From the Arab Spring, to the London Riots, there appears to be a serious disconnect happening between huge swathes of groups of people who are supposedly meant to be living together in the same parts of the world, usually between the youths and the governments in power in their respective countries.
Whilst most people would say that there’s no comparison, or connection between the political activism that occurred in the Middle East, and the looting and rioting that’s been occurring on the streets of London, I would suggest looking at it from a different perspective, to see the common thread, that does occur between these two.
In both situations, if we take motives, and actions out of the equation for a second (assuming that the cultural norms in each society led to different actions and behaviours), we see groups of young people expressing a united opposition to the ‘authority’ and the social status quo.
Whilst in London, and the UK, we’re not exactly murdering and torturing people on a physical level who are not in agreement with our government and political leadership, as was happening in some parts of the Arab world, what if we are destroying the lives, and removing all opportunities for joy and happiness from the people that need it the most?
What if the social disconnect that has occurred between impoverished communities and the ‘rest’ of society, is as mentally and emotionally jarring to the kids in London, and the UK, as the absence of democracy and threat of speaking out had been to the youth in the Arab world?
For ultimately, what was the reason for the outcry in either place? To say, we will not tolerate this any longer.
Admittedly an onlooker with some education, living in a society with certain levels of acceptable behaviour, and social conditioning wouldn’t just take to the streets and take to looting, and vandalising. But what if the people taking those actions in the streets of London don’t have any education? What if those kids haven’t been conditioned socially? What if their education has been at the level of tribal warfare, and their socially accepted conditioning is that it’s ok to take what you want, as long as you’re stronger, in bigger numbers, and more threatening than the people in front of you?
The gang culture that has been developing in some parts of our societies, here in the UK, coupled with no doubt, endless hours of violent video games, movies that glorify violence, and crime, as well as no sense of accountability or responsibility would indeed end up generating groups of children, that act in herds, behave like animals, and have no sense of regard, or respect for others.
In their mind they’re taking what they’ve somehow justified they’re entitled to, and whilst we need to use force, to stop them, put them behind bars, and put an end to the violent disruption, that is clearly not going to be enough to solve this problem.
Just like dictators in the arab world were using violence to maintain their control and power, the children on the streets of London have been rising up, to show they deserve respect, and can command power too. So much so, that for the first three nights, the violence in London continued to escalate, with the police watching on almost helplessly from a distance.
“Violence is rarely mindless.”
she goes on to say:
“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.”
If we look back over the last few months, just in November and December of 2010, the Student Protests in London eventually led to a minority of troubled youths engaging in violence, and disruption caused by people reacting increasingly to a government that they felt was acting in an unjust manner, making decisions about the future of their education system. Yet even then, there was no clear rhyme or reason. One of the students convicted, Edward Woollard was clearly not of your typical youth with a troubled background, unstable family, or with no prospects. And yet was able to get caught up in the wave of emotion, and frustration that the crowd acted with. Whilst the judge thought he was making an example of him, and others like him, no one really examined or bothered to ask the question what could possibly provoke someone to so readily engage in such public violence?
Then earlier in March 2011, more people took to the streets, in outrage and in protest to the government spending cuts.
This is an unseen social tension that has been brewing and brewing for some time now. This didn’t just happen overnight. The events themselves may have, but the causes, and the environment that allowed for this to break out in didn’t.
Whilst the ‘rule of law’ is enforced, and police and politicians partner up to clamp down on the ‘trouble makers’, it is a shame to think that all that will happen is the denouncing of the violence, and covering up of the real issues that plague our society.
There isn’t a single reason or cause that’s singularly responsible for the situation that’s occurred across the UK. (Violence and looting now on this 4th night occurring in Salford, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham and Liverpool to name but a few.) But there are many many reasons that all compounded to create this reaction.
There’s the school holidays – which means more children are out of school, and have nothing to occupy their times with.
The fact that people are looting high value goods and targeting stores like Curry’s, JD Sports, and other Fashion and Designer clothing stores suggests that money or wealth may be part of the problem.
Large numbers of unemployed people, feeling worthless, living off benefits, could be part of the reason. However, with evidence of some of the people being tried in courts pointing to people having jobs, studying at university, and even meant to be joining the army, you can’t just use wealth inequality as a reason for this looting.
Looking at the targets of the crimes, they all seem to be focussed on property of value, so there’s always the potential that there’s some underground crime scene being masterminded behind all the violence. Especially if the crimes were in response to a possible network that lost approx £300m of Cocaine, from the boat from the caribbean that was apprehended on it’s way to the Netherlands, but I’m just speculating there.
