Watching the people get lairy

Sometimes I think I’ve fallen asleep and woken up in the eighties. Teens sport leggings and batwing sleeves and the only money to be found is in The City. The Tory government are off on their hols and there are riots in Tottenham and Brixton.

Choose Life! The eighties are back.

2011 will be remembered as the year of the riot. The Middle East started us off with their desperate call for a voice. We’re lucky enough in the UK to be able to be able to express our views freely and to criticise the government as much as we like but peaceful demonstrations have had a habit recently of turning into violence. Students started us off at the end of last year when their demonstrations against university fees turned into a free for all. On March 26th we marched peacefully against cuts while others broke into shops, set fire to stuff and chucked things at the police.

The most recent riots started out after a peaceful demonstration from the family and friends of Mark Duggan, the man shot by police in Tottenham. What followed seems to me to indicate a general malaise. This time it wasn’t the public school-educated sons of rock stars throwing bottles at police, it was the ordinary London kids.

I’ve read several articles about the inevitability of the violence of the last couple of nights but I don’t believe a riot is ever inevitable, it’s a choice. In this case I believe it’s a series of factors that came together: long summer evenings along with the feeling that the police are against you. And surely the constant drip feed of service cuts and lack of jobs for young people are part of it. The country’s decision-makers and law-enforcers don’t care about you, your community or your future. And what the hell, you’re bored and fed up and others are out there looting nice stuff and attacking the police so you may as well join in.

My neighbour Brixton has taken a balanced view of things. The high street and tube station are closed to prevent groups gathering and local councillors, MPs and community leaders are meeting to discuss what happens now. Which is more than be said for the prime minster and the mayor of London who are away on holiday (but not together. Wouldn’t that be an interesting scenario? They could reminisce about their elite educations) and really don’t want to be interrupted by nasty things like common people protesting.

Tottenham's burning

I have no doubt however that when the communities clear things up and get those youngsters back in front of the telly where they belong, that both Cameron and Johnson will be claiming responsibility for sorting things out. Or am I being cynical?

Meanwhile I’ll be putting on a Bananarama record and slipping into Choose Life t-shirt. Because we’re living in the eighties, right?



2 Responses to Watching the people get lairy

  1. Citizen CW says:

    See, I dispute the idea that a riot is choice. That is, in a sociological context. Oxford philosophy prof Andrew Lindsey once said: “When peaceful protest becomes impossible, public disobedience becomes inevitable.”. Of course, it is argued that we have free speech so protest is not impossible. But let’s be honest, it is really.

    Look at the late Brian Hawe (if I spelled his name right). His protest camp was irritating MPs, who brought in specific legislation about protesting near parliament. Look at David Cameron meeting the disseffected young people on Jamie’s Dream School and bluntly telling them, the very people who the school system had failed, that he disagreed with their views on schools. Last month, following a campaign by animal charities led by the very influential RSPCA and consistent polls showing public support for a ban on animal circuses, the House of Commons voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling for a ban. But Defra say they won’t ban it anyway. On that same subject, it is now an imprisonable offence to hand out leaflets encouraging a boycott of companies that fund animal testing. That last one is a relic of the last administration, who ignored 2 million people who marched against the war. Students in school or college who try to use their creativity are regularly disciplined and even have their educational privilege for it as we about turn back towards the spoon fed model and, while I know several teachers I would blame for this, one can’t generalise…many staff are disciplined for being creative too.

    We keep hearing that these protests have been “hijacked” by “trouble makers”. While I’ve no doubt that there’s a troublesome element that does this, is it so far from plausible that people were just angry and lost their rag?

    In 1998, as an angry student, I took part in a march against tuition fees. We were very well behaved….and ignored not only by the government, but also by the media. And that’s it, really. David Cameron will call off an international diplomatic mission because his friends wife and her Ozzy boss may or may not have broken the law, but won’t quit his own holiday when the man who lives above carpetright looses all his possessions due to fires and police officers lie in hospital beds. He does find time to go back and tip that waitress, though, because his friends from Oxbridge wrote that everyone was outraged he hadnt when, in fact, no one gives a toss.

    We live in a country where the political elite, the press, law enforcement, big businesses, the education establishment, the arts luvvies, the civil servant strategists, religious leaders and TV stars are becoming more and more removed from ordinary people. I’d go so far as to say that many of the community leaders asking what to do next probably lead nothing more than their own dogs.

    Like all animals, we need some feeling of empowerment otherwise we fight and go mad trying to take it.

    When you’re standing with the crowd at the festival, the feeling of joy everwhelns you and you dance, whether you should or not. When you stand inan angry crowd, you get angry, whether you should or not. All it takes then, is for someone to loose their temper and,’well, it’s inevitable….isn’t it?

    • citizenr says:

      Great comments! By choice I mean that we have a choice of how to behave- loot a shop or walk away. Not easy at all. I agree with your points about the current administration. I think you know my views on them by now! and yes, there is an increasing gap between the ordinary people and the political elite et al. I believe it it up to us as the common herd- especialyl us educators- to keep speaking up and make ourselves heard.

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