I’ve had to turn the news off as the repeated images of violence were making me inestimably sad. As I write this, Camberwell has remained mostly unscathed, although the same can’t be said for Peckham, Brixton, Walworth Road, Old Kent Road, or East Dulwich. I can’t quite take in what’s happening.
Anyone who says with certainty that this is down to pure criminality is talking out of their arse. Likewise anyone who says this is due to disaffection from society, or poverty, or anger with the police, or racial hatred, or any of the multitude of other reasons I’ve heard tonight. Nobody knows for sure why this has happened. I’d imagine the real reason is a combination of any or all of the above, depending on which of the participants you ask.
One thing we can probably say with some certainty is that this doesn’t happen for no reason, and it doesn’t spring from nowhere. But we don’t have any context for it, just supposition and opinion.
There’s no excuse for some of the behaviour we’ve seen; smashing in or setting fire to small, locally owned businesses, and looting the houses of the people who flee out of fear. You can’t excuse that. You shouldn’t even try.
If things have become so bad for people that they feel that rioting is the only option open to them now, I can sympathise with that. But using violence to take something because you’ll personally gain from it is loathsome behaviour, and deserves punishment.
I don’t want to score cheap political points now (there’ll be enough of that in the next few days) but the lack of presence from our elected leaders has been notable. Where was Mayor Johnson? Prime Minister Cameron? We’re hosting the Olympic Games next year, shouldn’t they have spent some time to at least pay lip service to addressing the problem? And while they have the excuse that they were out of the country, where was Deputy Prime Minister Clegg in their absence?
I don’t know what’s going on. I’m bewildered and confused and sad, and not looking forward to all the finger-pointing, politics and punditry that’s destined to follow this.
One final note: over the next few weeks, please don’t buy anything that you suspect to be stolen. Don’t reward this. Help local shopkeepers instead.