I caught the tail end of their animated conversation. “Look at the riots,” one of them exclaimed. “It just goes to show we have the power not the government.”
I disagree. An orgy of looting and violence is not just “sheer criminality” it is the action of the powerless.
Ingredients for a riot: take a huge dollop of frustration, add an unstable economy and high unemployment, along with an even bigger dollop of desperation. Then spoon in some rage and bake in the searing heat.
Many people not just in the UK but around the globe will easily separate themselves from the rioters/criminals.
And, of course, they can. They are law abiding citizens, they are educated, they are employed and take home an income which allows them to indulge in the finer things in life.
Yes, they are far removed from these so-called “animals” and “feral rats”.
But if we pause and really think about what one young woman in Birmingham told a news channel it becomes harder to dismiss these people as “just opportunist thugs”.
Asked how she perceived her local police force, she responded: “They don’t respect me so I don’t respect them.”
Respect is fundamental for a human being.
When a person is respected he or she possesses the power to influence people and shape his or her own destiny.
For some people in our society basic respect is automatic for others life is not so straightforward.
These people are invisible and become visible only when they act outside of the law.
The mindless violence and criminal damage which has swept across Britain is inexcusable.
It has already claimed a life – a 26-year-old man was shot in his car last night – and left many families homeless. Shop owners have witnessed their livelihoods going up in flames.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said every perpetrator will quite rightly feel the full force of the law.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Michael Gove has blamed the riots on “tribal allegiances and gangs”.
Real change comes with addressing the cause not just the effect.
Columnist Mary Riddell wrote in the Telegraph (London riots: the underclass lashes out):
“Today, Britain is less equal, in wages, wealth and life chances, than at any time since then. Last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30 per cent to £333.5 billion.”
Tonight a police station in Nottingham was firebombed.
Can this country really afford to continue to have a huge section of society which is rudderless, disaffected and roaming the streets?