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Kylie writes from Manchester England: This week saw us all take a long hard look at our nation, and it’s safe to say, that we have learned a hard reality. There is a large body of people who if given the opportunity, will indulge in illegal, unsociable and dangerous behaviour. This week across England we have seen looting, burning, stealing, even m
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urdering, committing acts of violence on such a scale that is just unfathomable.
My husband and I were on holiday in Gorleston on Sea, a little town on the East Anglian coast, a long way from Manchester when we saw the first reports on the news of rioting in London. My husband sagely said “London’s burning Manchester will be next”, and he was quite correct. What started as a peaceful protest about the death of a man in a police shooting took an evil and sinister turn, and became something quite different, an excuse for a mass display of criminality.
What has caused this? I’m not a social commentator, or perhaps as a blogger I am, but I think it is a number of factors, not least the rise and rise of materialism. When I first moved to the UK 9 years ago, I was struck by how shopping seemed to be the national pastime. We’re talking designer goods, technology, games, things that sparkle, amazing clothes, shoes and bags. I wondered to myself how people afforded this stuff. I certainly couldn’t. And I soon learnt. Alongside the television shows I watched, were endless advertisements for credit cards, pay-day loans and debt management schemes.
In many areas, loan sharks abound, with hideous repayment schemes. They charge interest rates, that if the impact wasn’t so horrible, would appear funny, many hundreds of percentages. Entire communities are at times held to ransom by these low life scumbags, who prey on people with low incomes, and an inability to apply for high street credit.
Drug use is prolific too in some areas. No one ever talks about it, but crack cocaine is rife, along with other drugs. My area of Manchester has the dubious honour of being the highest users of crack cocaine in England. It holds young lives captive.
Our heroes are dubious. Footballers with the morality of an alley cat, plastic women with little more career ambition than sleeping with said footballer, and these two sorts of heroes promote the “bling culture”. Further exacerbating the young person’s need to acquire goods, the items their heroes have.
These sad elements are parts of the England “they” don’t want you to see. This England came crashing through our living rooms this week, as we looked in horror at images of young people and older people committing appalling acts of criminality.
And reading through the lists of people charged it is clear it is not just “disaffected youths” that took part in this. Professional people, aspiring sports people, very young people. Undoubtedly some of the looting was pure “I walked past, saw an opportunity and took it” moments of madness, not premeditated and probably now, sorely regretted. A lot of the violence and looting, say the police, was by existing gangs, who seized on what was happening, and mobilised quickly.
I wish I knew the answers to why this happened and how to prevent it. I wonder whether the current atmosphere of government cutbacks has increased these feelings of desolation and poverty. Many people, including ourselves, have felt the impact of these cuts, and we are by no means wealthy. I asked myself the question this week, had I walked past a shop and saw a pretty handbag lying near the street but still with tags attached, would I have taken it? And I didn’t like the answer that came back. Because maybe I would have picked it up. I don’t know. I do know for certain I wouldn’t have broken a window or burnt down a shop, however. I certainly know that I would not have committed any acts of violence. Do I feel, at times, that no one is listening to me? That no one cares about me as an individual? Yes I do. I recently applied for jobs with a major supermarket, and a major food retailer and did not even get a rejection letter. These sorts of things increase bad feeling and that feeling of desolation. Not everyone has the knowledge and skills to start a blog, and have a good rant!
But the good news is that England has a resilience and ability to regenerate that is truly inspiring. Manchester had its guts ripped out by the IRA in 1996. In 2005 London was rocked by terrorist bombings. The spirit of the Blitz is alive and well. But this time the terror lives amongst us and within us. We all need to take a very long hard look at ourselves, and how we are as a community, and what we want to be.
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Kylie is from Australia, now living in Manchester. She started blogging in 2009 following the birth of her son at 27 weeks gestation due to pre-eclampsia. She blogs at Not Even a Bag of Sugar about family life, and about problem pregnancies and prematurity. Follow her on Twitter @Kykaree
*We have held the article on menopause over for the time being.