Very interesting interview with some teenage looters on Sky News tonight... And I must specify they were looters, they did not admit to violence or attacking the police, they were taking advantage of the situation. And do you know what, I actually felt for them. Admittedly some of what they said incensed me, but they were at least educated and they did have a point...
The boys were aged around 16-18 and one of them admitted to being a father, at 16. He said he was stealing stuff to provide for his family, including nappies. (Although he did also pinch stuff for himself.) Some of what they said was naiive, immature and stupid, but I don't want to write about that, because that's what we expect them to be like, self-centered teenagers. But what did surprise me was the way they talked about the government and David Cameron. Half the teenagers round here don't have a clue about the government and probably couldn't even name the PM. Ok, so these boys could be quoting their parents or adults around them but actually I felt like they really knew what they were saying, they were angry at their situation. I don't know, maybe I am being naive, but they were talking about their lives. These were not criminals, part of a gang, just ordinary kids who saw an opportunity and took it. I am not for one second excusing what they did, but from what they said, this is not just something that happned as a result of a man getting shot. This has been building for a while.
These young men, boys even, told of how they had tried to find work, taking CVs around, they said they worked hard but there were no opportunities for them, no work available. One of them talked about how there was nothing for them to do, how the government has cut funding from youth clubs. They said David Cameron has no idea what it is like for them, what it is like to live where they do, and I am sure they are right, that he has absolutely no idea what it is like growing up where they do. That isn't an excuse for what they did, of course, but actually I wonder how many of us would have done something similar when we were growing up? If somone had told us at age 16 there was a shop open to the elements down the road, that the police stood by while people took stuff, would we not have been tempted? I know I would have been, without a second thought, knowing the person I was back then. I was not inherently bad, or part of a gang, I was just a misguided teenager out for a good time. And I did not come from a deprived area, did not have money worries, but here it was literally laid out on a plate for them, everything that they wanted, ipads, blackberrys, more... And personally I don't think we can blame them for wanting that too. Advertising rams down our throats every time we leave our front doors (well and behind them probably more so) all the stuff we should have, that we should need. They taregt youngsters with their marketing, so when they start to want so much the things they can't have, can we blame them?
Please don't mishear me, I am NOT excusing what they did, but I can to a certain extent understand it. They need to know what they did was wrong, and these guys admitted it, they said they knew what they did was wrong, but they still did it. For that reason I honestly don't know how effective it is prosecuting all these people. Those who were involved in the rioting itself, causing the violence and attacking people yes, absolutely. But those who just stole a few bits, is this really going to help them? or the situation?
I am sure this will be contraversial but I can't help but feel for them. It is so sad that they think there is no hope for young people. at age 16... their lives have not even begun. Is there a whole generation growing up believing that? Because that is just heart breaking.