Learning from the Riots: Two Years On

This time last year, I was writing a piece for the Independent trying to justify the violence of rioters. I was doing so while the wounds inflicted by three days of fighting, were still sore, and for many it was a little too hard to swallow.

I talked about growing up in the inner-city metropolis – going to a city comprehensive, and learning the art of getting by was all just an act of making false friendship over the trainers you had, and the confidence you were given. From my 16-year-old brother, who’s just finished his GCSE’s, I get much the same feeling that schools haven’t changed one bit. While those who saw the riots may feel a little more aware about ever acting out of trend, it feels as if the uprising of city slumber has done little but divide people between those for and against it’s purpose. 

Of course, yes, the idea that destructing the very society you live in to make a point and grab the opportunities that you were never allowed, is a ridiculous and extreme one, but the fact the riots even happened showed a camaraderie of spirit between everyone that made if out onto the street over that weekend. Whether they were grabbing things simply because they could, or to make a political point – both of them were doing because they had been made to feel like that was the solution to the embittered society they’ve grown up in.

I see now kids still furious about the way politicians distance themselves from problems, and the anger set off by the fact that politicians will never, ever realise the everyday difficulties many in their constituencies go through, that they take for granted.

Realistically, if there’s any shift the riots have given the youth demographic – it’s made them more aware of their surroundings. Youth music now sounds bitter and entangled in lyrics that seem to fight against against the world around them. Their music is an outcry and a battle to show that they are responsible and brilliant and worthy of investment. And when you’re sitting down and out, struggling to find work, it’s often in the creative channels that you’ll see the outpouring of what young people are really thinking.

So what does all this mean? Realistically, at the moment not very much, other than the art and music coming out of cities all around the country is very, very good. But in a broader sense, in a few years we could see these feelings opening up to more changes in the way people view politics.

We’re already seeing the dissatisfaction of politicians getting questioned fairly openly on terrestrial TV channels – and that’s not to mention what’s happening under the cover of the Internet, where bitcoin is on a mission to change the economic system beyond recognition.

Now is a time of people – doing what they should for society, and making an impact in the smallest of ways but having effects at the moment they won’t just realise.


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