Monday, 8 August 2011

Riots - sticks and stones and words and phrases

It has been a long time since I went to bed so frightened....   This picture did it. The woman jumping from her home in Croydon, Surrey, a few feet away from the burning furniture store. It sums up the unintended horror brought about by a complex mix of factors happening as I write.  I don't believe rioters intended this woman to be burnt alive but, in a way, that is why it is so frightening.  It is the lack of understanding of consequence.  When human emotions fuse  into a frenzy searching for an outlet and looks for an enemy - something tribal happens and that is when consequences burst out of control.  Add in bravado,  bloodrush and the bragging of those who think the same and aggression builds.  But It is not just the rioters.  

Watching the facial expressions of the pundits on TV tonight and listening to the barely concealed contempt from factions arguing and pointing and then reading through the social media I have seen the very same frenzy and build up of tension. What are we throwing tonight?  Sticks and stones or words and phrases?

We are too close - too frightened and angry - it is not yet the best time for public debate and reasoning.  This is the time for those involved to look at the picture and consider the consequences of what they planned.  This is the time for those of us who, like the woman in the picture, thought we were not involved to realise we have always been involved. We should talk with our family, neighbours and friends and try ask not only "Why this is happening?"  but also, "What was my part in it?" and then to answer "So, what needs doing now?" and more importantly, "What can I do?"

Starter for 10  Added on 15.8.11

It is heartening that most of the conversations and comments about "The Riots" in my social life and the social media (including my Facebook Page) has been thoughtful and considered.  I have been struck, most forcibly by the response of some victims who have spoken of forgiveness.  I admire that, so much, and hope I would feel the same - if personally touched by the horror of what has happened.   However, there has been an air of the labelling, and retribution in some comments I have heard and read.  But how big is this constituency?  It has been typified by the knee jerk, angry and often plain rude  "them and us" that I was concerned about when I wrote the earlier post.. So, I repeat, "What can I do?"  But I have been challnged to answer that - Well here's my starter for 10.

1.  Encourage reasoned debate amongst family and friends.
2. Try to understand "Why?" it happened by talking to those who really know how young people think and behave (not those who have an idealised view - or a demonising view of the young)
3. Try to "walk in the shoes" (maybe stolen trainers?) of those who committed the crimes.  What circumstances, background, education, values and beliefs could lead an individual, or gang to do those things?


4. Work out how we can better educate this and future generations so there is a Moral Purpose as well as a Functionality in growing up (NOTE: I'm not just talking school and curriculum here although that is part of it - I include family, friends and yes, community/society as educationalists) 

My answers  (You'll get more detail in the BLOG and on my main website) I think we educate best by:

5. Discussing morality, ethics, philosophy and beliefs much, much more and especially when we search for those values most people would agree with (I call these the "Common Goods").  These, by definition, can bind us all together irrespective of age, class, race and religion.
6. Teaching about and finding ways youngsters can experience the critcial link between action and consequence and understand not just their "independence" but our "interdependence"
7. Looking at how we can, increasingly, give and demonstrate the fragility, risk and inspiration of real responsibility to our young, as they grow into educated adults.
8. Create a sequential, stepped, behaviour and control system that rewards "common goods" behaviour.
9. Create a parallel sequential, stepped, behaviour and control system that first teaches the consequences of "common bad" behaviour and then increasingly sanctions -  disciplines and punishes the breaking of the agreed common goods.
10. Accept  that we are all role models for the eager eyed young who are ALWAYS looking for examplar peers and adults they want to emulate...(be we bankers, politicians, teachers, parents, bloggers, drunks)

Any thoughts?



