Wednesday, 10 August 2011

An Urban Voice Opinion on the London Riots

Over the past few days we have seen a peaceful protest go from exactly that to nationwide rioting and looting.  Tottenham in North London was the first place to be struck and on Saturday 6th August we saw the high street vandalised, shop fronts smashed in and buildings set on fire.  This then spread to overnight to Wood Green, not far from Tottenham, which also faced attacks and looting in several shops.  From there on shoppers and employees in Enfield Town, also in North London, were evacuated during the day on Sunday to avoid the pre-empted clashes with members of the public and police that occurred later.  Since then the violence had escalated and move across to Brixton, Peckham, Croydon, Streatham, Lewisham, Hackney and many other areas of London.  Riots have followed across the country affecting other major cities such as Birmingham, Nottingham, Liverpool and Manchester to name but a few.

As a North Londoner, who has relatives who live on the Ferry Lane Estate in Tottenham where Mark Duggan was shot, the riots have been a surreal reality to me.  I have seen these riots escalate and threaten my family in Tottenham, Enfield and Croydon.  Over the past few days I have been gripped to the television and twitter in disbelief at the situation in London.  London is my home, it's where I eat, where I go out, where I drink, where I have made memories, and to see places I recognise on television being attacked felt like I was watching an action movie on DVD.  None of it seems real.

Londoners have felt and seen all kinds of emotions over the past few days, we have felt anger, shock, fear, sadness, protectiveness, defensive, bravery, fearless, rebellion, aggression, determination and defiance.  We have also seen positivity from Londoners uniting, cleaning the streets together and wanting to make a change.  Overall, we have realised that there are deep underlying issues that have not been addressed effectively over the past 15 years or so and that we can not continue to ignore these underlying issues.

There are many opinions and reasons why people think the riots have occurred.  Some say that it is a lack of discipline, it starts with the parents, kids are out of control, the kids are evil.  Some say it's ineffective policing and lack of clear leadership with the government so out of touch with reality that they don't know what going down on the streets  Others blame the lack of opportunities, lack of resources to help young people and poorer people with financial cuts, unemployment at its highest since the 1930's and the economic crisis to blame.

Personally, it is a combination of all of the above, we as a society all have to take responsibility for our actions and everybody has a part to play.  We can all see that the current system, what
ever it is, isn't working and it is failing the younger generation.  My Dad has always told me that we need to look after and nurture our children as they are our future.  This is very true and in my world we should all think like this.  I truely don't believe that babies are born evil, babies start learning from a very young age and we eventually become a product of our environment.  Everyone is individual and life effects people differently so we must not tar everyone with the same brush or stereotype.  There are many teenagers who did not get involved with the riots and we must not punish the 'youths' for the recent riots.

Maybe, we need to engage with children from a young age, teach them respect and teach them boundries with firm consistent punishments, for when they do something wrong.  This starts from a young age.  Also, we need to invest time and effort into the younger generation.  Create positive projects that they can be involved in and communities in which they can feel a part of.  My parents don't have much but my mum, who looked after my dad and worked as a seamtress, saved every single spare penny she ever earned and every single child benefit allowance, so that she could educate all four of her children because she wanted us to have a good start in life.  It was her selflessness, positivity, strength to get us out of tough financial situations and determination which achieved four graduate offspring.  Is this what is needed?  I know that there is a lot of temptation and pressure out there (I wasn't exactly an angel when I was younger) and we can't solve the problems of the world over night but with positivity and a sense of belonging we as a community can improve the quality of life for kids of the future.  After all, there is a reason for disruptive behaviour and that is primarily down to attention and to gain a sense of acceptance.  We have some great community leaders and people doing some amazing work for young people and in return a lot of young people who are willing and determined to succeed and create a better life.  However, it is clear that many people do not have respect for the police and especially the government.  Personally, I don't blame them, I for one can't relate to people like David Cameron.

At the end of the day what we don't want to happen is a repeat of the past few days.  Peoples businesses, livelihoods, local trade and homes have been destroyed.  This hasn't affected the rich or government and those who can afford to pay for the damage instead it has affected the poorer neighbourhoods who will struggle to now find funding and investment from the government.  Tottenham high street is unrecognisable, residents can't shop in the area due to the high street being taped off, buildings in other areas have burned to the ground, peoples cars have been set on fire, ordinary members of the public have been humiliated, jacked (robbed), and stripped naked.
Everyone has an opinion and everyone seems to have the answer on how to proceed.  Whatever we do, we can't afford to ignore the recent events because as Martin Luther King once said
"A riot is the language of the unheard" and I leave it at that.

Stay safe and I wish you and your loved ones positivity through these saddening events.  
Peace and Love from a proud North Londoner xxx

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