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Made in Shoreditch

I also contribute a weekly column to Made in Shoreditch magazine called 'Old East End/New East End', where I look at the relationship between the East End of old and new, looking at the changes and the stalwarts in landscape, residents and culture, focussing on one street or district each week. You can find it here.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

My home town of London is currently reeling from the rioting, looting and anarchy of the past few days. The shooting of alleged crack-cocaine dealer Mark Duggan, 29, from Tottenham, North London led to a vigil held by his family outside a North London police station which in turn led to riots in Tottenham on Saturday (though how I don't know) and here we are now.

Many areas in London have been hit including Ealing, West London (very near where I grew up); Clapham, South London and Hackney, North East London. The main point of much of the more nihilistic violence and rioting seems to be theft and looting from local shops. News pictures show many youths fleeing the scenes of violence with televisions, trainers, laptops etc. All of this leads me to one question: has consumerism and the pursuit of material wealth infected that much of the youth in Britain that this is what they will do to get products they feel they need?

It's Well Kickin' Off

Young people in Britain are constantly bombarded with advertisements telling them they need certain products (be it explicitly or in a more subliminal fashion). Much of mainstream culture is based around brand label-consciousness and the pursuit of wealth and material goods. Just look at, for instance, the music of P Diddy, 50 Cent and Jay-Z. In fact much of mainstream culture bombards the youth with a 'must have it all now' ethos which arguably undermines intellectual enlightenment and fulfilment. Take for instance popular movies such as Scarface or the porn industry's multiple orgasms or celebrity and/or Hollywood events that glamourise designer clothing and the like.

Not an Original Banksy

It is certainly arguable that most young people today see owning products such as Ralph Lauren clothing or Apple/Macintosh technology as more important than picking up a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species or a George Orwell novel from their local Waterstone's (see, I did it there, I mean book fair, charity shop or second-hand book shop, of course). Whether this is the first step towards radical reform and re-structuring of our monetary-based culture or just "I want it now man, so I'm just gonna' nick it" ideology polluting our youth or, in fact, just an isolated event that will blow over as news changes (remember phone-hacking and stock market collapse?) only time will tell. It is clear, however, that the shooting of Mark Duggan is not the main motive behind much of this, but rather a trigger for one riot which has led to "mindless free-loading" (that's what they're calling it on youtube, facebook etc.) on a wide scale.

Makes Sense Really

The funniest reaction I've seen to all of this (one must always try to find a humorous aspect in dire situations) is the "if you wanna' fight mate, get in the fackin' army innit, yeah" theory. Both the idiocy in believing that the armed forces are the best way forward for wayward young people and the ridiculousness of believing that, in fact, everybody involved in this ugly mess wants violence and nothing but, so therefore should go and kill some Afghans and what not is, darkly, a hilarious riot in itself.