Once Upon A Time, I predicted a Riot (Glodwick, Oldham). At the time I had the ear of ‘those in charge’. I even managed to tell the (then) Mayor that it was about to ‘Kick Off’ but sadly, I guess my words just went down the pan. With those of the other Do Gooders.
Anyway – this Riot Malarky. It is a LOT easier to predict unrest when you are not directly tied up in it all. When you can keep a professional perspective. Maybe this is why I was unable to predict this weekend’s civil unrest Within The Home.
It occurred on a Lazy Sunday. Oh yes. It was a Lazy Sunday – but it was freezing cold. Much better to stay inside. We invited our oldest and dearest friends round with their children. Looking back, it was clear that all of the Riot Conditions were there, waiting to be fed:
– The weather.
– Three Boys aged 8,4 and 3. One Tomboy aged 7.
– A highly unusual visit that morning, to the local Pentecostal Church (courtesy of the local Beaver troop) leading to a rather giddiness of spirit in two of the kids and a growing sense of Omnipotence (on their part)
– A bizarre array of superhero costumes, plastic medieval swords, bow n’ arrows and clubs in circulation
– Four utterly exhausted parents. Two mothers, two fathers – juggling between them the usual parenthood and household stuff – plus a fascinating but draining – portfolio of jobs (management consultancy, charity management, international development and palliative community nursing…)
– Copious amounts of cheap white bread, processed ham and perhaps the most delicious and nutritious snack of all; those funny wafer ‘flying saucer’ things that contain just-enough-sherbet-to-make-you-go-crosseyed…
So. Picking over the rubble of the day, I have very much been seeing the parallels with the released ‘Riot Reviews’ of the last couple of weeks.
We had a group of individuals marauding across the entire house, trashing stuff that they would not normally have tried to demolish, pilfering items that they would not normally have just helped themselves to and generally behaving in a loutish and yobbish way with their weapon of choice.
Why did they do this? Hmmmm. It hardly merits a Government Inquiry…
The figures of authority themselves, were so knackered and (admittedly) distracted by their own affairs that they took their eye off the ball (‘Ooh! Can’t you teach your husband that we don’t all drink Builders’ Brew?!’, ‘Can you sort this Galaxy Samsung out for me, its doing my head in – I can’t transport any of my Contacts’, ‘Quick! Put something decent on the telly whilst the kids are upstairs I am sick of the bloody Smurfs!’, ‘Hey! Where has that Monster Bag of Frisby sweets gone? I hid it from the kids?’)
Today’s BBC national news headline relates the findings of the Government’s ‘Riots, Communities and Victims Panel’. It stated that the authorities had to shoulder a lot of blame for the widespread nature of the riots, due to the fact that the polices’ initial low response had “encouraged people to test reactions in other areas”.
This is perhaps similar to what my daughter told me, after being shrieked at for the bombsite on our upper floor. ‘But you came up into the loft and saw all the mess up there and didn’t seem to bother you that much! So we just carried on!’
Hmmm. Now I am by no means saying that 16 year olds who are smashing up shop fronts, stealing and causing mayhem etc. should be able to shrug their shoulders and to blame the police, or say that it was excusable because they were ‘bored’ or say that it was because of the influence of their more dodgier friends. That would be ridiculous.
And I am also not saying that parents who work hard in all areas of their lives should not be able to chill out from time to time and not have to keep an eye on the children 24/7…..(Although as parents we *DID* learn our lesso…. Especially when we found the 3 year old with a pile of dollar bills. Real ones. To a value of $140….and the fact that he was about to commence ripping them up certainly pulled us up short. (‘He found them in a drawer’ in the loft’ said his 7 year old sister after she had been ‘Training Him’ as ‘The Tamorourinist in Our Band’. ‘Just Chill Out about it!! ‘ She told me. ‘Its part of our sponsorship deal. Ok?‘)
So, we did not need to spend millions of taxpayers pounds on asking ourselves WHY our little domestic riot happened. And I count myself as someone who has been in the fortunate position of having seen this kind of stuff at the community level – both here in the UK and overseas. It really does not take a great deal of brain power to be able to try and decipher when the Shit is Gonna Hit the Fan.
