From reading a FB discussion I was directed to a BBC News video where a BBC reporter interviewed two females who seemed to be involved in the UK riots. While they were somewhat affected by alcohol (at 9.30am!!), their response as to why the riots were occuring was somewhat insightful.
One girl said, “The reason we riot is because we’re showing the police we can do what we want. That’s what it’s all about, showing the police we can do want we want and now we have.” But when questioned about why they were trashing local people’s shops and why the riots were affecting people in thier own community, one girl said, “It’s the rich people, the people who’ve got businesses, and that’s why all of this has happened, because of the rich people. We’re just showing the rich people we can do what we want.”
The original violence appears to have stemed from the police shooting of a 29-year man in Tottenham, North London (see News Article). However, the rioting and looting that has extended to areas outside of London, including Manchester and Liverpool, do not appear to be directly related to this event. The events in Tottenham may have been a catalyst but now something else appears to be driving the unrest and violence. Perhaps this girl’s opinion sheds some light on what may be going on under the surface.
The interesting thing about these statements is that these two girls are angry with “the rich”. However “the rich” are not the mega-rich millionaires of London but “the people who’ve got businesses”. A British government comissioned report in 2010 noted that the gap between the wealthy and the poor in the UK was the widest it’s been in 40 years (see Report). It suggests that the richest 10% are around 100 times better off than the poorest 10% of society. In addition, the UK’s social mobility (the ability to move between social or economic status’) is the lowest in the developed world. This means that poor families in the UK have a greater chance of struggling on a low income than poor families in other developed countries. Whether or not this gap obviously exists between people such as these girls and their local business owners (as opposed to reported gap between the bottom 10% and the top 10% of wealthy people), I can not say as I do not have nearly enough knowledge on Bristish politics and social issues to make that kind of judgement. But what is apparent is, for some, the feelings of oppression and resentment towards those in power (ie police and government) and those with power (ie the wealthy) obviously exist and appears to be contributing, in some instances, as a motivating factor for the continuing violence and rioting.
Even if the gap between rich and poor is not the primary motivating factor, the idea that all this violence is a result of opportunistic thugs and vandals I think is perhaps a little simplistic. No doubt there is opportunistic thuggery that needs to be condemned, and I am in no way wanting to make those involved any sort of heros of some more valiant cause. It is what it is – out of control thuggery, inexplicable violence, rioting and looting. It is damaging the community, familes, businesses and individual lives. But it all must point to deeper resentment, a dissatisfaction with the status quo and feelings of hopelessness across generations. The shooting may have been the catalyst, the riots may have lead to opportunistic violence, but perhaps they are just a surface expression of deeper and more concerning issues.
What should our response be as of a follower of Jesus?