Monday, February 27, 2006

Our dirty family secret.

Two days after the events of Saturday I find that the attitude of most people towards the riot is like a family who has kept a secret for years only to see it leak out and find that no one really cares. Everyone knew that we had a serious thug problem and that it was starting to assert itself more violently each year, but we choose not to mention it. Like a crazy uncle, an alcoholic aunt or a relative in prison we choose to not mention them, to hide them away and hope they wouldn't call around when we had guests. We kept our little family secret and stood in judgment of our neighbors, tut tutting at the riots in Paris or the racial tensions in Burnley and lets not even mention the carry-on of the family whose house is at the end of our back garden. Now suddenly our little secret is out. We are not the perfect angelic family we liked to portray ourselves as. We have our own problems just like everyone else.

Unfortunately I can't help but feel that we are about to bury our heads in the sand again. So far the media has focused on the impact of the riots on tourism, on the Northern Ireland peace process, on what the Unionists think and even hoping are they the ones to blame, hey its not our fault at all its just Northern Ireland. What we should do is face up to our own problems. What we need to do to is punish the offenders, deter those inspired by the events, rehabilitate those carried along in the emotion of the event and ensure there cannot be a repeat of the event.

Finally, one more thing needs to be considered in any solution. Earlier I compared the looters on Saturday to the looters of 1916 but there is a world of difference. The looters of 1916, and this isn't meant to defend their actions, came from slums, areas of true poverty and complete social exclusion. The looters of 2006 were dressed in the newest white fashion tracksuits, €100 runners, branded baseball caps and soccer supporters scarves. They walked around texting and talking to each other on their new mobile phones and they donned the uniform of the day, €80 soccer jerseys. They are not the starving and huddled masses. They were not standing up to imperial oppressors or absentee landlords. They did not steal valuables or food. They stole more runners, more tracksuits, more scarves and more t-shirts.

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