August 10, 2011 by jessperriam
Here’s what I’ve done in the last 36 hours:
*Looked at London riot coverage on Twitter and the BBC website.
*Went grocery shopping with my housemate.
*Looked online again – saw that there was a bit of malarkey starting in Salford and Manchester… and then a lot of malarkey.
*Went for a walk around the neighbourhood with a few friends, praying for our Moss Side community – all was calm.
*Came home to look online again to find that more damage had been done.
*Hit saturation point and closed my internet browser.
*Did two live crosses to radio presenters from my old work in Perth about Manchester at midnight and 6am.
*Had breakfast with my housemate.
*Walked to the city centre to help tidy up the mess.
I guess I want to say from the outset that I am a foreigner and I may have a different view to my local friends about what’s happened in Manchester in the last day or so. I don’t have any cohesive, well-written prose to go along with these views either.
But suffice it to say we’re all a bit mystified in Manchester.
Walking in and around the city centre this morning, I realised that while I could be angry that people trashed the city, they didn’t destroy anything I love about the place but rather, the smash and grabbers targetted things they love, value and aspire to.
My favourite cafe in the Northern Quarter is still very much intact, in fact it was teeming with regulars and people who had done their bit tidying up. However just around the corner a shop that sells sneakers that just happen to be on trend at the moment was completely trashed and devoid of any stock.
The next street over a cash converters has been smashed to pieces and second hand electrical goods were taken yet other specialist shops were left untouched. Perhaps looters don’t understand the intrinsic joy that comes from listening to vinyl records.
On Oxford Rd, a cinema /art gallery / restaurant stands proudly on the corner, untouched, a bit further up the road a Tesco had been ransacked and a McDonalds had a smashed window.
Members of Manchester’s community were planning the clean up before the city had been properly trashed. The Greater Manchester Police clearly knew what they were doing by effectively locking down the city before the looting began. People who didn’t want to be caught up in the mess had the opportunity to leave before thing got messy. Spectators were left presumably at their own mercy.
Truth be told by the time the community came to pitch in and clean up this morning, the bulk of the hard work had been done by the Manchester City Council. I think a lot of us who turned up knew that would be the case, but we still wanted to show up to show everyone that this city is better than this bizarre behaviour from a minority. That’s why I love this city.
There are loads of adjectives and let’s face it some pretty foul nouns being bandied about to describe the people who participated in the smash and grab (note, I’m not calling it a riot). Some describe them as criminals and indeed as some are charged and found guilty of criminal acts, they will then become criminals. Others call them scum – I think that’s just perpetuating a clear class divide. If you call someone scum isn’t that giving them permission to act like it?
The word I would put to it is: inarticulate. If you want to riot, have a reason, make that reason clear. Preferably make it a good reason. Understand that if your reasoning is deemed by the community to be selfish, greedy or unreasonable that you probably won’t be supported in that. If your reason is: “I want a new pair of sneakers.” or “It’s fun and they can’t stop us,” then chances are the sympathy levels are going to be low. If you’re frustrated by benefits culture, lack of opportunity or the fact that tracksuits and hoodies seem to only be manufactured in one shade of grey then say so. Don’t just smash things and assume we’ll know why.
But then on the flipside, what kind of society do we live in where people prepare a shopping list before smashing up carefully targeted shops? Perhaps it’s high time we remind everyone (yes, everyone) that contrary to popular persuasion by advertisers you’re not the trainers you put on your feet. Nor are you the latest gadget. You’re certainly not the suit and tie you put on in the morning, you’re not the car with the flashy badge on it. You’re not your bank balance or your address. There’s a reason why cemeteries aren’t full of tombstones with names and bank balances.
You’re far more valuable than that.
The thing is, do you believe that?