Our country is in a state of chaos.
We see violence and disruption in the news every day but it's very rare that the majority of the country is sat, united, watching the news that is going on on their very doorsteps. When you see people rioting and looting shops or burning down buildings that you know, love, work in, live in, are near family and friends... it's very different from the slightly detatched pity you feel for places that are not familiar.
This may have started, in Tottenham because of the terrible state that the community is in. This quote from a blogger called Penny Red is certainly very compelling:
"Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news. In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:
"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?"
"Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."
Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere ‘’’
There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they’re paying attention now."
and if the violence was limited to Tottenham, if it was just that isolated area with the goal of directing attention to the problems there and seeking resolution and support then I could almost understand that such a radical approach as rioting could be justified, given the people who instigated it.
But I can't. These people when interviewed didn't articulate the reason behind their behaviour. The rioting across London, Birmingham, Manchester, Stockport, Liverpool and other towns and cities had no political agenda, no cause of action. They were just simply causing destruction. This wasn't limited to underpriviledged areas, and wasn't caused just by underpriviledged people. This was inspiring and causing nationwide civil unrest.
Zoe Wiliams wrote for The Guardian yesterday about the psychology behind the rioting - why young people are targeting sport shops rather than looting food and drink or medical supplies, the things they may be deprived of.
She's right. It's not Nihilistic, it's not a noble Robin Hood style cause. It's terrorism.
Camila Batmanghelidjh was trending on Twitter yesterday which means that people did listen to her idea which Zoe Williams calls "movingly expressed in the Independent that this is a natural human response to the brutality of poverty: "Walk on the estate stairwells with your baby in a buggy manoeuvring past the condoms, the needles, into the lift where the best outcome is that you will survive the urine stench and the worst is that you will be raped . . . It's not one occasional attack on dignity, it's a repeated humiliation, being continuously dispossessed in a society rich with possession. Young, intelligent citizens of the ghetto seek an explanation for why they are at the receiving end of bleak Britain, condemned to a darkness where their humanity is not even valued enough to be helped."
and yesterday, whilst encouraging people to boost public morale with campaigns such as Operation Cup of Tea, a peaceful anti-riot protest or to do all they can to support Operation Clean Up I became sucked into commenting on a thread by a repugnant man.
He said "Upper middle class white people getting together and sipping tea while the poor have resorted to fighting to have their voices heard after being ignored via every other avenue. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose"
The truth is that he shouldn't assume that we're ignorant, and if we are ignorant of the problems then he should be compelled to educate us without insulting, antagonising or patronising us. As I said to him - he has the ear of (at the time of posting) 163,761 people that could potentially see his comments.
"and how do you choose to get your message across? By insulting and antagonising people rather than actually communicating with them in a manner which they will listen to. No one is denying the underlying problems of society but if you want to propose solutions or ensure people focus on the "truth" instead of simply being disgusted at the actions of these rioters then you're doing it wrong. Do it right, approach people with respect, dignity and a message they can understand and identify with. That is why people aren't listening. All we want is for the violence to stop, to recruit people to repair the damage and to boost morale. We're achieving that, what are you achieving?"
Not everyone has the power to influence the major media, but everyone in this country has a voice. That's the power of Social Media, blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus. If you are organised and motivated and go through the right channels you can get the attention of the media and effect change.
I'm not saying that the Government are not aware of the problems in areas like Tottenham. I'm saying that they were without a doubt taken by surprise and that these rioters and looters preyed on decisions the Government made - such as Theresa May and her horribly ironic insistance that police cuts would not lead to civil unrest. Where police around the country have been flocking to London to offer support, it leaves their cities vulnerable and less protected, something the rioters then take advantage on. That's certainly a political impact.
If the Government were not in a ridiculous financial hole right now then they could perhaps have more power to focus on troubled communities.
It's when I see money being spent on the Olympics, money they say is a worthy investment that will be retuned in improvements to our economy through tourism etc and then wonder whether these riots will impact the number of people willing to attend the Olympics that I begin to feel sick to the pit of my stomach.
What should the Government be spending money on? What could they realistically stop spending money on in order to do that? Could the richer end of our society do anything to subsidise the poorer end? What is the solution?
Is there a solution or has the problem become so deeply rooted that it will take years and years to make an impact on?
On a lighter note - this really did make me laugh.
Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr
Title: Life On Mars by David Bowie