london riots

Protect us from the hooded youth

Youth

The destruction across my home of London town over the past few days has broken my heart. The streets I grew up around, and where I’ve always felt so safe, were turned into scenes from a bad zombie film. The department store where I first met Father Christmas was smashed, burned and plundered for the sheer hell of it. My home suddenly seemed insufficiently secure to protect my baby. I am angry as hell at these rioters for making me feel like this about the place I love so much. They’ve shown the very worst extreme of individualist greed, engendered by capitalism, that Babyface discussed far more eloquently yesterday.

They’ve broken our trust in our homes and our neighbours. And, in doing so, they’ve taken the public eye off the issue of what really happened to Mark Duggan, and created a swell of public sympathy for the Met.

But angry as I am with the rioters, my new mother anger hormones are getting worked up even more by the reaction of the average unthinking, knee-jerking, Facebook-ranting punter: calling for the army; calling for a locking-up-and-throwing-away-the-key; calling for more police; calling for ‘tougher measures’; or calling for any other vague and un-thought-through plan to solve a problem they don’t understand.

And I’m hearing a lot of names for these rioters: ‘scum’, ‘chavs’, ‘yobs’, ‘thugs’ etc. All terms which mark these people out as being a different breed to us. Perhaps they’ve always been there, lurking in caves between underground stations, feeding on rats, and biding their time before emerging into the streets to quench their thirst for ‘criminality’. Put like this, it becomes easier to fire a water cannon at them, shoot them with a rubber bullet, or carry any of the more barbaric actions suggested by contributors to the Daily Mail’s website comments section.

Because they’re not like us. They look remarkably like the people who, last week, sat next to us on the bus, queued with us in the supermarket, or worked alongside us in the office. But they’re now different. Throw the book/truncheon/bullet at ‘em. Far easier to do so than to engage with these people, and try and work out why they did this. And it’s certainly a lot easier to do so than to consider whether we might have anything to do with these people feeling like a sub-species.

The rioters who betray their neighbours with violence are, of course, spewed from the same flawed machine that produces the armchair critics who betray their neighbours with dehumanisation.

I certainly don’t have the answers (beyond knowing that only Marxism-Leninism can set you free) and, like everyone else, I’m just praying that it’s over now and we can sweep up, move on, and learn some lessons. What I am taking from this is the crucial importance that I raise my child to feel included in society. To respect and love his neighbours. To know that we are all in this together. And not to call people names.

DEG GDH Fox - the hooded youth

DEG GDH Fox - the hooded youth

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London’s Burning – the answer lies in the people

London’s burning. If socialism is about anything beyond economics, it’s about solidarity and community. If you’re a Londoner, get down to your clean-up (see list below). Agitate for something better to come out of this. Meet your neighbours. Forge links strong enough to resist the hopeless kids, and give them hope. Leadership and direction will emerge from this. The answer doesn’t lie in the army or the water canon. It lies in the people.

There’s been a programme designed to atomise us for decades now. It’s working. Last night we all stayed in our houses, as frightened individuals and nuclear families, just as Thatcher told us we were. There is such a thing as society. It is the foundation of socialism. Let’s go outside our front doors, bump fists with our neighbours, and set to work building a society that we want. We’re living in the society the ruling class wants. The consumer fetishism that makes the latest daps so attractive that you’ll smash in a storefront to get them; the atomised bellum omnium inter omnes of late-capitalism with the institutions of working class life almost comprehensively destroyed and replaced with the institutions of consumerist life; the attraction of competing with gangs in other postcodes to see who can torch the most buildings, rob the most stuff and get the most media coverage because our conception of status is so fucked up that celebrity is the only way of measuring it; all of this is the cultural logic of what’s been going on in the economy for decades. It doesn’t excuse it – far from it. But it explains how we got here. Cos we didn’t get here by chance. We got here by design, and this is the excess, spilling over the top.

Time to press ‘reset’, comrades. Enough is enough. Rebuild the bonds of solidarity and community. Reject inequality and fivolous consumerist bullshit designed to atomise us. None of us wants to live like this. None of us. So let’s build something better. Out of joy and hope, solidarity and community, freedom and equality. Start now, at the clean-up. Meet your neighbours. Plan a better world. Don’t wait for politicians and leaders of the police force to do it. They won’t. You need to do it. We need to do it. Let’s start now.

 Details of the clean-up (9/8/11). Some offer hashtags. Check twitter for news.

Bethnal Green road in front of the money store at 10am. We should be well underway on roman road by then and hopefully catch you up

Bow #riotcleanup Roman Road, Tackle Shop. 9am

Croydon #riotcleanup – meet East Croydon Station, 10am – thanks @lucyorlulu for this one, follow her (via @artistsmakers)

Chalk Farm tube, 10am Tuesday morning. Bring brooms, bin-bags, and wear decent gloves and shoes if you can.

CAMBERWELL: St Giles Church 10am #riotcleanup

CAMDEN: 11am, Chalk farm 10am, Roman Rd Hackney 9am, Clapham 9am, Peckham 10am, Westbourne Grove

CLAPHAM JUNCTION: Either The Falcon Pub or Nando’s on Northcote at 9am

Ealing meet up is at the Horse at 10am

CROYDON: East Croydon Station, 10am

HACKNEY: Town hall at 10am #riotcleanup

LEWISHAM: Lewisham shopping centre 9am

LIVERPOOL: 9am at SMITHDOWN ASDA or 12 at BOMBED OUT CHURCH #riotcleanup

PECKHAM: Library from 8am

WESTBOURNE GROVE: Ledbury 9am

– Check out http://twitter.com/#!/Riotcleanup for the very latest updates

 

Let’s salvage something from all this, and build something of joy and hope. We need to show we have limitless wells of both. As the song below tells us: smashing a Starbucks window won’t set you free.