Tag Archives: dead

Reclaim Ealing

When the Arab spring took place, earlier this year, it was because millions of ordinary people had finally grown tired of dictators plundering their national resource and ruling over their lives. It was an ideological uprising to create fairer societies across the Middle East and North Africa.

When the Greek people took to the streets this year, it was over a sense of outrage at the mismanagement of their national economy – the government forcing austerity measures on working people that resulted in enormous job losses and pay cuts for public workers.

When the Metropolitan police shot Mark Duggan dead last week without him being in a position to attack them with a firearm (all the facts are still to come out in the inquiry, but it appears he posed no threat), they made a grave error. It led to protests from the family and then the local community – ending up in the localised rioting in Tottenham.

There has not been any rioting in London for a long time. Sure, there were a lot of student protests recently – one resulting in a jail term for the son of a rock star – and some anti-war protests like the big march in 2003, but nothing like this. The nearest I can remember to this was the 1990 poll tax rioting and even that was concentrated around a single area rather than spreading across the whole of London, like we have seen this week.

It seems just something burst in the collective consciousness of the criminal underclass this week. Seeing the riots in Tottenham galvanised a sense of injustice – especially against the police – and soon riots were taking place all over the capital, though they were particularly nasty in Hackney, Croydon, and Ealing.

Being a resident of Ealing until recently, all I could do was sit here in São Paulo watching the BBC news live updates and following the discussion on Twitter. Watching Ealing go up in flames without being there to actively do something was a very strange – and emotional – experience.

Of course, there is not much I could personally have done if I was there – what does anyone do if thugs are rampaging down the street setting cars on fire? But, I could see people I know from the local community – including many councillors and the council leader – getting messages online, warning of trouble, calling the fire brigade… actively helping their neighbours.

The tragic thing about this violence is that it has no objective, it’s just the violent outrage of frustration. If these kids really wanted to change the way companies like McDonald’s operate then getting the staff into a union or campaigning for fair wages and conditions would lead to a better outcome for everyone – rather than just bashing in the window of every branch they see.

And by looting, any sense of outrage or protest has been destroyed. London has been taken over by thugs who don’t even have a political message. Some are claiming it’s because of youth club cuts and youth unemployment. Nonsense – it’s just the criminal destruction of property by those who don’t even understand what they want or why.

At least the class warriors of the left, who used to cause trouble for business owners, had some form of objective – even if it was as simply stated as ‘smashing capitalism’ (even though the smashers were often educated property-owners).

The threat of Irish nationalist terrorism that only ceased recently, and also caused chaos in Ealing in the past decade, was also more understandable. There was a political debate to be had, even if it was always impossible to debate issues when one side used bombs.

But these riots are meaningless. They have no objective or planned outcome. And perhaps this is the most dangerous thing of all for a government that is now implementing possibly the largest ever cut-back in public sector jobs. If the disaffected youth think they have it bad right now, then just wait for another year… our trading partners in Europe are struggling and hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs are about to vanish.

I am visiting Ealing soon – later this month. And I had arranged a large local community event that will be on September 1st. I hope many more local residents come along to it now than were going to before these terrible riots – there will be many of those local councillors who were doing such a great job at the event, and at least one of the local MPs.

The tweetup may in some ways just be about having a pint and listening to some great live music, but since I started arranging these nights in early 2009, I met many local people and found new friends in my local community.

Ealing needs the local community right now and if social media is going to take some of the blame for helping rioters to focus on new targets then it should also be used to bring the community closer together.

Click here to register for the Ealing Tweetup…

Red Lion Ealing

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Bin Laden is dead, but why rejoice?

The US military has killed the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Despite the fact that I am not a hand-wringing liberal staging the occasional ‘bed-in for peace’, I am quite shocked and disgusted by the popular reaction in the US – or at least the popular reaction being shown by the media.

Yes, he was a callous, heartless leader who created a network of terror and sheltered behind Islam as a supposed means of justification for his acts. He was responsible for the death of thousands, so he is hardly a person to be missed, but to throw parties on the street because of his death seems like irrational exuberance.

There is of course the sense of revenge. The American public feeling relief that they finally “got” the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks on the USA a decade ago.

But the numerous deaths, both military and civilians, on both sides of this war don’t deserve this reaction – running into the street and cracking open a Budweiser “because we won the war…”

Ask any of those people, what have you won today? Tough to answer isn’t it?

Unfortunately for those drinking in the street, al-Qaeda is not a traditional enemy in the form of a nation state, organised with a single leader and obeying the strategy and ruling of a government. This is not World War II all over again.

This is a war of ideology. And the death of Bin Laden does not mean that the “war” is over at all, in fact it may even serve to generate more intense hatred of the American values that led us to this place.

It’s too simple to argue that this is about the Muslim v Christian world, or the consumerist society of the west v a more traditional emerging society, or an oil-dependent America v oil-producing states. All these are factors, but at the end of the day when the actions of a nation state (or small group of allies) produce a situation where a group of nations are at war with an ideology, it is a dire place to be – almost an Orwellian cliché.

President Bush created the rhetoric of the “war on terror” and yet how can it ever be won? Should Islam be banned and dismantled because the terrorists all appear to be Muslim? Should nations harbouring terrorists be considered to be at war with the allies? Should every critic of American society be ‘taken out’ because they don’t have the same values in their society as in the US – and their small group of supporting nations?

All these descriptions of Muslim terrorists could equally apply to white supremacists – who happen to be already in the US, and are US citizens, and can arm themselves quite legally utilising the second amendment to the constitution. The war on terror and the demonisation of Islam are quite convenient ways to make this ideological battle simple enough for the evening news bulletin.

I don’t feel sympathy for Bin Laden. He was a killer. But I wish the leaders of the democratic states that profess their desire to fight a “war on terror” could find a better way to do it than through bombing places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Bin Laden turned up in the capital of Pakistan – allegedly a friend in the war on terror – so where does this leave the bombing campaigns of the past decade?

How about spending a few billion on encouraging enforced student exchange programmes? Every US graduate should spend a year at a university far from home, preferably somewhere they can learn about how a different society works just from being engaged with the people. And this would work best if it was reciprocated, so the US welcomed, and funded, foreign students at their own universities.

It may take a decade or more to see some more enlightened attitudes, but then we have just had a decade of bombing the Middle East and what has been the result? Only greater instability and a wider fear of terrorism.

The liberals echo John Lennon by chanting ‘Give peace a chance’ and are mocked by the hawks who feel that the western ideals of democracy and personal freedom need to be spread – almost as a crusade. But regardless of whether hawks or doves are right, the present approach has only created a situation far worse than it was ten or twenty years ago.

We are now two decades on from the Cold war, but attitudes don’t seem to have thawed. Isn’t it time for some radical thinking on foreign policy – particularly from the USA? Or will we just keep on engaging in decades more of ‘regime-change’?
Central Mosque, Abuja

Death of the podcast

I always used to enjoy listening to the ‘Window on Westminster’ podcast. The veteran Westminster reporter Brian Shallcross would meet the movers and shakers in power and interview them, releasing an interesting podcast once a week. Then it stopped being updated.

I was wondering yesterday – what happened to it? Why has he stopped updating it?

I thought I would drop him an email to ask why, so I googled his name, only to find his obituary in the Daily Telegraph. I missed the news that he had died so it came as quite a shock. I went off looking for his email address and not only found his personal email, but I found his obituary too…

What happens to all the material we create online after we die? I have published thousands and thousands of photos… will they live on once I am gone?