At our gig this weekend, our opening song was The Kaiser Chief’s “I Predict A Riot”. I mention this because sadly, that’s becoming a far simpler thing to do these days.
The last month has seen huge numbers of people on the streets of towns and cities across the globe. The causes have been different, but the results have been, predictably, very similar.
In Hong Kong, protestors against the Beijing-imposed government have been on the streets for two months in a bid to choose their own electoral candidates without what they see as undue interference from Big Brother China to the North. Whilst the action started as peaceful, events are daily becoming more and more violent, with police now using pepper spray, tear gas, and baton charges to repel the increasingly belligerent opposition.
In the UK, we saw more demonstrations from university students against tuition fees, with violent protests in London driven – it would appear – by activists from such organisations as Anonymous, who, the student bodies would have us believe, are nothing to do with them or their cause.
In the US, protests, marches and violence have – quite literally – exploded in cities across the country after the shooting of a young black man in Ferguson, Missouri. The resulting violence, arson, damage to property and looting took place even whilst the facts of the case were still being debated, and continued to escalate after the initial findings were shared. The similarities to the rioting in the UK two summers ago are clear for all to see.
All three of these events have been widely reported, with different media outlets putting their own slant on them depending on their own political position. But here’s the thing…
I don’t know the extent to which the Beijing government are interfering in the Hong Kong elections. I don’t know the impact this will have on how the future government will function. Whatever happens, I can’t see ANY government there being less than completely amicable with Beijing, so I’m not at all sure what the protesters are really going to achieve.
I don’t know the numbers for exactly how much money UK students will actually end up repaying (although I am very certain when I say that neither do they). I do know that there’s been massive misinformation spread by those on the No Fees side, and that their opponents have been very poor in setting the record straight as to what needs to be repaid, when, and how. However, seeing people in Anonymous masks hurling bottles and sticks, smashing up Starbucks, and posing for selfies with the utterly hypocritical, total waste of DNA that is Russell Brand, I can’t understand why the organisers don’t just stop, distance themselves from the rioters, and find another way to get their voice heard.
I don’t know what actually happened in Ferguson that day – the only people that really do are the police officer and the dead man. Everything else is speculation and opinion, until the detailed investigations are complete and the full findings published. However, how does burning down a church, smashing up businesses and shops, and going on a looting spree help get the truth revealed and the family the closure that is the only thing they desire. Without closure, they cannot move on and start to heal the grieving process or set their minds at some kind of peace. I’m not saying that to belittle their pain in any way, but the ONLY way that the town, the family, the police, the nation in fact, can move on from this tragic event is to know the truth and to have that accepted on all sides. One thing that will help now, however, is for the family to publicly condemn the rioting and ask for calm.
Ironically, this weekend did see a lessening in the riots in the US, but that was down to Black Friday more than anything else, and therefore the television they were looting the night before clearly wasn’t quite the steal it was 24 hours before. Didn’t stop them fighting over it, though…
Social commentators will debate root causes, with the liberals making excuses for the rioters’ behaviour and trying to shift the blame from the rioters to the system. But that doesn’t wash with me.
I even had one friend say to me “Aah, but we don’t know what it’s like to be black in Ferguson…” Which is true. I also don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer in Ferguson. But I do know that stealing a pair of Nike’s and an iPad before torching a store won’t help the family or anyone affected by the shooting feel any better or take them any closer to the truth. And it does potentially irreperable harm to their cause, just as smashing up London won’t result in lower University fees and confronting the Hong Kong constabulary won’t lessen the interference from Beijing.
There are better ways, people. More peaceful, more intelligent, and far less illegal ways.
When protesters realise this, maybe then we’ll start seeing some real social change.