When Mark Duggan was killed in a Police shooting last Friday, the news barely scraped my consciousness. I did not know him. He was yet another face to match another front page headline. As awful as it sounds, though I fleetingly thought of his family, I went about my day like any other.
And when the riots started in Tottenham, seemingly in protest to Duggan's death, the same happened. I'd seen this before: the student riots were not that long ago. I didn't fully understand their motives and I had a head full of questions (and a mouth full of rude words) but it did not affect me. I was unconnected.
But then Monday came. It was 8.30pm. There was a chorus of sirens - Police, Ambulance, Fire - and they were edging closer. In the distance a helicopter hovered above a thick stream of white grey smoke. The air was acrid and heavy and it wasn't the weather. For the first time in my life I decided to stay indoors for fear of what might happen outside. Instead, I watched the news.
Businesses and homes were looted and vandalised. Hooded youths of all age ran amok with the kind of adrenaline only a riot could provide. Antagonised Police tried to contain the problem with their meagre hands of power but it was never going to be enough.
Within minutes, a furniture shop built through generations of one family was nothing more than charcoal. Children carried by their parents, cried, as their homes and belongings drifted up to the sky in a flurry of black ash. Everything earned during a lifetime of hard work vanished in seconds.
What started as a problem elsewhere slowly crept in to my vicinity. In an instant I was connected. It makes me ashamed to admit such superficiality. Initially uncaring, I shrugged at the issue as if it were trivial. It was beyond my realm of comprehension because it was way over there in someone else's street. It wasn't in mine. I had no experience.
But as the evening darkened and the sirens grew increasingly frequent, I felt it; the fear of the community, the wonder if it would ever end. There was one image in the newspaper that really struck me; a shopkeeper had posted a note in his window: 'Due to imminent societal collapse, I regret to inform you we'll be closing at 6pm'. The words made me laugh but in the seconds it took to process, I wondered. Could society collapse? Was this just the beginning? Disaster has to start somewhere.
Martin Luther King once said 'riots are the voice of the unheard'. People riot when they have exhausted all other means of communication. If I was to examine the riots across the UK recently, I wonder if I could put them in this context. If these riots were about unemployment, budget cuts, or a real desire to truly know what happened to Mark Duggan at the hands of the Police, this context would be true. Sadly, it appears the real motive behind the riots has dissolved. In all I have seen and experienced, it seems to be nothing more than an excuse to steal, vandalise and have a good time fighting for fighting's sake. And that's even more frightening.
Reader, what say you?