London’s Burning

All things seem to come around again. From the 1980’s I remember Adam and the Ants very fondly, and the riots in our inner cities not so fondly, yet both are back.

Let me make one thing is clear – rioting, arson and looting are wrong. All are quite rightfully considered to be criminal behaviour and those caught doing them deserve the full force                                                of the law.

However, this does not stop anyone with empathy understanding why we have an angry youth, even if we disagree with what they have done.

The initial spark was a peaceful protest by the family of a man shot by the police last week. What ensued on Saturday and Sunday night spiralled violently out of control.

The youth of today face an uncertain future. Here are the statistics (source http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/22/youth-employment-rate-lowest, July 22nd, 2011):

  • In 1997 nearly half of 16 – 17 years olds were in work, now it is just 23.3%
  • 1 in 5 16 – 24 years olds are unemployed
  • The number of NEETS (not in employment, education or training) stands at nearly 1 million
  • The education maintenance allowance has been changed, effectively removing financial support for many
  • Tuition fees changes will result in students leaving University owing £30 – 40K

To many young people the prospect of owning there own home is looking slim. Some now consider the chance of ever having a job in the same way.

This group is also politically disenfranchised. No one really speaks for them. Politics too often gathers around those with money and influence, and this has led to a preoccupation will older, middle class people.

This group is now so adrift from ‘normal’ society, it has become dangerous. When angry young men feel like they have nothing to lose, it is easy to see how peaceful marches turn to violence. This is phenomena can be witnesses all over the world.

What is required is to deal with the root cause – this dislocation from society as a whole. The violence is and looting are just the symptoms of a deeper malaise.

What young people really want is engagement and a real hope for the future. They want the chance of training, a job, financial security and a decent home to live in.

Then again don’t we all?

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