Tag Archives: london riots

London Riots: Big society gives itself a big pat on the back…

10 Aug

(*for the benefit of those across the seas, the ‘Big society’ initiative was announced a good while ago by David Cameron and the conservative party as a remedy to all of Britain’s woes. It was designed to create a more harmonious society by encouraging people to take an active part in their community…

…It was quickly laughed out of the country when it became depressingly clear that it was nothing more than a nice sounding metaphor for drastic budget cuts and general political fuckery…George Orwell working in conjunction with Douglas Adams and a crate or two of Jameson couldn’t have thought of something more ludicrously twisted.)

Don’t panic…that’s just a ‘community participation liaison’ coming round to check you’ve done your share of the nations’ tax returns…

Some of the more heartwarming reports to come out of the london riots are those of people gathering together to protect and serve their own community. Yesterday, large groups of people organised themselves on twitter and facebook to clean up the scenes of the riots, showing that even though people were angry enough to destroy, people were also angry enough to rebuild. Heartwarming stuff.

“Gentlemen: TO BROOMS!”

It has only been mentioned in passing, but there have been rumours of people arming themselves and standing guard by their local businesses, ready to chase away anyone that might have an eye for trouble. This is particularly motivating because along with the large chain shops that have been looted, rioters have also targeted small family run cornershops and businesses in what is nothing more than senseless destruction. Tesco? yeah fair enough I can maybe understand that; they’ve got a nationwide organisation to back them up…Mr Singh the friendly man who runs the local chipshop? He’s got nothing more than yesterdays earnings to see him through.

I read a clip in the paper this morning about looters being confronted by a teary eyed woman when they emerged from a local fashion boutique, because the boutique was built and run by one woman who hand made all of the clothes herself. When confronted with this, a lady-looter stood there with a freshly stolen wedding dress draped across her arm looking very sheepish (but, importantly, she didn’t do anything about putting the dress back as far as I know). Heartbreaking stuff.

But wait! People gathered themselves of their own free will with those good old english brooms to clean up the mess! jolly good show, as Boris johnson would say.

Ah…Boris Johnson. Again, for the benefit of those across the seas: The hithchiker’s guide to the galaxy defines Boris Johnson as ‘ a floppy haired being, known to appreciate a glass or two of cucumber sandwiches soaked in Gin, who is so out of touch with his constituency, and the Earth as a whole, that he has been regularly sighted talking to a tree along the A127 dual carriageway, having stopped there for a rest on his way to pick up a mess of cricket bats from Basildon for use in his regular bi-weekly tap-dancing class. It is not known how the cricket bats felt about this, although the tree is said to be surprisingly despondent.

So he turns up to shouts of “Where’s your broom!” from the crowd being carefully kept far enough away from him that they won’t actually notice he’s probably goggle-eyed, and yknow what? he actually gets one and marches down to the crowd. Fair play to him I must say. He gives a speech about how he appreciates their work and effort and how they won’t let these hooligans represent London proper, and that they will all persevere in their efforts to show the world that London can not and should not be defined by that awfully obvious/lazy headline: ‘London’s burning‘.

But, unfortunately, this is where I have to put a dampener on it. I don’t want to, not really, especially with the solid example the people of London are showing in the face of mindless violence and destruction, but I have to say it.

The groups of people who protected local businesses could be described as taking part in the big society….but then again that’s what the police are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of london pay taxes so that the police can be trained, insured and paid to do that sort of work.

The groups of people who cleaned up the mess could very well be held up as a prime example of the big society, as I have a feeling they might when the smoke clears…but then again, things like cleaning up the streets are what streetcleaners are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of London pay taxes so that they can be trained, insured and paid to do that work.

…like in…some sort of…-oh gosh I’ve forgotten the word-…so..soci…God I’ve completely forgotten it. You know what I’m talking about: Where a nation, through thousands of years of hard work and perseverance, gathers itself together enough to say “Hey! why don’t we all pool our money, so that we can create neat things like a police force, who we can train for that job alone, then we can pay people to clean the streets, cos we don’t want our Janet from number 12 doing it anymore- she’s got a very bad back nowadays especially since the operation and she can’t miss anymore work- and then we can maintain it properly and find a place for everyone and look out for each other so that when people need protecting the police will be there in full force; well trained, insured and paid, and the cleaners too! when there’s a right big mess to clean up they’ll be there: well trained, insured and paid…

A SOCIETY! I knew it…it was there right at the tip of my tongue.

