Friday, 12 August 2011


She says: “I am 29 years old and probably belong to the last generation of people who respect and fear authority.”
The broadcaster asks her to elaborate.
“Just observe the situation. Most of the youths that were breaking and looting are fearless. They don’t care. They know nothing will happen. No punishment.”
The conversation is one of the many ongoing public dialogues this week. Since riots began last Friday after the shooting of a young black man (Mark Duggan) in Tottenham north London, every day has been a thrill of discussions.
  Leaders rushed from overseas  holidays , police were recalled from their off duties, media pundits  and almost every one has had something to say including the very youths who have been leading the “ burning  and looting” ( to paraphrase a Bob Marley song). 
Mark Duggan, the 29 year old's death sparked the riots...

As soon as he set foot in London after cutting off his Italian summer holiday, Prime Minister Cameron had a meeting with Cobra (held for extremely serious issues) and announced increasing number of police on streets of London to 16,000. During the fracas, only 6,000 police dealt with the mobs. The whole spectacle looked like a joke as feral gangs terrorised London’s inner city areas: Hackney, Peckham, Clapham, Enfield (where the gigantic Sony shop was torched), and Croydon (erased a furniture shop dating back to 1870) and Tottenham itself.
It was obvious police could not stop the so called London mobs.
Children as young as eight years old were ransacking shops, pulling drivers out of their cars and burning their vehicles, abusing police; in short doing as they pleased. Words used to describe the situation included anarchy, nihilism, mayhem.
According to the 1886 Riot Damages Act UK tax payers face a £200 million bill to insurance companies, individuals and businesses who shall reclaim losses from (so far) week long disturbances.
So the discussions keep going.
Well known astrologer, Jonathan Cainer explained in his Wednesday horoscope: “We’ve seen the worst of those riots. They were triggered by a square between Mars and Uranus and an opposition of Mars and Pluto.... Neither is particularly rare, but they too on an intense additional edge because they touched on the sharp right-angle between Uranus and Pluto which has been building for some while and continues to affect us all, right into 2012.”
You don’t believe in astrology?
How about the law?
 Although over 500 arrests were made by mid week, this country is facing its weakest link.
“The break down of families,  the pernicious promotion of single motherhood as a desirable state, the decline of domestic life so that even shared meals are a rarity, have all contributed importantly to the condition of the young underclass,” wrote seasoned columnist Max Hastings.
 London has 300 different languages; almost every single nationality on earth lives here. You only have to switch on any radio station to hear the discussion....  Ghana, Chinese, French, Somali, BBC, Jamaican, Guyanese, Indian, Sri Lanka...all sorts of telephone callers have been expressing divergent views.
 Most have condemned the government for allowing the human rights law which has really diluted powers of law enforcers and police. “Softly, softly approach of the police does not work,” a caller to LBC Radio charged.  This view tallies with the fact that the police cannot use rubber bullets, water cannons to deter violent rioters. In other words police are wary of using too much force when confronting mobsters for fear of persecution.
The human rights law is crazy. For example very violent criminals can use it via their lawyers. The best example is Levi Bellfield convicted of killing several women plus thirteen years old Milly Dowler in 2002. Bellfield is suing the government for £30,000 after being attacked while in the bathroom by fellow prisoners.
Others views included lack of punishment to young people. Caning is illegal in the UK.
Criticism of liberalism which has made parents and authorities (including school teachers) afraid of children is often cited as one of the roots of this behaviour.
And so the struggle continues.
As a Tanzanian living here I always reflect on such high profile issues with a mixture of frustration, fascination, trepidation and reflection. What lessons does one deduce from living overseas?  Concerned friends and relatives sent text messages inquiring. I live right in the area that was burning in north London, yes.
One thing I really appreciate is that young people back home still respect elders and those above them. That is part of the best things from African culture. But another question remains. If we were to have riots of discontent would our youths react similarly? How about our own police? Would they just let them do what they want?

Published in Citizen Tanzania Thursday 11th August:

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