So – how many more times do we have to spend inordinate wadges of dosh on unpicking WHY this kind of thing happens in our society at large?
I cannot – for the life of me – understand why the current Government doesn’t just get a group of half-intelligent parents together to use a simple analogy such as the above. I used to advise local authorities on this kind of thing. I used to sit on Government committees at Whitehall who simply wanted to know ‘what is happening OUT THERE. And why?’ I know how these things work. I know how much damned money is wasted on such investigations.
I am tired of seeing high flying management consultants and academics achieving astonishing pay-cheques, accolades and OBEs for coming out with nicely worded reports for the Government – that any bugger with an ounce of common sense could tell you. Just sit a group of parents, or relatives of small children, in a room for a morning, give them a toasted currant teacake each and provide them with a few case study examples of ‘City Riots’ . They will provide illustrative comparisons with ‘Toddler Meltdowns’ and ‘The Parallels Between Disaffected Youth’. They will furnish the Government with excellent guidance on boundaries, distraction techniques, constructive dialogue and inclusive practices. They can advise on how to keep those in authority from becoming jaded themselves – and turning them away from the need to go on strike, to have a nervous breakdown or to throw in the towel altogether…
It really, REALLY is not rocket science…
Perhaps I should set up a new consultancy. Maybe I should call it ‘NOT the Nanny State.Com’. I could save the State a huge amount of money -with a cleverly worded name that would also appeal to those with more right-wing tendencies. There would be no more picking over the remnants of Hounslow, Toxteth, Glodwick, Tottenham etc. They could use our Findings and Recommendations and the Money Saved to create some real opportunities for young people. There would be lots of Added Value for Mr Cameron as one of my ‘weaknesses’ in my worklife, seems to be that I am incapable of becoming involved in stuff that doesnt result in creative solutions i.e. Jobs and Experience. Talk for Talk’s Sake is guff, as far as I am concerned.
What I am talking about it this – picking over ‘what happened’ and filling in the gaps for the real rioters out there. Kids and young people have a real sense of mischief and creativity. Real energy and zip. Go and harness it UK Government! Young people have some incredible ideas about innovations, enterprise, new products, new ways of working ..
We should be harnessing their ingenuity and frustrations or our young people in areas such as enterprise. If we don’t – they will end up looking to criminal activity. Whether we like it or not – it’s the clever kids – from the more disadvantaged working class backgrounds – who all too often become the leading group of youth who want to ‘kick off’. The ones with ‘the motor mouths’…the ones who have been an utter pain in the arse within the classroom – because they have been such a smartarse – albeit in a non-productive way. The ones who we couldn’t reach…
Walking on the wrong side of the law is very attractive to such youth. It is more ‘glamorous’ and ‘more cool’ than trying to fit into the norms of society. You can’t be a swot because you dont have parents who are interested or capable of hot-housing you. You can’t get your head around maths or english, because you have this thing called ‘dyslexia’ or ‘dyscalculia’. Which no-one has actually been bothered to diagnose in you Even if you had let them try…. But hey, you know your patch and you know your mates and your contacts…and you know what to say and do to make it ‘kick of big-time’.
A bit of power and excitement can go a long way. All the more reason for the Government to invest in kids from these backgrounds. Rather than to bleed our taxpayers’ money on either banging them up in cells or looking at the ‘Whys’. The Whys are all too obvious..
Small people – both physically and mentally – who have high amounts of energy, passion, the inability to emotionally regulate themselves and (yes!) the potential to THINK BIG – cannot afford to be ignored for long periods of time. The minute that they start realising that the so-called figures of authority have stopped listening, we need to be careful.
Especially if you have been plying them with too many toxic colours and empty calories. Figuratively speaking, I mean.