London Riots: I Have A Dream… Alright, A Fantasy

Apart from a few misguided nihilists who revel in disorder – forgetting, of course that anarchist rule would mean no running water, no electricity and no sanitation, how would you charge your BlackBerrys, guys? – the general consensus of England seems to be that the sporadic rioting of last week was a BAD THING.

But like the fairytales that parents used to read to their kids before it became de rigueur to release them onto the streets at seven, with nothing but a hoodie and an account with one of the larger social networks, there could be a happy ending forged from all this distress. And one that doesn’t involve a hastily arranged marriage of convenience to a troll.

Here are my post-riot dreams for the future. About as likely as Joey Barton becoming a peace envoy, but as amusing and lighthearted as the notion nonetheless.

Greater Social Cohesion: In the first day or two of the disorder, politicians and reporters repeatedly queried where the communities were. Upon realising that the police were essentially prevented from taking decisive action to quell the disorder by the government and the media, several residents in locations where trouble had flared took it upon themselves to protect their properties. You know, like a community.

Obviously, the word ‘vigilante’ was dusted off, fears of running battles were articulated in a trembling whisper, and we all temporarily became frightened of the ‘communities’ we had been searching so hard for. Funnily enough though, in real life the effect was empowering. Twitter groups appeared, motivating individuals to get together and clean up their local area. Support was organised and money raised for local businesses and individuals who livelihoods had been destroyed.

What if this realisation snowballed? If people realised that they actually could have the power to make England represent what the majority of it’s citizens would like it to be? If people realised that by being united and standing up to anti-social behaviour we can actually make it go away? Imagine if we realise that the politicians aren’t the ones’ who hold the power for social change?

Democracy, I think they call it.

Better Understanding: The wider realisation that ghettoisation of people considered to be troublesome does not make them, or their problems, go away. Seriously, the only way that this kind of thing can be prevented is by an acceptance by all of us that just because the world looks rosy from our perspective, for many people, it’s bloody awful. It is convenient for us to believe that people brought up on housing estates were ‘born bad’ and should be kept separate from the public at large, but that approach is something akin to ignoring a gangrenous limb and covering your face with make up – the rot will bring you down in the end.

The onus is not just on us. We must find a way to communicate to the disenfranchised that being brought up in poverty is not an excuse for anti-social behaviour. Not in an accusatory way – the time for accusation has passed – but in a constructive way. These people can talk and think for themselves, y’know. They’re not evil and they’re far from stupid.

Actually, they’re just like us.

Greater Support For The Police: If you had told Acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Tim Godwin just two weeks ago that he would have the support of the people over the government, he may have asked for an enquiry. But after the News International scandal tsunami’d it’s way through Scotland Yard, it seems that the London Riots have been the best thing to have happened to the organisation in years.

A poll has revealed that a significant majority of those asked felt that the police had done a good job in dealing with the riots, while David Cameron had not. The poll also revealed that many people felt the police had not been provided by the resources necessary to deal with such incidents but there was confidence that the law had been applied fairly. Of course, police forces cannot take all the credit for resolving the problems; poor weather conditions had played a part (apparently the drive to nick shoes and iPhones was dampened by rain on Wednesday evening) but while Godwin might be in line for a budget boost, he might want to consider putting in a request for a big weather machine to roll out in future riots.

Can the Met Police consolidate on this success, break down the barriers that have formed between certain sections of society and earn some semblance of respect from the population at large? Or will they arse it up by shooting some poor innocent member of the public whose only crime is to board a train or carry a chair leg in a bag?

Let’s try to remain optimistic, shall we?

Image: demotix

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