It’d be nice if we could be more like Norway
August 14, 2011 2 Comments
In Norway, when loads of innocent people were killed by one man, the Norwegian Prime Minister said that the answer to violence was “more democracy and more openness”. In the UK, when riots happen… Something that doesn’t come anywhere near the tragedy of so many lost lives (though some lives were regrettably lost), our response is… At best, pitiful. At worst, dangerously reactionary. And lacking any semblance of democracy at all.
– The Prime Minister came back from his holiday and announced it was “completely wrong to say there is any justifiable causal link”, suggested the government may shut down social media if necessary, and said that water cannon were available at 24 hours notice. [Full text of speech here]
– Meanwhile Lib Dem MPs (who are in coalition with the Conservatives) warn about knee-jerk reactions.
– There have been ridiculous sentences. One person jailed for six months for stealing a £3.50 case of bottled water. Numerous people have been arrested for ‘inciting violence’ on Facebook. Here, here, and here. There are loads more stories. One lady was given five months for accepting a pair of shorts (she was asleep during the riots).
– The Mayor of London and the PM are at loggerheads over police cuts. Cameron has said he will stick with the cuts despite Boris asking for more police. Though, we have enough money to hire a “crime guru” from America that works in an area where 400 gangs are. So clearly not that efficient or good at his job?
– Police forces have been gloating over ridiculous sentences on social media.
– A well-known historian… (as in, dealing in history, not the present or the future – so I’m entirely bemused as to why he is now a talking head on current social issues) blamed rioting on ‘black culture’ and stokes the fires of racism at a time when community spirit and trust in fellow human beings is shaky at best.
Our collective response to the whole thing is farcical. Over the last few years the pillars of democracy; the things we balance our society on, have shown their cracks and dreadful weaknesses. Bankers screw over ordinary people, politicians fleece the public purse for all it’s got, and journalists illegally hack into phones for the next juicy story to sell to us.
Is it any bloody wonder the country is in a state, and people are rioting? The conditions are perfect for unrest – something which was noted long ago by myself and by others. When we protested against raising tuition fees and the removal of the EMA in November, we predicted this. And, young people predicted there would be riots at the end of July, as youth centres started closing.
What is needed is not short-term pet/vanity projects – we need long-lasting, genuine solutions, with the co-operation of the very people who are involved in rioting. We need to consult young people on this! We need to have a genuine conversation with those involved in looting and rioting and find out exactly why this happened (though this map of rioting laid over a map showing deprivation is a big clue).
In other words – in fact, to paraphrase Jens Stoltenberg, we need more democracy and transparency. Not more ignorance and high-horse speeches.