I’m sure you’re aware of the mass looting that has been going on across England this week, especially if you live in England as most of my family and friends do. To me, what sums it up quite well is a comment I read on Facebook. It said that all shops on Clapham high street had been broken into and looted except for one. The Clapham branch of Waterstones. A book shop, a repository for the knowledge and ideas of the human race that have been recorded for prosperity in the form of the written word. The most valuable thing we have to offer left untouched.
Obviously the looters had no interest. As their knuckles dragged along the pavement, they probably stopped, scratching their heads in bewilderment as they looked in the shop window, what kind of shop is this? What possible gratification could I gain from mindlessly vandalising the place and stealing its contents? Let’s go and steal some more tracksuit bottoms from JD Sports.
It’s like ‘The Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, except of course the Apes in the film revolt because they are motivated by a burning sense of injustice instead of the desire to nick themselves a new pair of trainers and a plasma screen TV.
To be honest when I first heard of the riots that were sparked by the shooting of Mark Duggan, I thought people had had enough, the dire economic climate, unemployment, government cuts and corruption had finally caused the powder keg to burst in an explosion of violent protest, but having read many articles about it, and watched footage on the internet, this isn’t the case. In comparison with the uprisings across Africa and the Middle East there is no apparent political motivation involved at all in the England looting spree. The family of Mark Duggan were quick to disassociate themselves from it and most of the looters wouldn’t even know who he was. It seems like it’s all a bit of a lark to them, a visceral thrill to attack police, steal the items that they can’t afford, and to destroy the communities they live in in a totally mindless and ignorant fashion.
While it’s easy for podgy middle class people like me to take the moral high ground with these looters, there’s no real argument for sympathising with them, while it can be argued they are products of their ethnic background and environment, that’s no excuse for this kind of destructive, nihilistic behaviour.
When you look at it, it’s really an unsophisticated mirror image of what has been happening for a long time in the financial and political world. The global financial crisis was essentially caused by a small minority of white collar criminals and politicians who looted the general public on a grand scale to satisfy their thirst for power, drugs, strip clubs, high class prostitutes and in the case of some British politicians, Hob Nob biscuits.
Of course these high-end criminals appear to be essentially above the law whereas the looters captured on CCTV will receive some punishment, it’s arguable whether carting an 11 year old through the courts because he stole a wastepaper bin from Debenhams is going to help though.
Obviously there’s no quick and easy solution to this problem, society as it stands is riddled with criminality and greed on all levels, not just in the poorest communities. We have created an essentially godless society in the western world, which is fine, as long as you replace God with something a bit more spiritually nourishing than Wayne Rooney’s Street Striker, Katie Prices gargantuan mammary glands or the pursuit of cold hard cash.
At the moment there is a gaping vacuum, a nothingness in all our lives that we’re told can only be filled by fame, success or the new deluxe reissue of ‘Exile on Main Street’ by the Rolling Stones. When I feel depressed, bored or disenfranchised with my existence I go out and buy something to vainly try and fill the void, but to do that, I have to earn money, the looters bypassed the boring part of this process and just went and stole what they want. Hopefully next time they might loot Waterstones and end up reading a book, who knows, it might help inspire them to try changing the world for the better rather than exacerbating its problems. Well, unless they pick up a Twilight novel.