Have you ever had trapped wind? I know it seems a rather impolite question at first. But seriously I think that if you have ever had trapped wind you would understand the riots that have been taking place in the UK over the past few days. Check out this definition:
Trapped wind is a clinical condition often resulting from swallowing too much air or producing too much intestinal gas. Although it could cause varying degrees of discomfort to sufferers, and in some cases lead to the disruption of day to day activities of life, it tends to be given very little attention by doctors worldwide. This is mostly due to the fact that episodes of trapped wind are often short lived and symptoms might have resolved before a doctor has been consulted.
Sound familiar? Let me clarify. Firstly the cause. With all the complexities of urban unemployment, socio-racial disenfranchisement and inner city deprivation, I find it a little surprising that everyone involved in the riots is simply being branded a criminal who deserves to be locked up. The London Mayor refused to curtail his holiday on the grounds that the Met was well equipped to handle the situation showing what I believe, with respect, to be a deep misunderstanding of the socio-ethical implications of the riots and the fact that there is still deep mistrust between the police and many local communities. In other words, to follow the analogy, the cause is, at least, two-fold. Yes some folk have been over-producing ‘intestinal gas’, but many also genuinely believe that for too long they have had to swallow a load of hot air.
Clearly a line needs to be drawn between those who desire to see justice served in London and those who desire to serve themselves. But I do not believe this line can easily be drawn between the perpetrators of the violence (them) and the victims (us). Instead the line goes straight through every sector of society, the rioters, the police, the Government, the communities and even our own hearts and minds.
While some may have genuinely been lured into the riots as a protest against social inequity, the method of protesting and the spoils they have taken are less symbols of overcoming the oppressor and more demonstrations of covetousness. Seriously could you imagine Toussaint L’Ouverture or Che Guevera parading Nike shoes as a symbol of victory?
Our political and community leaders too can be divided into those who would like to believe that this is simply a matter for the Met or the local community and those who understand that it is also symptomatic of deeper rooted problems in our socio-political structure. Clearly this situation clearly calls for more than effective policing and care in the community campaigns.
And then of course there is the Met itself. On the one hand they have a formidable task of containing many small ‘bubbles’ of activity across the UK rather than a single large group. But we are all still wondering why it proved so difficult to inform a grieving family of the basic details surrounding the death of a loved one in a timely manner? Why were more stringent measures not taken when the riot first started? One wonders whether, if the young people had decided to riot in Chelsea or Hampstead, it would have got as far as it did as quickly as it did.
And we cannot, of course, leave ourselves out of this analysis. While some of our businesses have literally taken a beating we must ask ourselves Why is yet another generation of youths being criminalised – some even as young as 10? What have we been teaching them or what did we fail to teach them that has caused them to go so badly astray? Why are any of our young people (however small the number) so angry and so unable to articulate their anger except through violence? And what will we do now? Will we just wait for it to pass before we go back to life as usual?
The good news is, to continue my digestive analogy, that there is a treatment for trapped wind. The drug of choice breaks up the little bubbles of gas that cause pain, forcing them to form one larger bubble that can then be more easily expelled. It works by decreasing the surface tension of the bubbles, in the same way that effective policing and community leadership has been doing recently. But it does not prevent the formation of gas, only how quickly it builds up. To prevent the ingestion or formation of gas requires a much deeper work on the hearts and minds of our young people and also of ourselves. It is dependent on a socio-political structure that purposes to deal with issues effectively as soon as, or even before, they blow off … and it requires faith in a better future and prayers for complete healing.