I have struggled to find a stable response to the riots that have swept across the UK for the past few days. On the one hand, it’s easy to join in with the typical UK response. Shock, horror, disbelief. Why the mindless, self-absorbed violence? How is it possible that a peaceful protest at the police killing of an alleged drug dealer could spread so rapidly into a countrywide spree of looting and vandalism?
The perception is that there is a general trend of lawfulness over here, and people tend to fall naturally into a rut of doing what is right. This is particularly so in the circles we move in – parents of school children; professional working people; middle-class. The neighbourhood we live in is quiet and peaceful, reasonably affluent and very And so it’s easy enough to assume that most of the country follows suit.
But ’tis not so. There’s a large, disaffected, disengaged mob of chavs, yobs and scallies who are not educated enough to be useful, but are educated enough to be bored. In decades past, they would have ended up down the mines, or in factories, or in other low-skilled jobs. These days, those sort of jobs are below them, and besides, they make enough out of the multitude of benefits they’re entitled to to get by. And this lot are a ticking bomb – waiting to let out their angst and self-importance on whoever happens to be nearby.
But yet, the other side of the coin is that for once, it’s just a little bit entertaining to be on the other side for a change. South Africa has more than its fair share of crime, riots, vandalism and social problems. We take a lot of criticism from expatriates and foreigners on all of this. Running up to the World Cup last year, the UK press in particular ran a vicious campaign detailing all the risks you’d take in going. The Daily Mail has for years had an unofficial policy of trying to ensure that the ANC regime turns the country into a banana republic. Or at least, trying to portray that prejudice as fact.
And so it’s very difficult not to feel a touch of schadenfreude. The self-righteous have got a bit of comeuppance for a change. For just a few days, they’ve experienced the embarrassment of having the world’s eyes on them before a major international event for all the wrong reasons. Maybe it will produce a little bit of introspection before they start looking for the logs in our eyes.