A lot of this debate missed something very important, in my opinion. A lot of the people were on the streets not because they were making a socio-political statement about Coalition policy, and not because they were feral career criminals doing the bidding of their gang leaders. A lot of people were on the streets because tearing stuff up is a buzz. It's fun. It's a thrill. Don't take this to imply approval of any kind, but to pretend that this isn't the case is just sticking your head in the sand and ignoring human nature. A lot of kids throwing stuff at the police were doing it for the same reason that men in their thirties organise fights down back-alleys on match day.
They get a buzz out of it. It's not dull. A lot of life is. This isn't. It makes them feel alive.
In an otherwise routine life, transgressing the rules, doing something wicked, has a charge to it, a powerful feeling of freedom and control in a life in which, day to day, control is largely absent. Doesn't make it right. But it makes it happen.
Chairman Of The Bored is a story told into a tape recorder by a boy. He's making the tape for a reason you'll find out about if you read the story. He's a smart boy, with a very low tolerance for boredom, and quite possibly the most broken, disturbing character that I've ever written. He starts the story by explaining that although everyone will assume he's done the terrible things he's done because of some trauma in his life, abuse or bullying or drugs, that's not the case. He's had a good upbringing, a loving family. The reason he does what he does, has something in common with why otherwise ordinary people decided on a spot of looting and assault.
So, I've got none of the usual excuses you lot trot out. But I am still a bad lad. I've done bad things to good people. And I didn't do them because I was damaged, mad, poor, a victim. Generally, I just did them because I was fucking bored.
Take the first time I killed someone.
I was messing about in a factory unit on the industrial estate. I'd been piss bored, gone out for a stroll, ended up there, and thought hey, that looks like a challenge. There was nothing there that I really wanted, but that wasn't the point. I got two storeys up a fire escape and onto the flat roof, and then in through a skylight that didn't fit properly. I wandered the factory a bit, looking at the machines. They made doors there, the white plastic ones that people put in when they get double glazing. Imagine, spending your whole life making the same door, day after day. Can you imagine that? Well that's how life feels to me. Day after fucking day.
Thinking that it wouldn't be a proper burglary if I didn't nick something, I went to the office and found a few quid in the petty cash. I considered taking a laptop but I couldn't be bothered, I don't get on with computers, they go wrong and tell you that it's your fault, and I hate that. In the end I had a brilliant idea. Mam was always complaining about our microwave at home not working properly, and it was her birthday coming up. I found a little kitchen and they had a good one in there, 800 watts, and not minging dirty either. I thought I'd clean it up a bit, stick it in a box and she'd be happy as larry. It weighed a fucking ton but I was so pleased with my good idea, I didn't let that put me off.
I was about to climb down the fire escape again, when I saw movement. I flattened myself against the roof and peered down. Some fat bloke poured into a turd-brown security guard's outfit was peering in windows and trying door handles. Must have been an alarm. He didn't seem to have thought of the fire escape, though. He was losing his hair, a big bald patch expanding out from the crown of his head, just to add to his other problems, and for a minute, hanging my head over the edge there looking down on him, I was really tempted to gob on it. Instead, I tracked him around the building, lugging the microwave with me, waiting to see if he would go away. He was a few yards from the bottom of the fire escape, and although he was bound to be stupid, what with doing the job he did, even a rentacop like him might put two and two together once he'd seen that all the doors and windows were secure. And I was getting bored up there.
In physics, we'd learnt about the scientific method. You know, you form a hypothesis, based on observations of the world around you. And then you carry out an experiment designed to test whether your hypothesis is true. That's what's led to progress and the advance of the human race through history, we were told. So I thought to myself, hypothesis: if I drop this microwave off this roof now, it'll kill the fucker. Force of gravity, inertia, momentum, metres per second, blah blah blah. So I did, and so it did. QED. I bought me mam some slippers instead.
Read the rest in my collection of eleven crime stories: Nowhere To Go, available now on Amazon and Smashwords, price slashed throughout September.
(previously: A Walk In The Park).