Posted by: Natalie | August 9, 2011

The Eye of the Storm

I was going to share with you a post this morning regaling a happy tale of my recent trips to Brighton and London. However, in light of the weekend’s events (during which I was comfortably reinstalled at home) I felt that may be a little too frivolous. But also because I am utterly bewildered by what is happening to our Capital and, last night, to cities across the country including my fair Birmingham. I suspect there will be an eerie calm about the Bull Ring and New Street this morning while people go about fixing the damage caused by looters last night. Yet I can’t help thinking that this is merely the eye of the storm, the calm before the worst. I could be wrong, I can be a little pessimistic when it comes to my faith in the masses. Unfair? Undoubtedly. After all, the number of Tweeters heading in to volunteer their cleaning services is remarkable and heart warming, but it is not of this ‘mass’ which I am disillusioned.

That word has been banded about an awful lot over the last few days, on the news, Twitter, Facebook etc. These youths are ‘disillusioned’ say many, ‘disaffected’ with the world and the case society seems to have locked them in. I don’t for one second dispute this. Having worked in the areas I have, I have seen such ingrained, generational, vicious-cycling (dubious description, I know) first hand; a type of apathy with the ‘institution’ that has mutated into a sense which people like me cannot even begin to understand. I had a very different kind of upbringing, a mostly content household on a small street, a decent education, good jobs, a lovely corner of the world to call home. I have had drive and ambition and constant support for dreams I may develop. A little sheltered and naive perhaps, but by no means blinkering my world view as to be unsympathetic. Needless to say, as much as I have had my own disillusionment (of sorts), it has not been of the deeply entrenched kind that affects so many.

Mass unemployment, austerity, fear have never really left this country. Even through the boom years there has always been a sleeping giant waiting to rear its angry head. The pattern of life for so many families is disturbingly repetitive. In these corners, there is no incentive to better a situation, no ambition to break away – why should they? How can they? The Grandchildren of the truly disaffected know no different, it is how life is and the ‘Establishment’ is just another target for all the generational ‘hate’ which dwells within. It works similarly with the generational prejudice which makes people assume the outside world is just as racist towards them as it once was. And I am quite certain that in particular pockets it is – but I sense the direction of racial hate has shifted somewhat in the last 30 years. I get all this. I do not, for one second, accuse these deep layers of feeling of being false. It is a dark truth our country has to deal with, our politicians and communities need to tackle in a realistic sense. But as with everything which is decades deep, there will never be a quick fix but opportunity can help.

However, having a lack of opportunity for education and employment does not mean that people have an inability to follow the basic moral code of human existence. The events in Tottenham on Saturday may have held ‘real’ roots, in that a protest over a police shooting (again, the pessimist in me thinks there may be some truth behind the rumoured events) got out of hand due to a few idiots. But this does not directly affect any of the other areas which have seen violence and destruction over the past few days. These other events are, in my mind, other mindless, morally void, idiots jumping on a band wagon causing other dominoes to fall in their wake. I hear the words ‘disillusioned youth’ the ‘generationally disaffected’ but I am waiting for some actual proof that this is true. The senselessness of it all shows me no political argument nor any real outrage over a given direction in life, just a thuggish abandonment of thought for any one other then the person brandishing the baseball bat. To assume that this kind of thoughtless act is purely down to these areas of inherited malcontent is an insult to all the hard-working, morally strong people trapped within the hamster wheel. I have known some well educated, cotton-wool grown thugs in my time, who are just as likely to be out there beating seven bells out of the window of Gregg’s.

I find myself almost twisted in a rage of disbelief which I can’t quite begin to verbally straighten. I cannot begin to get my head around the mentality of someone who thinks this kind of violent behaviour is acceptable. I’ve seen footage of the teenagers breaking into the Adidas shop in town – they are having fun! Yesterday, Birmingham city centre became a playground for teenagers believing the world is theirs and theirs alone. But what concerns me more, that this may only be the tip of the ice berg, not that I am expecting the city’s violence to reach the pitch it has in London, but in that the plaster has been ripped off; the holes in our society’s fabric have begun to show clearer than ever. Thirty, Fourty years ago our country was in a mess and the mindless violence became a regular feature of news reports. Governments did their best to paper over the cracks but as anyone knows, eventually they will reappear, the paper stripped back and a veritable canyon of trouble lies before you. Our country is in a mess again but with it this time is that lack of moral grounding, a lack of accountability and no sense of consequence. There are pockets of opportunistic ‘youth’ who know no better and no amount of finger pointing can unravel the knotted tapestry of blame – is it the Government? Poor parenting? Insufficient education? Or just the inevitable sign of society’s breaking point?

I just cannot understand it. It is mindless. My thoughts are with all those people suffering this week and I sincerely pray that tonight will bring more calm and prove me wrong.

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