Dear English Rioter,
I suppose it wasn’t hard to learn how to fill light bulbs with ammonia (nasty stuff). But how did you bring yourself to throw that first one into a policeman’s face? You knew it was going to cause pain, probably lasting injury, maybe even blindness. Yet you could, and did, still throw it.
Does the harm and misery that you caused bother you, even a little? I do not ask for effect, I really want to know. Do you think you should be punished for this attack on another man, or do you think you should escape responsibility? That, somehow, society owes it to you to let you maim and wound other people?
Your picture was in the paper. Your face was obscured by a mask, but I could see the rest of you. Expensive jeans, stylish tennis shoes (or is it “trainers”?), a nice warm jacket. I should have said, “stuffed into a warm jacket” because you appear well fed. You had a backpack and carried a cell phone, a convenient tool that let you keep in contact with your brother protesters.
It’s not clear what made you want to hurt another man, but if I read the sign you carried correctly, it’s because you worked yourself into a froth because some people have more money and possessions than you do. You have forgotten that nearly all of these people with more are much older than you, have been working their entire lives, and necessarily have more because of this. The proper comparison is with others—those who stayed at home and did not try to cause grief and misery—of your own age group and inexperience.
It’s also true that you yourself have enough to live comfortably; you are in no danger of starvation or exposure. And there’s that cell phone, what most people in the world would consider a luxury good. Who’s paying the bill for that, your parents? Though I didn’t see it (because it wasn’t in the paper), I imagine you are well equipped with a computer and other electronic trinkets.
It was said by many of the “protesters” who had broken into stores to steal and destroy what wasn’t theirs that they were angry that the Government was proposing, and had already implemented a small number of, “cutbacks.” The logic of the Government is simple: the State is running a deficit and hasn’t the money to pay for a lot of perquisites demanded by you and your brother protesters. Since the vault is empty, there is nothing to hand out. It’s the old story: you can’t give what you don’t have (unless you cheat or lie).
The Government proposes shaving a percentage of the money it gives to “quangos” (honestly, I’ll never master British English), which are “quasi-non-governmental organisations financed by the state and linked to the civil service.” Two of these quangos are the Youth Justice Board and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. As noble as these organizations undoubtedly are, and even though you can’t agree with the cutbacks, do you really think it was worth injuring another human being because the Youth Justice Board will see a slight, and probably temporary, diminution of funds?
I think the real reason you are incensed is because the Government is planning on asking people to pay more for their own college: not pay for all of it, but just “more”: and not a lot more, just a little. Many youth (even in my country) feel that the Government owes them this leisure time, that they should be given free education, merely because they exist.
You might have noticed that I have capitalized “Government”. I did this because you do. “Government”, to you, is a mythical paternalistic entity which is all powerful and capable of illimitable love and beneficence, but which has been (somehow) infected by a parasite (“Taken over by the rich”). You think that if these “rich” can be removed, the money and creature comforts that you feel are owed to you will be restored.
The people that man this Government, weak and anxious to avoid bloodshed, will probably accede to your petulance. And they will eventually come to believe as you do. All will cease to believe the government is made up of people, and will see it as something that exists for itself. The government will become The Government, as in “The Government needs to take care of its people.” History says that there will always be men ready to step in and assume the power so willingly given to them. By you.
Looking forward to hearing from you,