I start this piece with an R.I.P for Mark Duggan.
I know there is no ‘Rewind It Please’ to save him. But, his death cannot be cast aside as a mere business-as-usual police address of gang culture, using Operation Trident as the excuse. Why was he shot? He did not discharge his weapon; though the initial reports were that he had. Why would he have warranted a ‘shoot to kill’ order? Why was he carrying a gun?
The cabbie, who is the unbiased witness, is still in a state of shock and has yet to comment. Concrete explanations from the IPCC are still pending. Admission of the modus operandi rife in how law and order agents treat the communities they have no respect for, still pending. Smiley Culture ‘stabbed’ himself in police custody; Ian Tomlinson fell by himself; and Jean Charles de Menezes – he was guilty for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Well, Mark Duggan didn’t shoot himself, so what really, really happened? We ask again.
So, this young man calls for a ‘Rewind It Please’. A poignant call from the street about the street, reactions to the street and those who govern. There is always hope. Even for those who took to the streets rioting, burning and looting. I am not going to condone, or justify their actions. I do not condone their actions of destruction and violence. But I am going to say whatever poison injected into our children, (and it has to be a ‘WE’), WE also now need to find the remedy to heal them, listen to them and find solutions for how we begin to parent our Generation Lost.
The commentaries on this issue have been varied and I am writing this to highlight it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. Especially the ugly. Because until we address the ugly in all layers of our governmental, societal, business and economic mandates; there will be no cure, and the disaffected, marginalized and disillusioned will keep coming back in ever-increasing waves of violence and disorder. Can we really afford not to address it now? The flames have licked us aghast, the mindless looting horrified and angered us, telling us of lost respect for self, for morality, for our communities, and especially, for hope.
We have had ‘Sick Society’ as an explanatory phrase from David Cameron, but with no concrete addressing of the issues that threw this incident out of the gun and knife filled streets and into our TV sets. If you don’t live, or never have lived in inner city areas, in or near council estates, then the scenes of marauding gangs of hoodies – boys and girls alike – will be a shock. But let me tell you this is only the scratching, the surface. If you really want to know, go to these communities, sit a while, and then reign down judgement. I know firsthand, so this is not some armchair musings of a person removed or in a bubble. Sitting in comfort of suburbia with my apple and expounding. No. I lived in it, was taught by it and learned from it.
I can tell you, I watched children who unaware of what they did not have, grow into adolescence. Watched as their once bright beautiful faces contorted into a hard, stone eyed glaze staring out from the painful realization of what they had to surmount. The dawning of a daunting reality. That they really had no vested future they could discern, or find means to navigate one. There were none vested for them. Youth clubs shutting down due to no funding yet millions are spent on buildings, wars and saving legal looters. With no access to Youth Leaders who could help and guide, maybe not all, but at least stop some slipping through the gaps that are ever widening. What did we really expect is/was going to happen?
‘Who the fuck are you to walk up to us and talk to us?’ is a question I was once asked. I replied ‘I could be your big sister and I’ve lived around here for 12 years, and I’ve seen some of you since you were knee high’. ‘You’re still well arrogant though, just walking up to man asking questions about your bike’. Long story, but the short of it is I managed an uproar of laughter from 10 boys ranging 14-20; they could not believe I was significantly older than they were or knew where some of them lived and their mothers!
I thought about that exchange, and other than the ‘Back off bruv. I know her.’ statement made by their obvious leader quietly perched on some neighbours fence; I still think it was because I did not approach them with judgement; or fear; or ignorant assumptions about who they might be. I acknowledged their existence and presence; made it clear I was part and of my/our area; which in those days they fiercely defended against other ‘gangs’. (Territory is a huge deal. So, the fact areas were trashed makes me think it isn’t as clear cut as it appears either. Some of destruction and devastation may have been wielded by those not of the area, but coming into it for the sole purpose of causing destruction.) I got “Aiight’s’ and nods as I went about minding my own business, though with my roving eye on all the business around me. Especially the lesson of how my bike got lifted (no joke); and why I walked up to them in the first place. That is another story and one not really necessary to tell here. But, I tell you this, living around a throng of youth whose spark convolute from bright-eyed dreams to the flagrant anger of the daily humdrum of unemployment and no way out, is truly something to behold. We, as a society, need to start beholding it and making it our own to remedy. We are all responsible for the outcome of this, and for next the generation to come. There is nowhere to hide now; it has been laid bare for the world to see; and it’s not just a ‘London thing’. Whether we like it or not, the events of the last week has made this an issue for us all. Street kid or no street kid.
Russell Brand was, to put it in simplistic terms, ‘spot on’. I applaud his post ‘Big Brother isn’t watching you’.
