wanton destruction of parts of my hometown has moved me to put fingers to keys once again.
We first became aware of the unfolding unrest on Monday night. A text from my daughter at 9pm got us to switch channels to watch the live news pictures of Reeves Corner furniture store burning to the ground. We could smell smoke from the burning Croydon buildings from where we live in Addiscombe.
A tragedy – under any circumstances. More so because of the stupidity of the act. What has it achieved apart from destroying a family business and putting 15 families out of work? Some fame and kudos for the 21-year-old arrested in connection with the incident. Incident… that word makes it sound so trivial!
A teenage girl says ‘we were showing the rich and the police we can do what we want’. She clearly does not have the common sense to understand that people doing ‘whatever they want’ will ultimately put her own life in danger as anarchy rises. Is that really an environment she wants to live in? To whom will she turn when she is threatened if there are no police… and there is no rule of law?
I do not believe that this looting has a coherent strategy for the majority of troublemakers – most of those involved will not have thought this through even if they have the capacity to. ‘Showing the rich and the police we can do what we want’ is just a convenient banner under which to march. For most of the rioters and looters, involvement will have been spontaneous – because it felt good to do something rebellious – on the level of having a cream cake whilst on a diet. ‘Let’s go out tonight and have fun’!
That is one of the very worrying aspects of this – that those young people are not able to see how horribly inappropriate this sort of ‘fun’ is.
Many commentators will offer political and social explanations, but at the root of this, most of those involved will have become involved because it felt good.
Despite appearances, the rioting didn’t just happen. The link to the Mark Duggan shooting in Tottenham is extremely tenuous. It is more likely the shooting was a convenient springboard for a strategy devised by a few, worked out in advance, that took advantage of the power of social media. A criminal flash mob.
Something unplanned would flare up and die away – the persistence of this disorder suggests an organised attempt at creating chaos. The media reported groups of people at East Croydon station directing ‘would be’ troublemakers to the locations of the disturbance.
Just as a child pushes the boundaries to see how far he can go, the looters have tested the police and it appears that the ‘long’ arm of the law does not stretch far enough these days. Is it inconceivable that someone is watching closely and noting how large a crowd and how many simultaneous riots it takes to push the forces of law and order beyond the limits of their capability?
Sinister forces are at work today.