I’ve been rather absorbed in the news of the riots in London, Manchester and Birmingham over the past few days, which is why I haven’t blogged much. Thankfully, all of my friends and family are okay, including those living in places like Croydon and Ealing which have seen a lot of damage and disorder of late.
Although I no longer live in Bradford, I’m glad to see it hasn’t succumb to rioting (nor have any Yorkshire cities for that matter, so far). How much of that is down to chance, I don’t know, but even the younger residents of Bradford will remember the race riots ten years ago, and realise the long term effects of harming your own community. Sadly, this will be a lesson that many others will learn over the coming months. Whilst big chain stores may be able to re-open, those small businesses that have lost everything may be gone for good. We’re still in weak economic times and there isn’t a lot of money about to put right the damage that has been done over the past few nights.
I’m sure the physical destruction will be put right in due course, but we also have to take a very long, hard look at why this all happened – what drove people to riot in this way. We know what caused the initial protest, but we need to know why so many felt that they could justify to themselves what they were doing. And have recent austerity measures that have seen money cut from youth and community schemes been the cause of this.
Of course, those that have broken the law, and wrecked so many people’s lives by burning down their homes and livelihoods deserve punishment. But they also need rehabilitation; if these people disregard their communities so much, then surely they need to be taught about what a sense of community can offer them and how they can give back.
Quite how we do this I don’t know; I can’t really offer any answers as this is a world away from my relatively cushy middle-class upbringing. It’s tempting to focus on the negative now, but we need to think about where we all go from here.
On a related note, it’s been very heart-warming to see so many people volunteer to clean up the mess. There will be more to do tomorrow in Manchester, Salford and Wolverhampton.