Tuesday 9 August 2011

The Rioters

From a Sydenham youth worker:

"When we saw my boyfriend’s bike being stolen by two hooded monsters, we ran out to get in back. I saw the youth in their faces, and shouted ‘stop I’m a youth worker!’ After some reasoning he gave the bike back. My boyfriend walked back to re-chain to our friend’s bike, but I remained. I couldn’t just let them go without asking why? He told me ‘what man, I gave the bike back?’. I replied, ‘I don’t care about the bike. It’s just a bike. I care about you. What about you? What are you good at?’ He looked at me, his smaller friend silent the whole time. ‘What are you good at!’ I yelled. ‘Nothing’. Tears pricked my eyes. Familiar tears. The ones I leave the classroom sometimes to have in the toilet. ‘Don’t say that. Don’t say nothing.’ He had no words for me. ‘You’re better than this. You’re better than being a thief.’ He was silent. What he didn’t do was run away or get angry. He didn’t pull out whatever it was he cut the bike lock with and he didn’t jab it in me. He simply looked at me, without any answers."

In the short term, the present strategy of flooding the streets of London with 16,000 police officers, enforcing the law throughout the city, and avoiding the use of any of the heavy-handed methods moronically being suggested by certain people within the media seems the best way forward. In the long term, policing in London needs to change to better avoid the antagonism that is well known to anyone living in London's poorer areas, and whilst I don't believe that more spending can be the answer, some solution must be found for the violent and crime-ridden lives of Britain's urban youth.

[Picture: Riot police in Walworth Road, Elephant and Castle, London, taken by Flickr user hozinja, via Wikipedia]


Ann O'Raghailligh said...

What a sad story. If my husband Kevin were still alive I know he would, like this person, find a way to understand the anger that the disenfranchised youths rioting today have shown. They have nothing. What have we done?

justrecently said...

She did two very good things. She showed the hooded monsters respect (by caring about more than about a bike), and she held them accountable in her own way. An elementary combination of looking at "others".

Anonymous said...

To take liberties with Engels:
"Indeed, only barbarians are capable of rejuvenating a society laboring under the death throes of unnerved civilisation."

While I think of Cameron and million pound manor, plus his pissed offness about the ruined Tuscan holiday, it is really an end point of empire thing which brings to mind Edward Giibbons.

Muscular shopping trips for name brand commodities organised via text message, and don't worry about bringing your visa card.

What did Thatcher say: There is no such thing as society.

Neither left or right political proscriptions will ameliorate this situation one bit. It just IS, and all the media and other verbiage about this new "dangerous class" won't change the situation one iota. Expect more of the same in the near future.


Anonymous said...

Spelling... Gibbon

And as unpopular as the idea may be, arson and the sound of broken glass is an aphrodisiac.

Gilman Grundy said...

KT - The sad thing is I fear you may be right.

JR - This post was derisively linked to by a prominent Canadian journalist as an example of youth-worker pomposity. I think that criticism is, shall we say, not entirely without justice.

I linked to this comment because I thought it crystalised a very simple fact - these people do not ever seem have been challenged to explain, or to have thought about, why they are doing what they do. Their total lack of consequence, thought, community etc. in their lives seems to be their real poverty.

More to the point, I do not trust the opinions of people who appoint themselves instant experts. Teachers, community and social workers, police officers - these people work with urban youth every day and should have a much better understanding of what is going on than I can from my office building, or any journalist can from a day or two spent walking around Peckham. So, whilst I may find that some of their community-speak grates on my Thatcherite sensibilities, it is stupid to instantly dismiss what they have to say because of the packaging in which it comes.

Ann - I do not think "we", or more to the point, the communities that have been affected by the violence, have done anything to deserve this. If "we" have failed anywhere, it is in failing to instill a sense of consequence, a respect for the law, and, ultimately, a sufficient fear of authority. This is the result of poor parenting, poor policing, poor urban planning and social policies, truancy, and, above all, a poverty of ideas.

And I have no idea what the solution is.

justrecently said...

these people do not ever seem have been challenged to explain, or to have thought about, why they are doing what they do

Yes - but that's the point. Everyone who offers bleak forecasts will be proven right, if nobody takes the trouble once in a while to ask some questions. That's why I like the what-are-you-good-at approach, even if it's a youth worker's, and if her account of what happened was accurate, ic no pomposity in it.

oneopinionatedmother said...

erm, notably Blair the raging Francophile did rather enjoy his holidays, and the country didn't explode into riot during them, nor was it the better for Browns workaholism.

but there is a simpler way of looking at it: some people (a minority of the poor, the people having their businesses looted were far from wealthy) have been elevated from low-level criminality into higher brands - and a new MO has been established. The potential has ever been there for it: the era of the fun, freedom-loving flash mob, is just as easily the time of the flash-loot, the I-riot, the Twit-arson.

if youth workers are a bit pompous, give some credit: the pompousity *worked* - give me mawkish sentiment over rubber bullets any day.

Gilman Grundy said...

OOM - I hadn't forseen the use of social networking for facilitating looting and arson, but I guess you're right that it was always there.

BTW, you should start up your blog again.

Anonymous said...

Now that the Spurs-Arsenal game has been deferred, I am supporting Cameron's call to investigate ways of preventing these hooligan goths from using Twitter, FB and other media to organise their excellent shopping adventures. The Wire has a lot to answer for.

I notice that synthesisers were a popular shopping item in the greater Manchester area. Shaun and the Mondays must be staging a comeback.

Cameron, truly a great mind at work, and I expect this will sort the problem by Xmas.

And the papers are playing an exemplary role with The Sun's Shop a Moron call to arms.

The only downside here is the fact that Boris Johnson is developing a monks tonsure.

Wish I hadn't given away my copy of Decline and Fall ....Gibbon is always good for a quote about a hollowed out political elite, bread/circuses, the effects of alien mass migration into the imperial capital, etc.

PS Due to other pressing social engagements, I won't be able to attend Duggan's Soprano solidarity funeral.

Satire. I know. I know. But until someone comes up with a better way of addressing this episode.

King Tubby