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?
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.