    DF I don't want the rioters to be part of my society!
    14 August at 21:01 • Like

    PH: Matters will only get worse so long as we keep thinking about "them" and "us"
    15 August at 16:49 • Like

    Leafman Reply: I wrote last night and it disappeared... if DF (and others) think like that it will ensure riots. Pick a quote from: "Love thy neighbour as thyself...Hug a hoody....No man is an island...When they came for the Jews I did nothing...turn the other cheek" and then argue against it....
    15 August at 17:20 • Like

    DF: Load of bollocks, John. If your daughter or wife gets raped or killed, who is the victim. Probably, the rapist because his dad subjected him to mental cruelty.
    15 August at 19:27 • Like

    DF: You say my attitude will lead to more riots; your attitude will lead to some strong government being over disciplinarian with the backing of the electorate. And don't come to me with that "when they came for the Jews" stuff. I am Jewish! The modern Israelis saw what happened when the Jews did nothing to help themselves. The Sabras will not let that happen.
    15 August at 19:30 • Like

    DF: No man is an island! True, but that goes for each and every looter and criminal. If they are allowed to get away with it, then what kind of world do we live in. I don't want to live in your world!
    15 August at 19:32 • Like

    DF: Also, if you turn the other cheek, all that happens is you get bashed more often. These people are not protesters; they damage the communities in which they live. I don't want them flogged or shot, just subject to the laws of the land.
    15 August at 19:34 • Like

    DF: Also to PH's point, if them break the law and we don't and what is more we condone their behaviour, what is the world coming to. They are creating the them and us, not me.
    15 August at 19:36 • Like

  2. Leafman Reply:

    Let me be clear - I am not, in any way condoning rioting, looting, criminality. (see my BLOG). I do want criminals to face the law and justice. I am arguing that we need to understand and act on the the fact that we ARE a society and that means we have to act, as a society "together", and deal with this lack of moral compass, criminality etc . If we start to say "they" (whoever they are) are not part of us...that is the slippery slope to despair and anarchy.
    15 August at 20:56 • Like • 2 people

    TS: Seems to be some misunderstanding of what you were trying to say, John.
    16 August at 16:11 • Like

    Leafman Reply: I'm afraid so Tony - that's sometimes the way but the debate goes on...
    16 August at 19:37 • Like

    TS: Do you think there is something rotten in Britain, John?
    16 August at 20:30 • Like

    TS: Nice word, is it new?
    16 August at 20:36 • Like
    Leafman Reply: I honestly do not think there is anything rotten in Britain - or should I say..more rotten that at any time in the past..or indeed in any other country. In my view the human condition does not change - the capacity for valour, nobility and savagery and tribalism is in all of us (given the conditions). The art of a society is to balance the needs of all. When the few (at either end of the wealth, or morality scale) forget the many - there are always tensions. And, if those tensions get too great - they break out in anger - violence - criminality - war.... It is also important to mark and value the many acts of compassion, kindness and support that have happened in this last week - that is also part of the human condition.
    16 August at 20:42 • Like

    TS: Right, John, yet "conditions" in the so called "developed" world have changed considerably. Don't want to get bogged down here, John, but we might need a definition of the word "condition".
    16 August at 21:12 • Like

    Leafman Reply: Good point Tony! I meant condition to mean state, or characteristics (in relation to humans) and circumstances in relation to events.... If I have the energy I'll look it up (or chose another word next time (I'm off to the hills tomorrow and so expect a delay in responses!)
    16 August at 22:45 • Like

    TS: So, conditions in Britain are not the same as say conditions in Senegal which could explain why values in senegal are not the same as values in Britain. enjoy your hill walking. We were near Grenoble for two weeks and managed to get some nice walking in.
    17 August at 11:07 • Like

    Leafman Reply: Now this is interesting and helpful (I see why you asked about defining "condition") I think the circumstances in Senegal are different and so the tensions are different. I believe that the human characteristics are the same amongst the Senegalese, as they are anywhere else and so.... I would argue that the reactions to the circumstances are just as they would be in Britain - if the circumstances were the same (that's tough for some to accept) What I am arguing against is the view (from some commentators) That "we" are different and better than "them". I am just as angry about what has been done in the riots (and by some Senegalese) but my beliefs will not allow me to say - ALL who riot, or cause damage or wear hoodies, or are in a gang, or for that matter are: black, Jewish, Moslem, Senegalese or whatever are by definition subhuman and "not like us". There but for the grace of God...or circumstances goeth us.... Cheers enjot grenoble and no riotous behavior!
    17 August at 11:49 • Like

    TS: Yes, I understood what you were trying to say and agree about "human nature" being the same so it's not the rioters that need attention it's the society because once Senegalese people change countries they adopt the "conditions" in which they live. And of course it's much more difficult to change society than to punish offenders.
    18 August at 09:15 • Like


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