Riots, Poverty and Assumptions

It would be remiss of me not to mention the rioting that took place in London over the weekend. I work and live in some of the poorer areas of the city and felt, indeed, still feel desperately saddened by some of the pictures and reportage coming from Tottenham, Enfield and Brixton among other places.

I can’t begin to make sense of it. I know the initial trouble grew from anger against the police after the shooting of a local resident last Thursday.

Regardless of the details of the initial spark that lit the tinderbox of malcontent across London, my sense is that it was, for many an excuse to cause trouble.

That isn’t to say there may not be real reasons for anger against the police and against the ‘establishment’ but the way the anger was expressed through mindless violence and looting seemed to indicate that there was also a wish to express anger and rage against lots of other things as well.

The places the riot went, so went the Twitter messages, Facebook posts and groups and the less ‘keyed in’ SMS messages letting others know where to come for random violence. Where to come for looting ‘opportunities’. Where to express ‘anger’ even if sometimes it was unclear what the anger was about or to whom it should be directed. It seems harsh that the ordinary citizens of Tottenham will be the ones to bear the deepest repercussions of the violence and aggression – for whatever reasons.

This morning I was listening to the radio. I heard the host say, ironically I suspect that the people of Tottenham deserved this for not ‘parenting their children’ correctly. For allowing their children to run wild. He said, again, I think it was intended to be ironically – ‘Where were their parents? Or rather, where were their mothers as I’m sure most of them don’t know their fathers’.


Let’s just think about the way that we perceive people who live in poverty and poor areas for a moment.

I’m no sociologist. I have though been living and working cheek by jowl with poverty. It doesn’t make me an expert and I am fortunate enough to say I don’t have a lived experience of poverty. I’ve had periods of debt problems.  I’ve had periods of difficulties.  I lived in a single parent family but I haven’t experienced poverty.

Even so, I think that poverty is not necessarily one of the flames that fuelled the protest.  I think there’s an element of wanting excitement, wanting danger, perhaps even – wanting to change the way things are in society that lead to so many and so much injustice, discrimination and pain.

The ‘order’ of things that makes some people own and other people beg. A governing class that can take fancy foreign holidays while the streets of Tottenham burn.

Then there is the looting. Wanting something for nothing. The politics or rather the sociology of envy. The kinds of programmes that fill our evenings of reality star mania that make fame and wealth so easily accessible without the commensurate effort. Without seeing something grow. Without working.

Without work. That’s another element. Can it be a sheer coincidence that the levels of joblessness around Tottenham are some of the highest in London?

Probably not.

While Cameron holidays in Tuscany and Osbourne enjoys the delights of Disneyland (or DisneyWorld or wherever he is), I genuinely wonder if they can ever understand the fears and concerns of the people of Tottenham.

We’re all in this together?

Sticks a little in the throat to say it while statements are returned to the country from exotic foreign climates.

There needs to be a real effort and a real desire to make this world and this country better.

As for those who proposed, instigated and enjoyed the riots. Those who looted and ruined local communities already hurt by poverty. I hope they are caught and punished. I’m a social liberal and my views tend to drift leftwards but I have no time whatsoever for mindless destruction.

The pictures I’ve seen have been ones of mindless destruction and people enjoying violence. That needs punishment.

As for now, we need to think about these communities. We need to care about the people of Tottenham and places like that. We need to think about the effects of the cuts programmes in areas like this and why the levels of disengagement and disaffection are so high.

We need to heal this city and this country.

No, violence should never ‘win’. Destruction and crime must be punished.

But creating a better community, society and country need to be the goal.

As for today, I’ll share a thought or two with those caught up in the violence, fear and disorder. The people who live in the communities and particularly the people of Tottenham.

I wish them healing and time to build their community back up stronger and better.

8 thoughts on “Riots, Poverty and Assumptions

  1. Well known sociological phenomenon the black matriarchal family. Root of many problems. Worth a read if your going to dismiss it.

    • Assumptions again but I’m no sociologist.. references? And references to research indicating direct correlation please.

    • Google is sometimes a very blunt tool for specific research and references. Thanks for the tip though

  2. Very thoughtful post on a very very difficult subject.
    Can I add some context.

    “Its fine for bankers/already rich to loot pension funds, its illegal for everyone else to loot anything….. learn the rules maggots”

    Wasnt it Thatcherism that wrought the idea that, it wasnt committing a crime that was wrong, its getting caught?
    Those responsible must pay, says Mrs May, so hope the con-dem government are all handing themselves in at their local police station.
    Having said that I dont approve or think riots/looting a good idea. I lived in an area in the 80s where there were riots, who paid ? Local people. Small shops destroyed, area looked a mess and areas poor reputation and thus the reputation of people who lived there, plummetted. People were turned down for jobs because of where they lived, yes that did happen.
    I was long term unemployed at that time, had tried very hard to get paid work, did unpaid work and lived in poverty.
    I was very clear at the time, if I could have got away with shoplifting for food, I would have done. Id have picked a big supermarket, and just stolen food I needed. The only reason I didnt, was not because I thought it was wrong, I was worried about being caught and getting a record. I still had, even then a small sliver of hope that someting would come of all my attempts to get work, and eventually something did, but I had a sliver of hope. If Id not had that ? I was lucky in that I realised and had been taught you have to work to attain things. So many are now taught you dont…so expect things for nothing as you say.
    Many of our so called leaders have been proved to be dishonest, or think it ok to bend the rules to their advantage, remember MPs expenses…and these are people who are already well off and not without hope!
    I even considered prostitution at the time, I lived in a red light area and for a time got lots of men in cars asking if I wanted “work”. Usually I shouted F… O.. at them, but, I did wonder.
    Now Im a qualified social worker, but wonder what would have become of me if at some point my hard work had not paid off??

  3. Sue you have said it all. Until the youth of today receive better role models, we are going to see this mindless violence over and over again. Our leaders are groomed by image makers who shape them into whatever they think the public would vote for. Our leaders are false. Many of todays youth are not materially poor, but poor in integrity and honesty and compassion. Why should they be anything else, when all the indicators from our ruling class are telling them instant gratification and making loads of money is all they need to do to be considered a success.

    You only have to look at the lowly status of a care worker to see how low down on the list compassion is in this wonderful country of ours.

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