Thousands of people live in Tottenham, Hackney and other parts of London and the vast majority of them, law-abiding citizens, have condemned the riots. Their city has been ransacked whilst the rioters have tried to burn London to the ground. What we have witnessed is a catastrophe of epic proportions that has shown our capital at its worse.
Many legitimate questions remain over the death of Mark Duggan and every legal means must be made available to question the police. But what started off as justifiable concern has now given way to absolute lawlessness to leave a wake of ruin and anarchy.
It is being claimed that Mark Duggan's death was the straw that broke the camel's back. That after years of 'being treated like criminals' and living on the 'fringe of society' the resolve of London's disaffected youth finally broke. In the days and weeks, and probably even years to come, numerous explanations will be given for the cause of the riots. But what many of them will continue to miss is that these youths made a conscious decision to cause carnage and their actions are without reason or justification.
For many, the low income, high unemployment estates that these youths come from provides a contextual rationalisation for their actions. The theory that is proposed says that social exclusion spurs youths to disregard social norms. They have no stake in society and have nothing to lose and so may as well 'get paid' whilst looting and rioting. By extension this would imply that all those from such backgrounds have little hope in society and have no alternative but to live life as a social outcast. This is quite simply wrong.
Every day people from disadvantaged backgrounds make conscious decisions when they get up to go to school and study hard, or to go to work and work hard, all in order to make a better life for themselves and maybe for their families. They choose to write their own futures and be hardworking people who happen to be from a disadvantaged background. These people refuse to adhere to society's stereotypes and many of them have gone on to great success in numerous fields and are a credit to their communities. I'm sure that there have been times when they have felt hard done by, maybe after being asked by the police to produce their driving documents at the nearest police station within the next seven days. But I know of none that have taken that angst as an incentive to riot.
Other people, from the same background, will decide that school is not for them and will play truant or may think that staying at home is more desirable than an honest day's work. The riots may be a product of the decisions that they have made in the past and what is undeniable is that when confronted with options they have each chosen which path to walk down. They may blame unemployment for their lack of respect for law and order, but to me the only relevance of unemployment is that without a job these youths are available to hang around on street corners and so are 'available' to wreak havoc.
Whilst it would be unfair to suggest that socio-economic has no part to play, too many explanations for the riots of the last few days have been equivocal. The looters are not disadvantaged Londoners trying to get a job. They are criminals and hooligans who are not protesting against tuition fees or the withdrawal of the educational maintenance allowance. Opposition to NHS reforms or the struggling economy does not motivate them. Their only motivation is to cause as much damage as possible whilst destroying people's homes and livelihoods. They have no morals and are loyal only to lining their pockets with TV's, trainers or other spoils of their actions. They do not represent the grievances of their communities, but show total disregard for them.
The suggestion that nothing else can be expected from people of disenfranchised and disempowered communities does a grave disservice to those from the same background who have chosen to live upright and honest lives, whilst making vast contributions to the betterment of society. These people have decided that 'biography is not destiny'.
The thugs involved in these riots made different decisions. Some of them may believe that they live on the downside of advantage and on the margins of society, where they have no voice that is heard. But they have chosen to hijack those feelings to cause damage and destruction. They have made conscious choices to set buildings ablaze, to put that brick through that window and to leave people in fear for their livelihood and for their lives. For their actions there can be no defence and there must be consequences. Their actions were not motivated by hardship, hopelessness or social isolation. These riots were not for food and certainly were not some 'Tottenham Spring'. Getting the latest I-pod has motivated them as has getting the next must have accessory and the sooner we stop excusing their behaviour the better.
Follow Wakkas Khan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/WakkasKhan