Better people and places amid the post-riot cacophony

I have taken my first plunge into blogging here close on the heels of rioting in urban England.  Many of the first televised reactions with those affected first and first-hand—the non-rioting residents of some London neighbourhoods—revealed the shocks to many people’s sense of place, particularly in terms of their identifying with the place they live in.  One black woman’s plaintive response sticks in my mind: “…but this is England”, as if this kind of thing doesn’t and shouldn’t happen in her place, her home, her England.  Issues of belonging lie beneath the surface of what has happened too—“this is our community, and we have come here to get it back on its feet again”.

But since those first reports, a post-riot cacophony has ensued, dominated by the ding-dong of largely hypocritical party political rhetoric.  David Harvey aptly observes: “political power so hastily dons the robes of superior morality and unctuous reason so that no one might see it as so nakedly corrupt and stupidly irrational”.  While David Hayes suggests “the heavy linguistic armoury deployed by the opposed political thought-blocs leaves no space for the complex particularity that an intimate, honest facing of the base reality of these events would surely bring.”

Hayes goes on to argue for:

“a detailed, granular, searching investigation of all aspects of the week of 4-11 August, from the moment of Mark Duggan’s shooting: an empirical sociology of urban England at a particular moment (one that takes account, too, of conditions where trouble might have happened but didn’t)…

Before it is too late, everyone – rioters, looters, victims, police, spectators, immigrants, natives, politicians, experts, people who intervened to heal divisions or save lives – needs the opportunity to speak and be heard. That is a project around which all involved can in principle cohere.”

I agree.  The situation requires a detailed, non-partisan analysis that surveys the full-range of individuals involved, from those who made these places erupt, to those implicated in making these places better places to live in than they perhaps were before the beginning of “black August”.

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