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London Calling

August 10, 2011

London Riots

The past month has been a tough one for the UK. First, the utterly disgraceful #hackgate and its cynical revelations about the British press, government and police stole the headlines, then the ensuing political-legal-media circus that felt a little like the closing sequence of an episode of Benny Hill, a dog and pony show of the highest order, followed by the death of Amy Winehouse, the beautifully damaged songbird who burned out alone in her apartment, and now the London riots, which began when members of the Specialist Firearms Command fired a single bullet into the chest of 29-year-old gang member Mark Duggan during an arrest gone sideways.

A crowd that assembled around the Tottenham police station to demand information about the shooting ended up setting two police cars on fire and igniting a wider riot that spanned multiple cities, lasted five days and caused over $325 million in damages. Speculation over the cause of the wider riots ranged from absentee fathers to gang culture and criminal opportunism in the face of austerity measures being enacted by corrupt overlords. Is it actually possible that the troubled youth of the UK are really suffering from a broken heart and instead of gorging themselves on ice cream and cake decided to binge on trainers and consumer electronics?

There’s an African proverb that says, “If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth.” In a particularly ironic twist, the angry mobs (also known as “corrupt cretins,” “mindless yobs,” “anarchists,” “thugs,” “idiots,” “scum,” and “frankly sick”) set fire to the PIAS warehouse which housed the country’s largest distributor of independent record labels, destroying the entire physical stock of records from indie giants Beggars, XL Recordings, Warp Defected, Domino, Big Brother, Wall Of Sound and Sunday Best. There’s a high probability that the mindless yobs of the criminal underclass didn’t listen to MF Doom’s socially conscious hip hop or Bjork’s introverted pagan poetry, but maybe the bloke down the street did, or someone they once beat up for money. Regardless, the wrong guy took the fall. If there’s a silver lining in any of this it resides without a doubt in the rise of the #riotcleanup crew that decided to take matters into their own hands in the aftermath.

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