Complain about the Community or Change it?

I’ve heard lots of comment, tweet and news reports this week from people telling others what they need to do to to solve ‘the crisis’ that we find ourselves in after the rioting. I’ve seen many tweets comparing rioters to bankers or even to MPs, citing lack of discipline in schools or lack of community schemes as the problem.

There’s also been commentary about how this ‘underclass’ don’t want to help themselves – that the benefit culture expect everything to be handed to them.   At the end of the day, it’s pretty easy to sit around and complain and suggest that the problem is someone else’s to sort out. But this attitude is not limited to the rioters. The general population are just as happy to see it as someone else’s problem. It’s easy to blame schools, to blame lack of community effort or even MPs for being corrupt. 

I just wonder how many people who criticise the discipline in schools or teachers for not instilling a sense of respect into these kids have bothered to look into helping out at their local school. Most schools have vacancies for Governors. A role which puts your right at the heart of the school, making strategic decisions on behaviour policies and discipline. You don’t even have to be a parent – in fact it’s often easier to make subjective decisions if you are not.If you don’t want to make that sort of sacrifice, schools often want help reading with kids or getting involved in the fundraising for the school. 

I wonder how many people who still bleat on about MPs being corrupt and the expenses crisis actually bothered to vote. Each one of us had a chance to look at the person representing us and decide where to place our cross. How many peopel actually bothered to get out there, pound the streets and campaign. We all had a chance to remove anyone from parliament that we wanted but few got involved. In the end, it was easier to leave it to others and complain. 

I wonder how many people who say we need more youth projects, more funding for initiatives in the community have ever volunteered at one. How many have  even regularly put their hands in the pockets to help local initiatives. At the end of the day, its much easier to shoot from the sidelines

One of the most positive things that the past few days has been the clean up campaigns which have shown  that people are actually keen to support their community. Maybe that is the launchpad for others to get involved. Rather than blaming others and saying what’s wrong with the country, go out and change it for yourself. 

Twitter’s Rumour Mill

I’m often asked by friends “What is Twitter and what do you use it for?” For me, Twitter is like a gigantic newsfeed where I can tailor the news I receive to focus on the events that directly impact or interest me. It’s different from picking up a paper or watching the bbc news as the feeds are more subjective and depending on how carefully the lists of followers is built, it can reflect views from all ends of the political spectrum. 

So, with that in mind, I was interested to note what happened on the nights of the riots. On Tuesday evening Twitter was certainly a great medium for picking up peoples thoughts on the riots and for understanding the latest outbreaks of violence. However, very quickly  Twitter rumours started to surface. The ease of retweeting meant that the speed of dissemination was amazing and before long reports of trouble across the Milton Keynes areas was being reported. Over a very short period of time, a sense of unease and even panic was coming out from Twitter around Milton Keynes. 
At that point (and mainly due to certain journalists who were keen not to scaremonger) some sort of social order set in and tweeters seemed to passively accept it. In the Milton Keynes case, the local paper (The Citizen) became the focal point for people to report their own sightings in and then for them to consolidate them and provide one source of truth. Through this method, rumours were very quickly squashed and the growing panic died away. 
So… what we ended up with on Twitter was the news coming from one source…an excellent service on the night but almost the complete opposite of my definition of why I use Twitter.

Teaching Parenthood

It was with mixed feelings last week that I heard reports of a government initiative to give parenting the  the fruit and vegetable five a day overhaul. Should my tax money be going to fund high level pointers into how to bring up my children? Should governments even be getting involved to this level of detail in peoples everyday lives? Who are they to be tell us how to bring up our children?

The problem is that on reflection they probably have a point. Bringing up children is bloody hard work. Like playing golf, being the best always seems a few steps away. Constantly beating yourself up, are we being too hard on them, too soft, playing with them too much or too little, too pushy or too laid back? So actually any guidance is probably useful. Five quick steps to double check that you have done your best for your kids that day are not going to hurt anyone, even if they may not necessarily add anything. The issue I still had is whether the funding that went into developing this is the best use of tax layers money.

And then one looks at the events of this week, those involved in the riots and the looting are often incredibly young. The first question that comes into mind is where are the parents? What parent would not know where their offspring was at 9,10 or 11 at night. And then one lands at  the root of the problem, this social group that has been created with little parental guidance. The group with no parental role models, no parental respect and therefore little respect for authority, rules or the community. The benefits culture creates a reliance on others, a culture of dependance where it is easy to see everything as someone elses fault.

Solutions will focus on those bits that are more easily controlled. Pumping money into youth projects to create community identification, creating extra jobs and opportunities for a group of people who are from environments where no one in their family has worked. Blaming teachers for not teaching social responsibility. And yet they miss the underlying issue. Ultimately everyone’s child is a reflection of their parent. Some children go off the rails as they grow up but core values are taught within the family circle.

Of course getting those 5 steps to successful parenthood from those who are constantly looking for better ways to improve their children’s upbringing to those who have no idea where their children are at 11pm is more difficult. Launching it on radio four as they did last week just may not do the trick…

The Positive Side Of Rioting

It’s all too easy to focus on the hugely negative aspects of the violent behaviour this week and indeed at times words are difficult to find to summarise events. Attempting to explain to my 8 year old son what was happening brought home how pointless and without reason the actions were. Clearly, politics, economics, poverty or the shooting by the police of a man carrying a loaded pistol had little to do with the motives of the majority.

Bringing Out The Community Spirit
(Image © Burma Democratic Concern)

As one tweeter put it last night ‘only in the UK could people wearing £100 trainers and organising violence on their £300 smart phones claim poverty’.

And yet times like these bring real heroism to light. Jozsef Toth who walked in front of a group of riot police asking the rioters to cease their hostilities in order that an injured, elderly woman could be rescued, a group of Sikh’s banding together and protecting their community, Millwall fans out in force safeguarding the local community, staff in a restaurant using rolling pins to  protect innocent customers from rioters and worshipers in a mosque defending that building and then the wider community from the onslaught. And of course the twitter account set up to clean up our capital, which led to 100s of residents coming out together to protest in a different way.

One of the most touching stories of all was that of the 80 year old owner of the burnt down furniture business who, after seeing his family business burnt to the ground was still keen to get the delivery van in and get orders out to customers. Still desperate to do an honest day’s work even after what he had been through The irony of that, that many of the rioters and looters have never bothered to do a days work, sums it all up for me. For them, violence, looting and complaint about people not doing enough to help them presents a much easier way out.

For me, it’s people like this that deserve the gongs in the honours lists. People who are focussed on protecting their community, safeguarding other individuals and continuing to work hard in the light of extreme adversity. These are the people that make Britain strong.