Monday, 8 August 2011

say what you see

Police in riot gear in Enfield, north London, on Sunday night. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
well, if you've any kind of social networking, internet access, or even (failing all that) the news, you'll have heard about the london riots by now.

i've nothing very new to add to the pot - a number of other people already blogged much better on the earlier happenings (collection of links below), and the media finally seemed to have caught up with the facts, just in time for widespread coverage of the looting that seems to have become the main focus.

first - in my opinion - simplistic overview:  police shoot a man - police fail to make statement/answer family's questions - vigil becomes riot - riot becomes widespread property damage and looting

here are some earlier blogs which discuss this or at least provide some on the ground updates:



- - - - - - 

my brother came home, telling me some kids had barricaded the street oustide our house (coldharbour lane).  my sister and i have been in touch by phone to make sure she got home in peckham safe - she told me about police officers guarding the shops, whilst sending women and young children through back alleys to get to their homes, instead, perhaps, of watching out for the welfare of the residents themselves.  my mum just managed to make it to old kent road mosque before walworth road came in for similar treatment as many other areas.  i am not writing this from some ivory tower, or far removed from some of what is going on. just saying.

now, i am NOT commending the acts of looting, the destruction of people's homes or livelihoods.  BUT i think, whether or not this is the intention behind them (and to be fair, i doubt very much most of the looters sat down and had a political game plan before they set out to greggs, footlocker and argos), it is sad but true that this is a crude but effective way of people getting their dissatisfaction, anger and frustration seen and heard. 
yes, many people will dismiss it as opportunistic 'violence', and unfortunately a lot of it does seem at risk of turning into that (i.e. in the cases of people's homes being set alight).  But i think it is dangerous to so readily ignore it, claiming that, given that it is not directly linked to the killing of mark duggan, then it is not relevant.

Theresa May apparently said earlier: 'this is not a relationship problem' - WHAT? Dear Ms May - do you really believe that? That this is not in any way linked to the Government's complete disconnect to the country they are 'governing'.  You don't think perhaps this has any links to cuts in benefits, to 'unnecessary' services such as youth centres, refuges, esol, oh yeah, and nhs services?  

perhaps nick clegg remembers mentioning last year that tory cuts would cause riots? no?

An article in the Guardian highlights the need to think about context.  Nina Power writes:
"As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as "social problems" (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
Images of burning buildings, cars aflame and stripped-out shops may provide spectacular fodder for a restless media, ever hungry for new stories and fresh groups to demonise, but we will understand nothing of these events if we ignore the history and the context in which they occur."

in a discussion with a friend of my brother's earlier, he gave another view point - we live in a capitalist society that actively promotes materialistic wealth. so why is there so much surprise and shock when looting is the reaction to what's seen as opportunity? just one more thing to throw into the mix. again, not a commendation, but a comment to be considered.

i think unfortunately the events of thursday/friday in which a young man was killed by the police, with so far no explanation having been made public, have sparked something the police could not have imagined.  the danger now is twofold:
- that these events overshadow those surrounding mark duggan's death, allowing this to go unexplained or at least muddying the waters;
- and perhaps more dangerous, that this is dismissed, ignored by the government, as so many of the riots and protests of recent time have been dismissed, with a result that real violence does erupt, as people get tired of being ignored.

and one last thing:
i am so angry at the repeated statement of this image 'not being the image that London wants the world to see ahead of the Olympics'. right now, i do not care about the olympics. i think right now, the government perhaps needs toget their priorities straight if they want the olympics to go ahead at all.  


  1. Found your blog from the comment you left at Penny Red's.

    Thank you for writing this insightful post! I really appreciate the way you keep opening up ideas to talk about the riots instead of desperately grasping about for conclusions. The first being much harder to do, but so much more humane.

    Stay safe. -C. from Toronto, Canada

  2. I also am reading your blog from the comment left. I find the MSM's reporting on this issue to be a gross injustice,proving the our journalists are not all that different from those working at the CCTV in China.
    Everyone who has any sense of fairness left in them has to be outraged by the treatment of poor people in the one of the wealthiest and most expensive cities in the world.
    N- from USA

  3. Hi C and N - thank you both so much for coming over, reading, and commenting on my blog - it's great to know that other people are actually seeing it.

    i think opening up dialogue, looking at the history and context, and then looking to ways to address is is the only way to ensure this does not become something else just swept under the carpet. because the danger there, other than that nothing will change, is that violence will simply escalate, leading to more lives lost, and a crumbling of society.

    and N, i agree about the mainstream media reporting - it worries me how biased, lacking or just plain poor-quality it can be at times. this, to me, is where the importance of blogs and other forms of social media become so important - at least we know that bloggers may be subjective!