Whatever else can be said about Mr Duggan’s death, there was a distinct failure of Police to communicate with his family. That a protest concerning this was hijacked by rioters seems to be a difficult thing for anyone to have predicted. Once it was however it should perhaps have been more quickly picked up by police that this might trigger copycat events elsewhere. Once the copycat theme had been identified it also seemed to take a while for the idea that the rioters were to some extent organised to filter through. Perhaps one of the important discussions for coming weeks might be concerning the feasibility and advisability of switching of mobile phone transceivers during such incidents. This might not be either practicable or advisable, but it perhaps needs discussing, and there may be other alternatives that are more feasible which might come out of such a discussion
In the early stages of the riots, it seems fairly clear that those with authority in the Metropolitan Police were anxious that they did not pile more deaths at police hands on top of Mr Duggan’s death. Unfortunately this meant that they were too slow reacting to the escalation, and the form the escalation took. It is probably not a coincidence that the authority structure within the Met is under severe strain following the News Corporation Hacking Scandal, and the subsequent resignations of several of its most senior officers.
The reaction of politicians has been dire in the extreme, partly dragging them away from their holidays seemed like attempting to extract a nine inch nail from a concrete block, with a pair of tweezers and a toothpick. We all know it’s a tough job, and everyone needs a rest, but if you want a quiet life don’t try to get into government. And once they had been airlifted from their Caribbean beaches their contribution to the debate has been somewhat dire. Michael Gove’s statements on News night (9-8-11) seemed singularly dismal, Boris Johnson ummed aared and erred his way through an attempted conversation with a normal person, Nick Clegg’s conversation with a member of the public was only marginally less dithering. David Cameron seems to be hoping no-one will notice he was Prime Minister at the time and will blame everyone else. The ‘Olympics’ angle has been beaten to death by politicians, jumped up and down on, chopped up into little bits and is due to be recycled as ballot papers for the next election for London Mayor. The only politician I have heard make any real sense through the whole debacle was David Lamming, Tottenham’s MP.
Predictably the Left have pointed to Social deprivation, and how youth are disconnected from their communities, and the right have made it clear that the culprits are mindless, degenerate thugs. Neither side seemingly able to acknowledge that the rioters were behaving the way they did because of who they are and the situations they find themselves in, being neither mindless nor absolved of their own responsibility for what they did. Interestingly many of those in front of Judges on Tuesday were ‘previously of good character’ and one at least stated his profession as ‘ chartered surveyor’ with others also being employed in good positions. Which goes to show that an important theme is the power of the crowd: which famously has an IQ equal to the lowest intelligence of the most dim-witted member of the crowd divided by the number of people in the crowd.
Whilst politicians were spouting their usual rhetoric, Joe public quickly made up it’s mind that the rioters were wimps and cowards. Twitter redeemed itself by giving people a way to organise and snub the rioters by cleaning up after them. And led by Turks and Sikhs the public were quite quick to come up with a way to get even, police your own communities. This may well have been more influential in creating the somewhat quieter night on London’s streets on Tuesday Night (9-8-11) than the 16000 police dispatched to defend London’s streets.
I think this last is more important than many realise: I have wondered for some time about how reluctant many people are to challenge bad behaviour by some (emphasise some) young people. Sometimes feeling a little isolated when I have objected to some swearing in front of my young children for instance. Too often it seems that society as a whole sees the behaviour of young people as, ‘someone else’s problem’.
Perhaps a good lesson to take from these riots, is that we don’t just have a right to stand up for ourselves and to expect to be treated with respect by young people, we have a duty (emphasise duty) to demand to be treated with respect, for the good of our communities as a whole.
One young woman interviewed on a street by BBC news was talking about young people being treated with respect, and that when they are they will give respect back. Which demonstrated to me the nature of the problem. All people are due, ‘respect for persons’ the normal every day respect we all deserve, anything else has to be earned, and most often earned through demonstrating responsibility, something the young woman in question clearly did not seem to realise.
Many of the youths involved in the different riots in different parts of the UK over the last few days, seem to substitute fear for respect, and only crave the fear they substitute for respect because they have so little self respect.
So this is my conclusion, these riots are a monumental expression of a lack of self respect among the youths involved, exaggerated by the influence of the crowd. The self respect and courage of communities that have decided that they will assert their own authority within their neighbourhoods is to be applauded. Particularly where they are also taking responsibility for clearing up the mess left by the riots, there are dangers of a ‘vigilantism’ associated with this, but not so great a danger as the greatness of the advantage of taking responsibility within our own communities, rather than waiting for the Police, or the council, or the politicians to sort it out, because as we have seen sometimes it takes too long for the establishment to get it’s act together.