Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Reading the Riots

Protestors on the streets of Syria risk death daily in search of revolution, those in the square in Egypt are disillusioned with theirs, while the people now taking to the streets of Moscow can’t remember the Russian revolution, but are feeling increasingly like the ones who started it. By contrast, those responsible for the riots across UK towns and cities in August already had freedom and democracy, didn’t know what to do with it, so just nicked trainers.  
Reading the Riots is the recently released investigation into the summer disorder by the London School of Economics and the Guardian newspaper. They interviewed 270 out of an estimated 15,000 rioters, a process that revealed an undercurrent of resentment and antipathy towards the police. Trolling through the 1.3 million words generated from first-hand accounts of those involved in the unrest, researchers found that stop and search practices were one obvious blot on the report card. However, this policy was seen by most as just one symptom of a larger epidemic of police negativity towards young people, and a failure to engage with communities. Sir Hugh Orde, the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers acknowledged that there were “frictions”. Yup, and more than a serving of Savlon will sooth, it would seem.
One might imagine that faced with a pimpled army of hormone high hooligans, the last instinct of anyone juggling with a full set of balls would be to hug a hoodie. But, unless we crack open this particular can of worms to see what makes them wriggle, they’re liable to ruin the lawn again.
Writing in the Guardian this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams questioned whether, with hard times ahead, “we have the energy to invest what’s needed in family and neighbourhood and school to rescue those who think they have nothing to lose.” He has a point. However, alongside those politicians seduced into dismissing it all as mindless criminality, thereby absolving themselves of any culpability for the perceived plight of the those with no prospects, it speaks of where we have evolved to, that there are those looking beyond the looting, asking why.
One imagines that after the dust has settled, Vladimir Putin too will sit down, cross-legged on his favourite bean bag, a frothy flagon of hot chocolate in hand, and enquire of his fellow Muscovites what could possibly have furrowed their brows…

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