The riots spread to our city yesterday,
and Hub went out this morning to see what damage had been done in our parish. A car has been burnt out, and attacks made on the bank, a cash machine, the fish and chip shop (imagine if they had managed to set that on fire, praise God they didn’t), a mobile phone shop, a shop where you can get lottery tickets, and various others. Nobody seems to have been hurt, although some have been frightened. He checked up with the Baptist pastor, and the Gurdwara: so far, everyone is OK. This afternoon he’s going down to the city centre police station where he’s now voluntary chaplain, to see how they are. There’s bound to be a lot of tension.
At staff meeting this morning Community Minister had her head in her hands. She works all the time, and very successfully, on community liaison. What is all this rioting about? It is not about race. It is not about religion. And it is not primarily about politics.
It is not even general: there was a huge carnival here on Sunday, with in excess of 25,000 people in the local park, and no major trouble at all.
Clearly, judging from the types of shop which have been ransacked, both locally and in the city centre, the gangs were on the lookout for the things they cannot normally afford: designer clothes, mobiles etc.
So is this about poverty? Even so, however poor, there is no justification whatsoever for the violence, the wilful damage, and the putting of lives in danger. There are plenty of really poor places in the world where this doesn’t happen. It’s wrong, it’s a disgrace, it’s an affront to a civilised society, and it’s completely irresponsible.
However. If you take away people’s future by hiking up university fees far beyond what most people can contemplate, if you take away their hope, if you cut funding to all the voluntary agencies working with the young unemployed, and if the cuts only ever seem to affect the most vulnerable, then there is going to be a reaction. If CCTV is taken down, and police forces reduced, then there are also going to be fewer police around to patrol the streets, arrest wrongdoers and keep the rest of us safe.
Our government seems to be run by a wealthy elite, who don’t appear to be giving anything up in this recession. The salary of some of them for a single year could probably feed the starving of Mogadishu. A widening gulf between rich and poor, especially when the rich are in government, is bound to destabilise society.
The Big Society? while removing the funding that would make it possible? Let’s see what you’re made of, Cameron and Clegg. We’re waiting.