Wednesday, August 10, 2011
the world, like a different place these days, with the stream of unbelievable news. the financial markets, the famine in Africa, Middle East, and: London. it’s so painful to see what’s happening there. and then, for a while yesterday, it looked like things will swing, that the communities will “wipe back”, with the riotcleanup – a collective cleaning of streets, and with a large twitter-campaign, like this one: “TimeOutLondon: We're updating our coverage of riotcleanup / London fights back - peacefully (picturepage) all day - (Twitter: #riotcleanup) - let us know what you're organising so we can share”
that moved me. and then later, a blog note from Jean Morris, a web friend who lives in London, with notes on the situation: "As the radio told me the riots in many parts of London were moving closer and closer last night to where I live, I was frightened, and chastened by my overwhelming interest in my own safety. Voices other than those shouting 'no excuse - pure criminality!' will be much needed in the days to come. Not that there is any excuse, or that stoning and burning buildings and buses isn't criminality. But there is so much more to say when you feel every day the pain and rage, the cultural and material impoverishment, the chaos just beneath the surface."
here's the blog note with links to Guardian / Independent articles that give some background: Linking Minds.
the hope at this point was that riots would settle after 2 nights. but they continued. Beth Adams from qarrtsiluni posted in the evening, to forward a link: “Intelligent analysis and first-person perspective on the riots from Penny Red, the blog of a young person who knows what's she's talking about, and writes very well indeed: Penny Red / London
the article gives different angles to the situation, and sparked pages and pages of comments in an ongoing exchange of opinions and perceptions. 380 comments up so far, a diverse and insightful discussion, with notes like this one: “No one on this blog or comments section can say what its like to be an youth living in a deprived area going through an inadequate schooling system, being faced by racism daily and being treated as a 2nd class citizen.”
and also, notes like this: “There's some truth to what you're saying but this is madness - please don't romanticise this... ...- it will only encourage these folks that just want to see things burn for the sake of it. these people threaten civil society - they are products of their circumstances, yet they exercise their free will and commits acts of destruction and terror for the sake of it. they may cry that we wouldn't pay attention without a riot, yet isn't that just a slippery slope away from the arguments used by extremists of all religions, xenophobes, and all manner of terrorists”
Germany and Berlin
the big "Bild" newspaper here in Germany has the London riots as the cover story today, with the headlin: "Chaoten zünden London an - Kann das auch bei uns passieren?" - "Chaots set fire to London - Can this happen in our country, too?"
the simple answer to that is: yes. it actually happens every year, 1st of May, in Berlin Kreuzberg, in a riot that has become a tradition. 1st of May is "Tag der Arbeit" - the international "Worker's Day", with marches in many cities. in 1978, the Berlin march went violent. And since then, is remembered - with more violence. here's an image page, and here the Wiki page that tries to explain why it happened and why it is still happening.
London, the divide, and the media
back to London - a thing i couldn't help to remember when the riot pictures were shown in TV: the last time London received such a huge media coverage was not long ago, at the end of April, with the royal wedding, which felt like a somewhat fairy-tale-like procession of splendour and historic celebration. putting the riot images next to it now makes the divide that runs through societies very clear.
the other thing is the media itself. in a perverse way, being in TV has turned into an equivalent of fame in the last years, even if the reason you are there on the screen is a silly one, or horrifying. images of the rioters are broadcasted all over international news channels. it's like a chain: the first riots draw media attention, which then moves in a domino of images. i can understand that it's a thrilling feeling for many of the rioters, to feel in charge, and important, and on TV, and in general in the centre of happenings. but then, rioting for a better world is a perverse concept.
today i wish for someone like a new Gandhi. and for a day of no-media. no mobiles. no next action plans. some timeout for everyone.