London Riots: The Chickens Come Home To Roost

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 I wasn’t in England at the time of the riots three months ago, I was co-facilitating workshops in Eastern Indonesia.  Here was what I wrote then.

A friend phoned saying she was watching footage of ‘London burning and people fighting in the street’ on Indonesian TV, she didn’t know the word for ‘riot’.  When I got round to looking into it I first checked a news source that I know to be sensationalist and unreliable; the BBC.  I immediately learned the troubles were in an area my brother lives in and so wanted to know more.  In order to understand anything you have to look deeper than the mainstream media and its protection of government and consequently big business.

The easiest alternative media to access is international where I found one of the rioters speaking; one with some sense of perspective that would never be deliberately aired in the mainstream.   The guy was explaining how around eight weeks ago over 2,000 young people from the starting ground of the riots had peacefully marched to MET headquarters because of police brutality in the area, nobody was interested, not the police and not the press.  I also delved into a few blogs by those in the affected areas and asked friends for their take, friends that live in the affected areas.  As well as a description of the carnage in their communities they described the context of a people that have long been ignored and condemned.   The recent cuts have also created a situation where these people cannot go to college and are forced onto a jobs market that isn’t there.  The context may be hard to swallow for those from luckier parts of the country but you should appreciate that government and the media are good at putting problems in boxes and segregating issues… and people.  This is not to excuse violence but to gain some idea of the reasons why this it is happening.

There has been much racism circulating that the troubles are totally due to the ‘melting pot’ that is London, or ‘chavs’, or those needing financial assistance.  If you look beyond the mainstream press that fuels this racism you will discover that highly educated people, squatters from middle class families, and also those that refuse to rely on the state for anything are also rioting.  You will discover that there are well targeted attacks of big business as well as thoughtless attacks on citizens.  I care for neither but we should appreciate that the violence is multilayered if we are to comment and enter discussions.  If we are to condemn the rioters we should also condemn MPs (expenses and unnecessary cuts), the media (constant lies and Murdoch), and big business (over one hundred billion in unpaid taxes every year).  These types of violence are also immeasurable, financially and socially; but who gave a fuck a few months ago when Vodafone was let off six billion in unpaid taxes while the NHS is being cut by a similar figure?  That is why I agree with the sentiment of the riots but clearly they are misguided and a method of outrage that ultimately will lead to self-harm I fear.

I don’t claim to know the communities well but if I was in England I would go up to London to be with my brother and his three children in the very areas we see in the news.  I would talk to them and their neighbors to hear how they interpret the violence, not just the sensationalists views or those that fit my thinking but just listen to as many people as possible.  I might even help with the ‘post-riot’ clean up that some are trying to organise – some rioters and non-rioters alike.  You cannot rely on the BBC and corporate media for your information, they will soon be advocating the use of rubber bullets, which make no mistake about it means live fire as has been witnessed in their testing ground, Palestine.

England is not some perfect middle class wet dream where everyone aspires to home ownership, a nine-to-five job and a nice car.  There are some real problems that have been too easily accepted for too long, and allowed to stagnate under both governments.  Now that your attention has been demanded perhaps you should seek better information and listen rather than condemn.  Neither should this be seen as some sort of victory for the left.  When riots occur it is condemnation of the whole society; as well as the government they are equally saying fuck the unions and the activists.  After all these daisies are merely using loud voices and pointing fingers as workers as sacked and having their pay cut.  For the past few four days I have been working with a group called Ayo Indonesia on an island called Flores, they have so much to teach us in England about community and about supporting vulnerable communities, it is an honor to spend time with them.  So these are just a few things I have learned while being very busy in rural Indonesia, nearly thirty thousand miles away, so to I say expect better than blind condemnation and racism from friends in Southampton and around the UK is an understatement.

I’m interested in hearing what others think but in the words of Steve Biko, whose death sparked riots in South Africa because he was also murdered by police, “I write what I like”.

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