The Right to Riot

Filed in Other, Uncategorized by on August 10, 2011

December 12, 2005 remains a memorable day for me. It was the day I first saw images and began to understand what was happening in the streets of Cronulla during the now infamous 'race riots'.

The Times of London led its World News section with a colour photo of a bottle-wielding yobbo taking a swipe at a lone policeman trying in vain to restrain a crowd of obviously agitated singlet-wearing boofheads.

I read on and consumed a pint of cleansing bitter at The Crown in Ley Hill, later cutting the photo from the paper and pinning it to the back of my bedroom door.

It stayed there for months as a constant reminder of the shame I felt that day at being Australian.

I'm not normally one for cheap or token gestures aimed at piquing my social conscience. I am no Chris Martin, taping my fingers in the name of fair trade, nor am I Pamela Anderson-esque in my verve for the ethical treatment of animals (though if I was Pamela Anderson I would chose to be the young and uncut version, not the post-Tommy Lee and looking hagged version). 

I remember feeling detached from the violence occurring a hemisphere away in the Antipodes, but conscious that the goings on in 'the shire' were painting me in a certain light, indirect as it may have been.

My time as an ex-pat in the Old Dart was a wonderful part of my life.

But to the English I lived and worked with, I was an 'Aussie' – and so were the losers taking to the streets of Sydney's southern beaches and participating in such senseless acts of random violence.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot.

I'm tucked away in my little corner of the world, safe from the ravages of any kind of rioting you could hope to mention, while Britain burns. And burns. And burns.

While I know not all Britons are anarchists and, in fact, it's the actions of relatively few that tar the reputation of the rest, it's still an embarassing situation for folks from Land's End to John O' Groats.

Parliamentarians in the UK are old hands when it comes to pouring public scorn and humiliation on themselves, but this time it seems the nation's disenfranchised youth are the ones dousing themselves in shame.

Prime Minister David Cameron has boldly declared a fightback is underway. Bless him. By tipping 16,000 police onto the streets of London he's managed to quell the madness in the capital.

But the scummy element in cities and towns across the country are still at it. Smashing and grabbing and burning and hurling and trying their darndest to fuck shit up.

The question still to be answered, though: To what end?

If this was all an elaborate stunt designed by Fabio Capello and the big wigs at the Football Association to have this week's England vs. Netherlands friendly postponed, it may be considered an unqualified success.

Wembley stayed silent while the boroughs of London roared, but much as I'd love to think Mr Capello's iron fisted approach to filling the top job in English sport could see him employ such underhand tactics to avoid a probable loss to the Dutch, it's just not plausible, is it?

We're told the mobs were rallied by the power of social media. It's a black day for Blackberry if that's actually the case. Any form of social media that can be so easily manipulated to so comprehensively outwit the authorities must have a limited lifespan in its current guise.

The lawmakers won't sit idly by and let it continue like this, will they?

Also strange to think that my knowledge of the events this week come almost exclusively courtesy of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. It has certainly made for compelling clicking and fascinating viewing.

A friend of mine lving in London posed two particularly thought-provoking and rhetorical questions via Facebook on Monday.

1) If the marauding mobs are chock full of teenagers, where are their parents?

2) What hope do London school teachers possibly have?

Cynically, the parents were probably either tucked up in their East-London tower block apartment or settled in at the local 'battle cruiser' (rhyming slang for 'boozer' if you're a little slow on the uptake) watching the whole shebang on television.

As for the teachers… it probably depends on the school they're at. And whether they're good at the job.

My final thought also comes courtesy of a retweet I stumbled across along the way.

It went along the lines of: The youth of the middle east rise up in the name of basic social freedoms. The youth of Great Britain rise up in the name of a free 42" HD ready plasma TV.

Let's hope that mindset never makes it this far.



Postscript:- December 12 was not the most embarrassing day I endured as an Australian in England during 2005. That day came several months prior when the Australian cricket team coughed up the Ashes for the first time in 19 years, triggering riotous scenes of an entirely different nature across the Mother Country.


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