Riot of culture(s)…
So in a ‘smash and grab’ lifestyle of disloyalty we have seen Modern Britain’s reasons for protest and rioting distorted by greed versus conformity to genuine disaffection. Hard to pin down the specifics, but isn’t that the 21st century?
Yesterday’s big debate at Birmingham Town Hall led by radio 4’s Today programme, chaired by James Naughtie, was an epic three hour session in an epic space including specialist panel members from cops to ex- gangsters to film makers and activists of old arguing and presenting their perspectives and thoughts.
Even though opinions were divided at times, the debate I felt, brought the Birmingham community together in collectively trying to understand, contemplate and look positively to the future. It also provided a space to acknowledge the defining moments that brought society together to fix up the mess and transforming leadership witnessed by the nation, demonstrated by the father whose son was brutally run down and murdered for example.
As the debate kicked off some of the old wounds bled, for example Police intimidation of Black communities, deaths in custody, and how race relations in particular cities was problematic, London and Nottingham being mentioned - however this time the Police issue was juxtaposed with support and sympathy from the public for the Police during the disturbances. I must admit when I saw aimless rioters grabbing greedily, burning indiscriminately or the mugging of a wounded student I was with the Police too – inspite of being on the receiving end of racist policing and that recently!
Also mentioned were the ‘under class’, the haves versus the have-nots, and how communities, families and parents were and had failed young people in a competitive world obsessed by material, weak on enlightenment, knowledge and wisdom… all simmering by material pressure, media x-factor hype exacerbated by recent scandals by our political elite committing fraud, shattering integrity and stealing from hard working tax payers giving rise to dysfunctional politics and MPs detached from the realities of the ‘hood(s)’ and a Government without vision.
So a lot of blaming of the ‘other’ but we are responsible in some way surely? The solutions voiced included ‘real people’ not the elite classes making choices and decisions (perhaps more of the Soho road media moghuls, Sangat TV style of interventions), old fashion family values retuning as well as traditional yet modernised schooling, transparent politics, cleaner Policing, stronger communities and neighbourhoods where neighbours connect, stronger values, morality and spirit, earlier interventions, less demonization and stereotyping of young people, minority communities, and the working class, alternative punishments to those dished out as a consequence of the riots especially the young vulnerable people caught up by peer pressure. These were some of the general sentiments I tuned into.
In spite of all the blame culture, there was a recognition by the audience of some of the positive work happening in the UK for example Perry Beeches school moving from rock bottom to a 100% pass rate of 5 A* to C to the Fire Services community engagement programme. There was little mention of how creativity, art and culture could play a role. Here lies a huge solution…
Skinder Hundal - Chief Executive NAE - www.nae.org.uk