Saturday, 13 August 2011

London's Burning (Again)

Given the divisive nature of this topic I think a quick disclaimer might be in order to let everyone know where exactly I stand and to pre-emptively answer any questions that may arise. I am not a pacifist, I'm actually an Amateur boxer, I do belief that violence especially politically motivated violence can be justified but that this very much depends on the circumstances around the act. That said I do not agree with rioting unless it has specific targets (you know where the politics comes in) I think rioting in your own town and city and by extension damaging it and its services is a bit like throwing your own television through your front window because you have a problem with the neighbours, in the end you only hurt yourselves and your family and friends. But I am aware that these situations are highly emotionally charged and are not planned out beforehand and so don't usually follow a rational strategy. I am also fortunate to have never been in a situation where I felt so victimised and abused that the prospect of lashing out at any and all I believed responsible became a burning need so I'll thank my lucky stars and will not criticise those not as fortunate, after all I'm not a Liberal.

Good to see the BBC maintain its high standards of journalism by accusing guests who give a viewpoint not lock step with the top brass of being criminally subversive once again, still they could of accused Darcus of orchestrating the riots himself as part of some Caribbean Communist Immigrant plot to lower house prices. But then I suppose that would bring them into competition with the Express and the Mail.

Anyway I'm not going to get in depth with the riots, because I didn't take part in them and my area had absolutely no problems with them at all. I was actually a bit surprised given how most of the towns from Caistor to Hull are job blackspots with large estates that have seen years of neglect and decay. Plus there's the local police force (Humberside) having little to no popularity with anyone in area rich or poor, black or white. Oh well luck of Irish I suppose.

Anyway what I found really odd was how few people in the "elite" by which I mean senior members of government the media and political system seem to have even considered something like this could happen. Why were they so clueless? its not like we're any strangers to riots, that is especially true in London the city that appears to occupy all of are nations leaders time and attention so why so clueless? It should be obvious that when parts of a society get systematic shut off and deprived from the opportunities available to the privileged, they tend not to respect the social mores and laws of the society that has given them little.

Even Disraeli a 19th Century Conservative politician and Prime Minister figured that one out "Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets: the rich and the poor." This thought was the foundation of his One Nation Conservative school of thought which was a very influential wing of the Conservative party until the rise of Thatcher to Party Leader, and even then senior members of the Tory Party and there associated social clubs continued to belong too and espouse Disraeli's views to the present day.

If a dead Tory from the days of Dickens for saw that soaring gaps in wealth status and opportunity get a nations shop fronts smashed and cars burnt out then why haven't his modern day "heirs" at least accounted for it? And the media is just as guilty, the last few months they have been obsessed with covering the events of the "Arab Spring" leap frogging from country to country reporting on every riot, uprising, sit in and march from Tripoli to Tehran to ensure are papers and news channels are full of tanks rolling down streets, and Arabs chanting and shaking there fists. And they had been covering the cuts and job losses pretty comprehensively, and noting the people affected where angry and disheartened. Surely the news controllers could pick up a warning sign or two before the shooting of Mark Duggin. Tension takes awhile to build up you can't just flip it on and off like a switch.

Just look at the in/famous riots in Brixton in 1981 that Darcus alludes too did happen overnight either they were a response to years of constant victimisation by the police (the infamous sus law more commonly known as the stop and search procedures, which were carried out with little to no justification) the confrontations during community events and parades and the lack of interest in the area and its residents shown by government, the area had very high unemployment and much of the housing was inadequate and crowded. The incident that sparked the riot was born out of this environment of distrust for between the police and the people of Brixton, a crowd had seen the police do an inadequate job of getting medical attention for a wounded youth and tried to intervene, the police resisted and spirited the injured man to a hospital however it was believed that the police just withdrew from the scene and left the victim to die somewhere, by this point few people believed official police explanations as these where usually pleasant sounded fob-offs to justify heavy handed policing, this widely believed of police brutality proved to be the straw that broke the camels back and a series of large and devastating riots followed.

Once the dust settled there was an investigation into the riot, crimes occurring, its policing and the causes etc. This was called the Scarman report which proved beyond doubt that a lot of the claims made by the rioters and people of Brixton was true and that the community had been the victim of systematic abuse and neglect by the state.

It will be interesting to see what a similar report into this months riots finds if they even bother to have one, or the government could just gesticulate from the pulpit on 24 hour news for a few days while the men in wigs reaffirm there masculinity by handing out heavy sentences which have almost zero use as deterrence-Brixton did have another quite large riot in 1985 after all and Northern Ireland actually has marching and rioting as an Honorary Fifth season- but will be vindictive enough to please the tabloid front page editors.

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