I got back to London yesterday, and have been glued to the TV ever since. If you haven't heard about the riots and looting all over England, please go Google and come back.
Luckily, I live in a suburban area with no shops worth looting, and by that I mean no JD Sports selling the trainers that seem so popular among the rioters I've seen on TV, so we're untouched, except for a few Police cars zooming up the main roads, sirens blaring.
But, what a welcome home. Shops and homes burned to the ground; shops broken into and robbed; three people mowed down by a car as they tried to protect their neighbourhood. Basically, all out chaos and destruction by a minority of kids, gathered together using social networks to run amok and destroy our cities.
And where have our leaders been? On holiday. Yes, all of them. At the same time. Because, apparently, the country doesn't need anyone to run it in August. Our Prime Minister waited for three days of rioting before calling his holiday in Tuscany short and coming back to make speeches about the full force of the law being applied, while thugs continue to set fire to Birmingham. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, eventually came back from his holiday, despite his spokesman saying there was no need because he could hold meetings over the internet (oh good, let's discuss how Croydon has burned to the ground over Skype, that'll make everyone feel much safer), and, to his credit did more than just survey the damage in South London, he joined the people of Clapham who had been called together on the same social networks used to gather the thugs to clean up the damage. But, really, why were they all away at the same time? Who was manning the phones? And, more worryingly, who had the keys to 10 Downing Street?
All week there have been people trying to work out why these kids (and they are kids, some as young as 11, which begs the questions, where are their parents?) felt the need to destroy the cities they live in. People cite unemployment, poverty, a lack of discipline in the home or at school, all sorts of reasons. But, I don't think the kids rioting know why they are rioting. They just see others grabbing stuff and want to join in, they want cool stuff so they take it, seemingly unworried about the consequences. Somwhere along the line, Britain has created thes kids that someone described on TV as "Consumerist Monsters", they see expensive stuff and feel entitled to it, so take it. But, as someone else said on Twitter, poverty is not about expensive trainers, it's about not having clean water.
At the end of the day, there is no excuse for burning down someone's business or home just because you can, no matter how poor you are, how bleak you feel your life is, how few job opportunities there are where you live. While England obviously has to examine our society and look at ways to give the marginalised hope and security, there is still no excuse for what has been going on this week.
I'm hoping things will start to settle down, especially now the court appearances have started. But the rebuilding will take a long time, not only of buildings but of relations between our government, our police and the communities of London.