Nathianel Tapley offered a blunt balancer for the condemner, and the condemned. Highlighting exactly that it is only perspective (and dare I say it class bias) which condemns one groups action, and absolves another of the same.
David Starkey opened up the blame the blacks forum which has been insidiously cultivated in the media images. He busted out open in explicitly offensive terms, what some people were thinking, but only implying in images, flippant remarks and ‘knowing’ exchanges.
To Starkey, I say this: Most people of non-white ethnicity will tell you we know people who think like you do. We work with them, live in communities with them, we might even have dated someone from their families, or had them over to dinner. The fact that you have ‘come out’ will, hopefully, give a platform to have this issue as an open discourse. Though you haven’t done any thorough research into the history of rap music, or any due diligence on the diversity and richness of ‘black’ culture; this is one of the elements of British society which needs addressing. It must be addressed, if there is ever to be a real, leveled playing field to negotiate a multi-cultural society. I do know there is no reasoning with you until the racist in you is given ‘amazing grace’. Let’s us help you along the path of enlightenment, as unlike yourself, we Black people know what it is to carry a burden bigger than those of our making:
David Starkey, I hope you will see beyond your arrogant self aggrandized ego and assumed intellectual rigour. To disallow the other guests to finish a sentence, or even provide a complete response to your racist statement, tells us all about you; and that all your words be silenced in turn.
In short, if this is a respected intellectual of the British intelligentsia then herein is the problem, and one which the children, who burn, loot and stare blank into the face of law and order without a flinch of regard feel. Then, know it is because they know first hand the bias of the Starkey’s and his kindred. They live the bias every day. The fact that it was not just black children, but also white children, required some bullshit explanation for which David Starkey had to find a root cause. Because to admit that the poison is a British homemade socio-economic and political one, would mean to accept responsibility. Thus shattering and, excuse the pun, ‘burning all illusion’.
All week, there was the call for the UK Rap scene to stand up and put their hands up in condemnation or support. Both are filled with futility. How can they openly support without retribution from the media (who would scapegoat them anyway ref David Starkey); or condemn it lest they be outcast by the very core of where they have come from, and still look to for support. Ultimately, the likes of Chipmunk, Tynchie Stryder and Tinie Tempah’s horizons may have broadened beyond their wildest dreams (and I am glad for it); they are the new role models and template to follow for the ones still there. The responsibility and weight of that, which I am sure is heavy in their consciousness, is not an easily navigable path. Especially, when credibility can become a matter of life or death. Besides, if you’re new to Grime then it will all be revelatory. Those who have had an ear out since its inception know it has always been the screaming from the UK streets, troubadour style, from the children trapped in desolate and claustrophobic concrete jungles. So, Wretch 32 got a (well deserved) write-up in The Evening Standard. The Observer gave a ‘Rap Responds to the London Riot’ with a back catalogue of ‘get to know’ anthems. I want to repost Kate Tempest’s ‘Cannibal Kids’ to highlight that they have been speaking and telling us to listen in many varied forms. Are our ears now open?
It took a death to catalyst what was waiting to happen. What is sad is that Mark Duggan’s death became obfuscated in the opportunism and chaos that followed. Those who took to the street had no cohesion of purpose on his death as a galvanizing issue, and there is another clue. Brewed over years of being left on the way side but bombarded about what the value systems of the society they live in, and its measures of worthiness and success. Are we really surprised then that all that mattered was getting some free bounty?
To be clear, it was not just kids or people from areas of poverty who were involved. A millionaire’s daughter was involved; an olympic ambassador was involved; a social worker with children was involved. The list goes on and it indicates one thing. The problem is not just a street one. It is the very fabric of this culture, this society, this world we have created where success and inclusion are measured by money, mobility, and accumulation of things as status symbols. Why would hard work, discipline, perseverance forged from sound ethics and morality be the measuring standard? From Government to the Corporations, Individual International scammers, are people cutting corners, looting from the people with bogus expenses claims, making underhand deals to broker power propaganda with the Media, the police selling stories of the people they are paid to serve; keeping the cogs and wheels in motion for the few, and not the majority. These children we cast as ‘sick’ watch, learn and absorb it all. It is a minefield with no clear answers. But the need to start addressing this crisis is clearer now. Because in the end, when the fires have calmed, this is what is left along with the scared surroundings which now mirror the internal damage we can no longer be blinded to.
I found Lee Jasper’s talk at on ‘Riots, Recession and Resistance’ very poignant. So I end this post with the points he raises, and hope to see, and continue to be a part of that change and call to become vested in our communities, and the children that live in them. You?