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Friday, 12 August 2011

The London Riots from my own unique perspective

Important as the forthcoming Olympic Test Race is the people of Box Hill, the biggest story by far on a more national scale has to be the largescale riots which have seen across London and much of the Midlands this past week.

What precipated is hard to tell and depends on whom you spoke to; some say the lethal shooting of Mark Duggan, who was rumoured among other things to be a gang member and drug dealer with an altogether unsavoury past. He was also though rumoured to be a respected member of the society in which he lived, the notorious Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, North London, and a loving father and partner to this girlfriend (fiance) of 12 years. Whatever the truth, what followed was and is truly shocking and a sad indictment of how far our society appears to have fallen.

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of name calling and issuing blame - the words thug, and animal (unfair as always to the animal kingdom who would never behave in this fashion) spring to mind, but this solves nothing, and in fact makes the problem even worse. It is the mob mentality pure and simple, but we are all guilty of that - of following the crowd and being swept along, losing our own sense of identity in order to conform and fit in at some point in our lives. Every ounce of instinct that I had told me that getting embroiled in the emotion of the situation was useless and would not help me, yet being at work the morning after it all erupted, watching it on television, and seeing the girls talking about it non stop, it beccame all too easy to do just that, and I found my own anger spilling over as I joined in the banter and the discussions.

What brought me down to earth with a bump were some comments posted on a reading site that I frequent from one of the US based members. She pointed out that such violence in the United States is in fact nothing new, and that as a Black American (it is a fact and it is not racist to state that the majority of those filmed committing these crimes were and are black skinned), she can see it both ways. But she also acknowledged that not everyone will be able to see it that way - I guess you would have to walk a mile or two in their shoes first. In her own words, when one is pushed beyond reason it is human instinct for either flight or fight. Pent up rage, anger and frustration spills over and results in an outpouring of violence.

Ther are of course though many reasons why people strike out, and not all of these are justified. Some do it simply to get attention, or due to the afforementioned mob mentality, but the majority do it because they feel they have no other recourse. This is not of course an excuse for what has happened, but it goes someway towards explaining and helping us to understand the underlying cause, for there always has to be one. People do not behave in this manner for no reason.

It is easy to say that we have to pull ourselves up and make things happen, but it not always that easy. When you grow up in an environment where the majority are impoverished, poorly educated, and come from highly dysfunctional homes, what else can you expect. The kids who grew up in such an environment know no different; no matter which way they look, everyone else is the same with the same lack of prospects, and seemingly powerless to change their situation. They feel that they have to adopt that 'swagger' and the gang mentality in order to fit in, as if reinforces the idea that they are helpless victims, or are they?

Youngsters today from my perspective have far more opportunities than my own generation ever did - there were no youth clubs in my area, at least not that I was aware of, but the kids did not run riot in the streets. There was little career counselling either, or advice on drugs, birth control and how to stay out of trouble. The youth today have all this and more. They even have the opportunity to go and meet the Mayor of London and sit on a special session just for them, something that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. They have a greater voice than my generation ever did, but the apathy still remains.

I remember something that one of my white South African colleagues told me about her own time working in the townships in her own country, that she would organise various iniatives to try and help the residents and not one of them would turn up. It was almost as if they did not want to be helped. I suppose it goes back to that sense of hopelessness, that if a people are downtrodden for long enough then they start to believe that there is no point in anything that they do to try and help themselves, as it will not make a genuine enough difference to their lives. This is of course senseless and could not be further from the truth, for if nothing else, it makes them feel better about themselves. The collective consciousness then come into play, starting off in a small way, but from little acorns big oaks do grow, and you have to start somewhere.

Of course not all the rioters come from this impoverished background, many are what I would term professional people, who are fairly affluent, and come from good homes, one is a millionaires daughter and so wants for nothing. This is the mob mentality, pure and simple, and these people deserve to have the book thrown at them, so that they can then experience the other side of the coin. It is all about cause and effect.

Those who are not so affluent should of course also have to account for their actions, but this is not all about them, it is about society as whole. If society cna be judged on how they treat the poorest and the weakest, I wonder what it would say about us? And those that serve to criticise the Government and lay the blame at their door for all the cutbacks they have made, should also ask themselves that if the inner does indeed refect the outer, what does that say about them?

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