Thursday, 11 August 2011


“The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

riot |ˈrīət| noun
1 A violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd: Riots broke out in the capital | [as modifier ]: Riot police.
• An uproar: The film's sex scenes caused a riot in Cannes.
• An outburst of uncontrolled feelings: Α riot of emotions raged through Frances.
• archaic Uncontrolled revelry; rowdy behavior.
2 [ in sing. ] an impressively large or varied display of something: The garden was a riot of colour.
3 [ in sing. ] informal A highly amusing or entertaining person or thing: Everyone thought she was a riot.
verb [ no obj. ]
Take part in a violent public disturbance: Students rioted in Paris | (as noun rioting) : A night of rioting.
• Behave in an unrestrained way: Another set of emotions rioted through him.
• archaic Act in a dissipated way: An unrepentant prodigal son, rioting off to far countries.
run riot Behave in a violent and unrestrained way. • (of a mental faculty or emotion) function or be expressed without restraint: Her imagination ran riot. • proliferate or spread uncontrollably: Traditional prejudices were allowed to run riot.
rioter noun
ORIGIN Middle English (originally in the sense ‘dissolute living’): From Old French riote ‘debate,’ from rioter ‘to quarrel,’ of unknown ultimate origin.

After that introduction it is not totally unexpected that today I shall write of the UK riots. As was the case with the whole world, we too watched in shock as the violence erupted on August 7th and left death, injury, senseless destruction, arson, horror, looting, chaos and lawlessness in their wake. Two nights of rioting in London’s Tottenham neighbourhood erupted following protests over the shooting death by police of a local man, Mark Duggan. Police were arresting him when the shooting occurred. Over 170 people were arrested over the two nights of rioting, and fires gutted several stores, buildings, and cars. The disorder spread to other neighbourhoods as well, and then to other cities around the nation.

In the face of unending rioting that has spread to other cities, London deployed 16,000 police in the largest show of force in the city’s history. British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a holiday in Italy to return home to deal with the widening crisis. Army units are standing by to help restore order. Hundreds of people have been arrested, and over 100 police officers have been injured. What may have begun as a protest over the death of a civilian quickly became a massive show of violence and brutality with looting, destruction of property, rioting for the sake of vandalism and the joy of annihilation.

Anthony Daniels, a retired British prison doctor and psychiatrist, has characterised British youths as “the most unpleasant and potentially violent young people in the world.” Families are terrorised by their own knife-wielding, arrogant and irascible children. The youth of Britain seem to have a sense of entitlement, the only difference between the rich and the poor being that the rich can buy whatever they want, while the poor need to “wheedle, cajole, swindle and steal it.” This seems to be at the core of the disturbances and the looting that was carried out on a large scale.

Rioting and looting are two different things: A riot results from a sense of indignation and an overwhelming feeling of injustice that in many people arouses an intense violent response. Looting is based on envy, greed, consumerism gone awry and a sense that society owes you something that you are unable to afford or couldn’t be bothered working for. Looters are opportunists and will leap at any chance that allows them to act in a manner that advantages their perverted sense of “equality”.

In both cases, crowds breed unrest and both looting and rioting seem to find perfect conditions in which to occur whenever there is crowding together of rabble. The passions are inflamed and the courage that one coward is deficient in is topped up by the traces of courage of many. It is with this borrowed bravado and the shared blind fury that violent acts are committed, with the rush of hormones that accompanies shed blood and the smell of burning that kindles more hostility.

Add to that our culture of rank consumerism and the equation of money with success and status and one has a perfect motive for looting. The have-nots will hanker after what the haves enjoy on a daily basis and they will do their utmost to obtain it by fair means or foul. The glorification of violence in our TV shows, movies, video games and literature provides a perfect education for our young people who have as their role models gangsters, murderers and action heroes involved in violent acts. The success of criminals and their fabulous lifestyles supported by the proceeds of crime and impunity from the legal system and justice is another incitement to crime and violence.

At courthouses in the UK, chaotic scenes have been enacted with several courts sitting through the night to process scores of alleged looters and vandals, including an 11-year-old boy. The defendants included Natasha Reid, a 24-year-old university graduate who admitted stealing a TV from a looted electronics store in north London. Her lawyer said she had turned herself in because she could not sleep because of guilt. Also due to appear in court were several people charged with using social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to incite violence. Technology to the aid of terror, not the first time we have seen that happen…

Numerous questions arise about our society, our values, our youth, our education system. We need to re-examine the way we entertain ourselves, the way that we worship our idols. Is the loss of our spirituality to be partly blamed? The disruption of family life? The dilution of our morals and the deterioration of our ethical standards? The lack of the rigour of the military life as there is no compulsory national service? All of these? I don’t know what the answers are, but it seems we are heading towards disaster…


  1. all these scenes terrify me... i think about the same as you do - although you express it much better- i also think that we have failed the youth today. there was something alse we were supposed to do, and we didn`t. there is a lot of anger going around- whether it is in Athens or in London ( or in Paris some years ago) it doesn`t make any difference...

  2. I think it's important you've mentioned how we entertain ourselves, not many people would consider that being a factor. I'm lucky in such that both son's are busy in education and in their bands (both drummers) and have something to strive for in life. They do feel in part that they understand a bit why these riots are going ahead.

    I'm not in least bit political (too ruddy muddling for me) but I do have friends who are already sick of David Cameron. Think he's a 'git' to be honest!

  3. This was a terrible occurrence which unfortunately is a sing of the times. As we lose our values and adopt others we lose many of the things we cherish: Family, religion, personal responsibility, honesty, being law-abiding. As you say, Nicholas, too much greed, consumerism and thinking that money can buy anything.

  4. capitalists are threatened by rioting
    the rich are threatened by looting
    cheaper goods and lots more jobs with less profits for big companies would reduce the risk of both happening