“We will respect them, when they respect us.”

Posted: August 9, 2011 in Social Commentary
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Last night I finished work at 10PM, sat in front of the television and felt my heart sink at the scenes playing continuously on each and every news channel.

These are not protests; these are not public demonstrations in support of any cause – these are acts of pure and simple criminality and I am loathed to accept, understand or consider any arguments or points of view put forward to mitigate them in any way.

I logged on to a forum I visit frequently and saw this post from someone trying to give reason to the acts of random and unrestrained violence we have been subjected to up and down the country:

There obviously is a reason

Something makes people behave in a particular way and it gets to the point where every sense of logic goes out of the window. Why don’t kids in Richmond or posh areas act like this? Environment and experience obviously has a lot to do with it.   It’s easy for all of us to cast judgement but im willing to the bet the majority here are middle class and haven’t spent their entire lives in relative poverty and unemployment.

I’m not condoning the behaviour and i know lots of other people in poor areas don’t resort to this kind of behaviour but at the same time it seems short-sighted to say “there is no reason, economic, political, policing for this kind of behaviour”

My response was probably one of the least charitable and inflexible stances I have taken on any subject in quite some time:

I understand the point you’re making – so I’d like to add the perspective of someone who was, is and will always be working-class to my core:

I am 37, black, grew up in Peckham, London, SE15. Middle child to a mother that had to raise us on social benefits,(sometimes) go without food so we could eat, (at times) made clothes out of fabrics she could lay her hands on and yet she managed to raise us; three boys; through the 80’s riots without ever fearing we were involved or would have the inclination to be involved – we had respect!

I now live in Netherton and am wondering what the hell excuse the idiots that are tearing up Birmingham feel they have for their actions.

10 year olds, 13 year olds out causing damage and destruction to property in their own areas? No the Met is not silly – my mum knew exactly where we were when the rioters were making their way from Brixton, through Camberwell and were setting fire to the carpet store in Peckham – 600 metres from where we lived. We were at home, we were indoors, we were where she expected us to be.

Yes these riots will be explained away as a response to the economic situation we are in; to the cuts we are facing and the prospects people may or may not have for the future. But these riots are nothing of the kind. These riots aren’t like those of the 80’s; these are even more senseless. These people have little respect for anything other than their own sense of what they feel they are entitled to – everything and anything!

Yep – I am well and truly on top of my soapbox right now; because the senseless destruction is going to achieve nothing other than even less civil liberties and even more economic pressure for us all.

I have no love for the police but right now they are in the proverbial rock and hard place; show leniency and patience – weak; go in strong and worry about some TV camera capturing another potential G8 moment.

And just in case I might perhaps soften my stance and reconsider the damning verdict I am espousing to anyone who will listen, I hear a young ‘lady’ on BBC 5 Live stating:

“We are doing this to show the police we aren’t afraid of them… it’s the government’s fault, the Conservatives or whoever… this is to show the rich people..”

I ask you – just how ignorant do you have to be to believe you have any right to act in such a flagrant and disgraceful way; destroying the facilities, services and livelihoods of the very people you call your neighbours; the very communities to which you belong?

I at first agreed with the concept that these were the acts of people who were potentially getting ‘caught up in the moment’, with adrenaline fuelling their frenzied rage.  However, I was wrong – of course I was; you can’t excuse your behaviour, once you are eventually caught, with a ‘I just got carried away’ – not when you have made plans, hours beforehand, to meet up and loot for any and anything you can lay your hands on.

I wrote in an earlier blog  that I thought the world had gone mad when it decided it was right for a child to divorce their parents.  It wasn’t because I felt a child should be subjected to abuse or that a parent had a divine right to neglect their child in any way.  What I thought was reprehensible was the erosion of the respect that a child, a youth, should have for their elders; their community and for their parents.

I am not naive enough to believe that every parent would have been able to keep their child off the streets during the past three nights of rioting and looting, but I am convinced it would not have lasted this long if the youth of today did not believe they had a divine right to do whatever it is that they want.

BBC News live just showed footage of a young ‘lady’ stating the following, when speaking of the police attempting to restore order to our streets:

“We will respect them, when they respect us..”

How ironic, don’t you think?  Where is the respect for public order?  Where is the respect for the community?  Where is the respect for anyone other than yourself?  Where is the respect for us?

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  2. Coco Rivers says:


    I feel and understand the passion behind this post. I, too, am a child from an impoverished background as I was born and raised in Harlem. Wanting more from my life, I elevated myself from such conditions. Of course, my mother and my family raised me in an environment that fostered such a belief in myself and enabled me to rise.

    To me, Harlem will always be home and I identify with the people who live under such conditions. Not all of us are lucky enough to change our circumstances and the ongoing inequities in the social structure ensure that this will remain the same.

    The difference between us, educated, middle class minorities, and them, is not a wide divide as the media would like us to believe. I firmly believe that in the eyes of the racist, the power structure and oppressors – we are all the same. To use the word you despise, we are all just niggers and jiggaboos and no amount of education or social elevation is sufficient to erase the negative stereotypes of those who refuse to see past their own nose for myriad of reasons. Look at the disrepect Obama endures. It is a silent statement of what people believe but don’t have the guts to say.

