The year we realised our democratically elected leaders can no longer protect usRead the whole article.
The financial crisis, phone hacking and now riots. Where once we may have felt rage, now we can feel only impotence
The soul sinks at the pictures – of a woman leaping from a burning building, of the owners of a family shop seeing their life's work turned to ash, at the sight of a thug unzipping the rucksack still on the back of an injured teenager and taking from it what he wants. The soul sinks at the sight of people trashing the places where at least some of them live.
There is another sensation you feel watching these pictures, and it is one with which we are becoming increasingly familiar, especially in 2011, the year the news refused to stop. It is impotence.
The most unsettling reports have been of policemen standing back, apparently powerless to stop people as they smash and burn and steal. It's deeply unnerving to see those we expect to protect us incapable and in retreat. Read the comment threads and Twitter feeds, with their demands that "this must stop", or even for looters to be "shot on sight", and you see the signs of impotent rage, the desperate desire for somebody to do something.
The recent riots in Vancouver had a similar surreal feel as the police stood back and let rioters run amok. I guess I'm too old, but when I was a kid the police would read the riot act and then go in clubs swinging and arrest everybody on sight. Riots didn't last all night. They lasted less than an hour, just enough time to grab and handcuff everybody on the streets.
But these days, hooligans in hoodies with masks roam the street untouched. Since when is there a "right" to be a brazen criminal loose on the street. In the context of a riot, anybody with a mask on should be arrested immediately. Anybody with a stone or a stick should be swept up in two heartbeats. Any gathering of more than 3 people should immediately be arrested and the loners should be given 10 seconds to skedaddle.
What drives me stark raving mad is that the police do the exact opposite of their duty. During peaceful protests over political issues, police these days kettle the demonstrators and hold them for 24 hours in bestial conditions. But when it comes to out-and-out rioters, the police fumble about or stand off and watch while the mayhem is allowed to proceed uninterrupted. That is nutty. The police should stand back and watch proper political demonstrations and kettle the rioters. Why have these basic rules of policing been turned upside down?
My cynical side says the police are doing this under instructions. The rioting is viewed by the elite as a way of putting fear in the bottom 90%. These riots are not threat to the rich so they can treat this as entertainment much as Nero who fiddled while Rome burned. But political demonstrations put a real scare into the elite, so they instruct the police to quash those street gatherings quickly and violently.