That said, it’s hard to imagine so many of these kids being part of some international crime cartel. Often fear, and violence go hand in hand, with people who are afraid, or frustrated lashing out. Perhaps there’s some social cause that’s being made known for the rest of the world to start to pay attention to.
The lack of a social fabric bridging these disparate communities together.
It’s easy to attack, deface and vandalise the property of people who you consider alien, or the enemy. If they had genuinely considered themselves a part of the society that they attacked, they may not have been so violent. However, if they live with this fear, lack of trust, and the constant need to earn respect, in their own backyards, then why would they be any different out on the streets?
It’s easy for us to sit back and blame them for causing all this violence and crime. It’s much harder for us to see ourselves as responsible. For cutting funding to key resources like Libraries and Youth Centres that they rely upon. Some children even went so far as to predict the riots, after the closures of youth centres.
Is it any wonder that when we’re pulling out the support and network that is responsible for helping them cope, then leaving them to roam the streets with no-where to go that the youth in our society aren’t going to start causing trouble?
To top it all off, to then expose them to a constant barrage of advertising that creates desire for products they can’t afford, taunting them of a lifestyle that is inaccessible to them, and creating cravings for the finer things in life, whilst all the time making it harder and harder for them to be inspired by any of the life choices that lay ahead of them, it’s not hard to believe that violence looting and theft are some of the only ways they see themselves as being able to ‘have’ the things that matter, in our ‘material’ world.
The sad fact of the matter is, that the world is falling to pieces (supposedly, according to the rising inflation, and global depression), people don’t feel like they belong in the society they’re living in, and they lack the role models, ambition or desire to do much more than live an ‘easy’ life, with all the luxuries they yearn for, but without the debt that normally is associated with it.
Drugs, Alcohol, and crime, as much as we don’t want to admit it, are all part of the social fabric that leads to the violence, looting, and crime that has been happening.
Most of the looters were carrying off large quantities of alcohol. Alcohol which they presumably would never be old enough to buy in stores.
Perhaps it’s time to admit that we don’t really know what’s happening in our back yards, and in our neighbourhoods. Many of us work too much to have time for our families, let alone our neighbours. Most of us live in neighbourhoods, where we don’t make time for the people around us.
Our virtual communities, coupled with always on communication channels means we’ve gradually been slipping away from the real world, from the physical community that we inhabit, and just as we’ve been slipping away into our own worlds, so have those steeped in their own communities of violence, crime, and gangs gotten ever deeper into theirs.
Unfortunately, we all have to live together, and it’s become really clear that the answer is not to just step away, or live in fear one of the other. In order to overcome this fear, this segregation of social groups, we need to start bridging those gaps. We need to start connecting together all the different elements of society. Recognising that sometimes the mental and emotional traumas of living in our western world, are sometimes more perilous than the physical challenges of famine or drought.
Why is it that people on the verge of starving can remain humane and composed, whilst those with everything to live for, in the developed world are the most likely to commit suicides? Is it because whilst the absence of food might lead to starvation of the body, that is nothing compared to the starvation of dreams, ambitions, and hope?
Faced with a monotonous life of petty theft, crime, selling drugs, living on benefits, or being indentured in servitude at minimum wage, because of inescapable debts, and no possible light at the end of the tunnel, you too might have taken to the streets and considered it appropriate or even your right to take what you could, when you could. Especially if you’ve been conditioned through films, video games, and popular culture that crime is a part of life. (Go on, admit it, it did remind you of Grand Theft Auto, didn’t it?)
Those people suffering for lack of food, and clinging on to survive don’t have the benefit of TV, internet, Cable television, Sky, Cinema’s, Magazines, DVD’s and the constant barrage of advertising and marketing making them feel inferior, and inadequate if they don’t have the latest TV, or the latest trainers. They’re only able to focus on what they have around them, their challenge to find food. Their challenge to stay alive. To keep their children alive. To stay warm. To find shelter. To make it through another day. They exhibit the innate human spirit that wishes to survive. That wishes to better itself.
If we took those kids that were on the streets of London, and across the UK, looting, and breaking into stores, and we gave them challenges to learn from, discipline and structure to work with, and a sense of belonging in the wider community we probably wouldn’t have had the expressions of outrage, fear and violence that we saw on the streets.
We’re as responsible for this situation as they are. As people, as politicians, and as members of this society it’s our responsibility to reweave the fabric of society to include everyone in the process. Not just the educated, and cultured.
The question is are we yet mature and grown up enough to admit it?