To drastically cut funding to schools, services and society as a whole is taking political fuckery to a completely new level. To then gather round for a press opportunity with the very people you’re fucking over and telling them they’re contribution is valued, is bullshit you could smell from the far end of Baltimore. They make a contribution. Every fucking week. It’s called ‘Taxes’, and you are crippling them with it. Don’t repay them by cutting essential services. Don’t repay them with a jolly good show. Repay them with the services they pay for: Well and fully trained, insured and paid.

(I am not in any way trying to imply that the people who did the good things that they did shouldn’t have. I am inspired by the things they are doing for their city.I am trying to imply- no sorry; I’m saying– that if the governments had actually focused on actively making society better, rather than just throwing everything in the air and hoping for the best, maybe they would have been in a better position to deal with the reasons and ramifications of the riots)

London Riots: don’t be misled by the debate

9 Aug

With the london riots, there has come the inevitable debate between sides as to the cause of the situation. Both sides have already begun wading into the argument with their own particular brand of special.

(Credit for the pic goes to whatever photographer who took it. I got it from breakingnews.ie, but it’s probably an agency copy. Apologies to the owner if you take offence at me using it, do let me know)

I heard a conversation last night on the BBC news channel between ( I think, not sure if I remember correctly) Ken livingstone the ex-mayor of London and the newsanchor. Livingstone, was quick to highlight the massive unemployment, bleak education prospects and huge cuts to youth services that had a hand in laying the foundations for such violence and destruction, and then the cuts to the police force and emergency services that had a big hand in denying them their ability to tackle the situation and do their job right. The newsanchor was quick to condemn this point of view, saying that we could not dismiss simple hooliganism because the people commiting it had no jobs: to do that would be giving them a free ride, which is true…to a point.

While I agree with both sides of the debate, I do lean towards the sociological explanation a little bit more, for this very simple reason:

To persistently say the London riots have been caused by simple hooliganism and thuggery -and nothing else-, is like saying the East African famine has been caused because the people there don’t have enough tomatoes. Sure it’s a part of the problem, but to hold it up as the absolute only reason the situation is as it is? well…that’s just ridiculous. There are a lot of other parts of the jigsaw that need to fit correctly before that particular piece fits*.

*Whether a person should learn morals, ethics and principles as soon as possible or only when they are financially and socially stable enough to tackle those big subjects is an interesting question, one that I don’t know the answer to.

The opportunism many people have displayed in looting businesses during the riots is most definitely a point of self control and personal responsibility, but quite a lot of the people involved need basic foundations before they can start worrying about the ethical remifications of their actions. When a kid of fifteen sees a louis vuitton shop bared open for anyone to waltz away with an armful of goodies, they’re not gonna think “Well shucks, I better wonder a minute about what my actions will do to my community and society”, they’re gonna think “Well fuck this innit, I’m stuck on the dole and want something nice to give my ma…louis vittin never done nothing for me, why should I care bout him”.

But, to only focus on these two points of view is a mistake (and to only agree with one side an even bigger one). A lot of the destruction can probably be put down to simple mob mentality and the fact that when you’re wandering round the empty streets looking at it with fresh young eyes- eyes that scream “Hang on a sec…the world isn’t as efficiently well ordered as we’ve been led to believe…I can do anything I want!”- you’ve got a tendency to go crazy and follow the crowd.

The crowd, which is made up of mainly your friends and peers. Single yourself out by not taking part, and there could be a lot more serious repurcussions than a few weeks in a juvenile detention centre. You could be cast out from your group for not manning up.

I should stress that I am not in any way condoning or agreeing with this mentality. There’s a huge difference between agreeing with something, and understanding it.

I read a pretty interesting quote this morning in the paper. I can’t remember it properly, but it was something to the effect of “It’s not about what you do anymore, it’s about what you buy…We’ve got a generation of kids raised on consumerism going wild out there…”

Yes, the riots are based on an excess of aggression, destruction, a wildly skewed sense of entitlement on the rioters part and an an unhealthy disregard for people’s safety. It’s stupid to leave it at that though and forget about investigating the underlying causes. Economic depression, unemployment, lack of services, discrimination, lack of opportunities, apathy. (And of course, there’s the underlying causes for the length of time it has taken the emergency services to react properly to the disorder: massive budget cuts made to the public services). These are all parts of the jigsaw: each one needed to make sense of the next. To hold one single piece up and blame the whole ugly picture on it and it alone is a horrifically small minded mistake.