As most of you probably know, civil unrest has broken out in English cities over the last few days.
Since some of you have been asking, we're fine. It's not quite as dramatic or all-consuming as portrayed by the news media. And it's not all bad. Many communities are coming together to assist one another in clean-up operations.
We were in our local town centre today. Apart from a very visible police presence, there were few signs of anything out of the ordinary. The gangs of young people hanging out, wandering around, was not unusual, though their numbers were higher than normal and they seemed more focused and less aimless than usual. Mobile phone and jewellery shops had shut early as a precautionary measure.
Rumours were rife. We sat quietly in Starbucks, enjoying late afternoon sunshine, and Dan received a text from a friend that blared in capital letters: STAY AWAY FROM TOWN CENTRE! FULL OF POLICE VANS AND RIOTERS!!!
I sat down tonight and watched news clips online, and read a few articles. It's interesting. There are intense arguments going on between random people in Maryland and California [amazingly well-informed about British youth, somehow!] over the deep, real reasons for these riots. Many believe racial tensions are to blame, while others cite the inability of "young people" to retain jobs. They point out that many of the looters claim to be "stealing from the rich to redistribute the wealth". Or that the rioters are motivated by "rising taxes".
The first released CCTV images show rioters and looters to be white, black and anywhere in between. One of the youngest rioters arrested [so far] is eleven years old. A brief five seconds from a news clip that burned itself into my memory is of a shopkeeper sobbing as she tried to comprehend the mindless ransacking of her tiny corner shop. Rich? Really? If they were truly out to punish the rich, they could have at least looted Oxford Street! As for revolting against rising taxes, many of these young people have never been fortunate enough to hold down jobs and pay those high taxes.
There's no pure-minded revolution going on here. It's nothing more than a bit of fun, as evidenced by one Hackney [London] rioter who apparently called out, "Come join the fun!" as he raced along a street where cars and shops were being torched.
I don't like their idea of fun. When I was that age, "fun" meant a brand-new book to read. It still does. I know. I'm a geek.
Quite tellingly, amidst streets of looted shops, the ignored and untouched ones were the bookshops.