    I often think, “There but for the grace of God go I…” People will use the tools that they are given and if they get no better tools they result to base behavior. It is not an excuse, it just is. Society and parenting are supposed to wean that out of us – they are failing miserably.

    Individuals are responsible for their behavior – no doubt – but behavior does not occur in a vacuum there is always an antecedent and context to consider. Violence is a tool of change as is evidenced throughout history, I don’t believe that will ever change.

    I don’t expect you to waver but am glad that you are open to other points of view.

    • ;), Always open to other points of view and I completely understand your point as well. Let me throw in “behaviour most definitely does not occur or develop in a vacuum, unless that is a vacuum of accountability and responsibility.”

      At this point there is no context to this rioting. It is only tenuously linked to the initial incidents in Tottenham. The riots that have been duplicated across England have seen individuals looting and causing mayhem because they have seen others doing so on TV. It isn’t even about race, as the rioters are not from any one racial background. It isn’t even only youths either.

      The social situation is bad at the moment, of that there is no doubt. But these rioters haven’t given any indication that this is a passionate act in protest of anything – they are just out causing mayhem because they see they can. They see the authorities are outnumbered and unable to contain them.

      I guess I am just intolerant because they are making the situation worse, not better in any way. I am probably angry because everyone I know is either concerned, angry or is able to see that lives are being lost and lives are being destroyed and it hasn’t even been in the pursuit of anything that even remotely resembles a noble cause.

  3. There will be a long and intense debate about what has been happening on our streets. I am left trying to make some sense of what sort of society we have created in recent times that has brought us to this point. Moral codes have shifted. In recent years we have caught our politicians stealing (expenses), telling lies (Iraq), bankers have allowed Greed Rampant to penalise whole societies with impunity, the media have been caught manipulating the message and the masses. I could go on. In the end we create an environment where respect is cheap currency. And now three Muslims have been murdered in a hit-and-run. I am ashamed of where are we now. It is going to take some vision to lead us in a different direction for the next generation. I pray that someone with vision and stamina will come forward – someone without agenda other than humanity. And if that person was to step forward how long would it be before someone with a “traditional” agenda tried to bring them down?
    I recently saw a piece on tv about Oldham. A town that has seen it’s own share of troubles in the past. Oldham has taken it’s community problems and faced them head on with visionary plans for schooling and integration. I sincerely hope it works…….and I hope Oldham remains quiet and doesn’t let me down, now.

    • Ethics, morality and common decency are in desperate need of a resurgence. Far too many base their potential for happiness in materialistic ideals and far too many people have lost sight of the fact they need to take some accountability for how they conduct themselves in life.

      Who knows what the answers actually are, but I am sure we all have a good idea of where a few things have gone wrong.

  4. I’ve always agreed and stood by the statement that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Rioting damages private property, harms or kills innocent people, and spreads hate and violence. To act in this way is not justified by any means. You cannot expect peace and respect from anyone when you’re hurting other people to “get your point across.”

    It also disturbs me to think that kids feel entitled to a sense of freedom in which the law, nor their parents, can have any authority over them. There has to be people in charge, just as their need to be followers. Parents have to raise their children with dignity and respect, and people have to support their police force and government—and if they don’t—then fight them with words and letters and means that will change things. Violence only makes you look like a lunatic, but by peaceful congregation, voting, and other means of changing those in power, you are letting your voice be heard and influencing society in the right way. People will listen to you.

    • I can’t find a single person who can understand why these riots are taking place up and down the country or why people think this behaviour would be acceptable. This sense that you can take what you want if you aren’t able to afford it is disgraceful. The belief that any good can come from this is unbelievable.

  5. Thanks for writing about this, Mark. I appreciate hearing your views.

    I am often viewed as strange when I bring empathy into a conversation about lack of respect (and in this case violence) but I think that empathy’s steady devaluation in our world is partly to blame. In my country, the politically conservative are afraid of empathy because it costs too much, and they believe that it hampers their freedom. Many people on the liberal left as well as on the conservative right condemn President Obama’s attempts to acknowlege the views of his political opponents before he argues against the policies they want that exclude those of us who have the least. So many feel that this is the crux of his problem, that to me it is further proof that they don’t value empathy much, if they recognize it at all.

    These days empathy is openly discussed most when it can be used as a marketing tool. Since that isn’t true empathy, it is safe to say that it doesn’t get much resect as a necessary part of human society. The girl you quoted, who wants to be respected, understands on some level that respect and empathy are missing, but she and the ‘eager to follow the crowd’ others out there doing horrible things, haven’t been taught that these concepts must begin inside each of us before the conversations can start. Neither respect nor empathy can get in, if there is no path coming out of us for them to follow. How sad that she wouldn’t recognize what she says she wants, even if it did stare her in the face. She proves this is true by condoning violence, which hurts everyone, and never works as communication.

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