Friday, August 12, 2011

Not the Poorest of the Poor.

Thus far I have avoided flouting my criteria to talk about urban violence, but now feels like a good moment.

I have lived for 12 out of the last 13 years in inner city/ outer estate areas (in the other year I lived by Bristol Uni Halls where I lost more sleep through anti social behaviour but that's another story). I have lived (and still own a house) in a community that had riots in the mid 1990's, sparked by inappropriate policing. I have taught in its school- watching young people strive to achieve, and get there. In the same school I have also mourned young men who died joy riding, pinned down a young person who was so angry they could have caused serious damage, and broken up fights with chains (the fighters had chains not me!).

I now live 150 miles North. I live in a poorer community as far as I can tell. Here 46% of children are on free school meals. Less than half of people have any qualifications. House prices are half what they are in my former patch.

And it feels different.

My point is this. I do not believe that those who rioted are actually the poorest people in our society. The politicians have perhaps caught onto this, and will perhaps try to make the poorer non looters appear somehow noble.

However, the lack of riots in Hull, Bradford, Newcastle, Middlesborough etc etc should point us to a wider worry. Because beneath those who are caught into a twisted aspiration are a class who have given up. I don't know enough, but those who fought in the eighties and lost (mining communities etc) seem to have given up on the idea that things can change.

There is a fear and a passivity that can be congratulated from afar, but up close is scary. Because the flip side of not rioting is the everyday grinding reality that means that people barely leave their homes, trust no-one but family (no matter how messed up the family) and don't believe anything can change.

This group runs even more risk now of being ignored. They are passive and so will not attract the scant resources which will be toted as helping solve the issues behind the violence. And so the message of hopelessness will be reinforced.

I don't have solutions as yet. Christian presence is one from my point of view. A less London centric view would help too. More will follow..

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