Thursday 15 September 2011

The Reason for The Riots?


I have had this post going round in my head for weeks and weeks, and I probably won't remember all my many and varied thoughts on the subject now.

What I know is, I did not like all the middle class hypothesizing I heard going on, in the immediate aftermath, and was very glad that I left the country, on 14th August, to go to Ireland for 16 days.

I have heard a lot more sense since I came back though.

Anyway, I believe there are so so so many reasons and they are all valid, but to varying degrees, plus different participants had different reasons.

For some it was just boredom, and copy cat, and being in the wrong crowd. For others it was their way of showing off, and taking action that would feel empowering whilst also having a reward - the loot.

However there are deeper reasons at play here, like an undercurrent, like a backdrop, and to me, a big part of it, is our loss of community.

My parent's generation saw the mother being at home, and people working locally. Adults were part of the community and people knew each other. That has a "policing" effect if you know someone might tell your Mum what you were up to. I ran in front of a car when I was little and my Mum already knew about it before I got home.

Now, Mum and Dad both work, and frequently, they commute to work, and don't work locally. The teenagers roam the streets and have a sense that the streets belong to them. Multi-national, global, uniform companies that make all highstreets look the same don't help with this phenomenon. No surprise that the stories that were the most endearing after the riots, were about the entrepreneurs who had lost businesses or premises. Those shops are the ones that pull at our heart strings and generate local loyalty, but too many of them are already gone.

It's not that long since I had my maternity leave (I went back to work in April), and I got to know my community. I shopped locally, got my hair & beauty done locally, and you know what, because I am part-time, I still do. And, yes, the adults have left town. It's mainly the elderly, Mums, and those out of work, that I bump into. But I have got to know the shop owners in my area, and I would rally round if anything happened to any of them, but (1) that feeling is on the decline (2) shops like that are on the decline, and (3) the multi-national "chain" shops, don't generate the same loyalty from people. No surprise that a lot of the shops that were looted were faceless branded shops selling the products that teenagers like to own anyway.

Our teenagers need us, and more importantly, they need role models. They don't care about our highstreets if we don't. They don't have a sense of loyalty to the community if we don't. They won't stay at home in the evening if we don't even know or acknowledge they're at home. We are chasing our "cat's" tails and the "mice" are playing. No surprise either that it was the Summer holidays when boredom was even more of an issue.

What will these teenagers be like as adults? Anyway they are signalling to us that something needs to be done. We can't carry on like this.

Too many things have changed in one generation:

- Mums working has increaed
- less people go to church
- teenagers get a sense of purpose and direction from gangs instead of from their family and/or their community
- the Police are held to ransom by the media and trying to do the right thing (or in this case the wrong thing)
- credit cards have encouraged a culture where the ownership of no item is off limits

I felt compelled to write about this subject even though I have been putting it off, and I thought Ireland would have put it out of my mind. It effected me deeply, as it was very much on my home turf: I went to Junior School in Tottenham, my in-laws live there, I went to secondary school in Wood Green, my Aunt lives there, and I live in Enfield.... so I am not some middle class yummy mummy writing this from an unaffected area, with my sociology textbook in my hand...

This post doesn't seem to have the depth that my thoughts have had the last few weeks, but maybe I am not in the writing "zone" - I haven't blogged in quite some time so I seem to have lost my muse!

Bye for now,
Liska (not like me to do a post without a photo)