Thursday, 11 August 2011

Antidote to Cretinism

Just when you begin to despair of the darkness, someone shines a light. The Metro newspaper reported yesterday, "They came brandishing brooms and some were even wielding riot shields - but only to use as makeshift trays for cups of tea. This is the 'we-can-fix-it, yes-we-can' army in action just hours after violent mobs had appeared to symbolise broken Britain". Many were heard to say, "More broomsticks than Hogwarts" as teams swept up around Clapham Junction railway station.

I read this as I was listening to a BBC radio interview with two 17 year olds in Croydon, who thought the riots were 'fun'. You can listen to the brief interview here. It was 9.30am, and the girls were still drinking stolen rose wine from the night before. They said,

"Everyone was just on a riot, going mad, chucking things, chucking bottles - it was good though. Breaking into shops - it was madness, it was good fun. It's the Governments fault. I don't know. Conservatives, whoever it is. It's the rich people who've got all the businesses, and that's why all this happened". They hoped that further crimes would follow. By the way, these two said that they had jobs.

There have been over 1500 arrests so far, with nearly 700 already brought before the courts - in Nottingham the youngest is an 11 year old girl. I await to see what 'tough' action will be meted out as promised by the Prime Minister in Parliament today.

Enough of the rioters whose aim was to destroy, let's give thanks to those dubbed the "Riot Wombles" who have turned up in their hundreds across devastated cities to help re-build. They came to work, not just to sympathise; brushes, pans and bags in hand. Parts of Britain may be broken, but these volunteers have shown that other parts are alive and well, and cares about the communities they come from, and the suffering communities further afield.

The debate has started (even though we've been there before); why did all this happen? What can be done to prevent it ever happening again. Some say it's poverty, others that it's the effect of the cuts, others that young people have nothing do. I was wondering, watching so many young people dressed in designer shoes, designer jeans and designer tops whether this was poverty. The one thing that I will say though is that the debate should focus on how to get people engaged in their local areas. Whatever the logistical problems, this has to include the young people, parents, schools, members of the local communities, central and local government, Police, the Churches and anyone with an interest. It may have been tried before over many years, but it's worth trying again if we are to have a future society that is safe for all to live, work and play in.

There is no desire on my part to demonise young people, but as they have been at the heart of every riot, it is right that the spotlight of attention is shone onto them.

I finish as I started by being grateful for the community spirit that has mobilised so many 'helpers' when the community needed them most. It really is an antidote to cretinism.

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