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National Crisis, Voices of Authority Needed, (Step forward Rio and Rooney)!!

Posted: 15/08/11 13:31

With the streets of England returned to their relatively peaceful state, the great, the good and the not so good of society are beginning to pontificate about the root causes behind the riots. Is it just wanton criminality, is it moral bankruptcy amongst a small section of society, is it moral bankruptcy throughout the whole of society? Is government to blame, were the police too lax, was it gang culture or poor parenting that made so many young people go out and loot?

The honest truth is I don't know the answer nor do I think anyone else really does, I am sure these questions will be asked for a week or two, until the next media feeding frenzy comes along or until we settle upon an explanation that will mollify the great British public. Preferably an explanation that will paint the looters as society's outsiders and allow the powers that be to maintain the status quo.

After a week of rioting and looting I do however despair at the lack of leadership in this country, we have elevated the banal, the uncouth and the downright talentless to such an extent that they have drowned out the voices of authority. At a time of national crisis when the public is looking for voices of authority and reason to calm the savage beast, we look around and find ourselves bereft.

David Cameron, as the strong man, law and order type rings hollow. Memories of his failure to take responsibility and to offer straight forward answers over the phone hacking scandal are still so fresh. His words and tone on his early return from holiday, struck the right note, but it is not just the message but the messenger that counts at times like these.

Boris Johnson's sometimes entertaining and endearing old Etonian buffoonery is fine for promoting the Olympics or encouraging Londoners to get cycling. But he is not an authority figure to be taken seriously in a time of crisis.

Ken Livingston came across as too much of an opportunist, blaming the government and spending cuts whilst many were still trying to understand just what was happening on the streets of London let alone the causes.

Ed Milliband's lack of stature was further exposed, because, whilst he, like Cameron, got the response right, he is unfortunately (in this visual age), lacking a voice and look that exudes confidence and competency in a moment of crisis.

The Police whatever the rights or wrongs of their actions, (I am not informed enough to judge), were singularly lacking in their ability to show leadership. They may have done the best they could with the operational resources they had available to them, but they failed to put an Authoritative figure out in front of the cameras, to inform and reassure the public early on. This might all be a consequence of Stephenson and Yates having had to quit the Yard and no one wanting to stick their head up above the parapet, but it did not look good for the Met.

Many came to speak their minds; some burnished their reputations amongst their constituencies and the wider public, David Lammy and Diane Abbot spring to mind for their nuanced responses. Some did themselves few or nor favours at all, Theresa May, Harriet Harman and Michael Gove having shown varying degrees of political miscalculation. Theresa May slinking away from the crowd as Boris the buffoon got a grilling in Clapham is an image that will last long in the mind.

So with no voices of authority ringing loud and true from the world of politics or from the police we had to look elsewhere for leadership and voices of authority, step forward Rio and Rooney. Through their favoured medium of twitter they were able to communicate with authority on the senselessness of the rioting and looting. Like Cameron, Miliband and others, they got the tone and message right, most importantly unlike the politicians, they were heard in the streets of London, Manchester and beyond, not just in the living rooms. How effective their words were I do not know, but I do know more people quoted Rio and Rooney to me than they did Cameron and Milliband.

It is a sad state of affairs that in a time of crisis, respected voices of authority were few and far between. It is maybe a reflection of a society obsessed with the banal and trivial activities of talentless wannabes. You get far more media coverage most weeks of the latest goings on in the pants of some TOWIE "star" than you do serious nuanced political coverage.

We elevate the likes of Katie Price and even Alex Reid to celebrity status for having the simple (or maybe not so simple) talent of self promotion. Yet we show no interest in getting to know our political leaders unless there is scandal and titillation involved and then we only hear the loudest voices.

Endless newspaper columns of celebrity tat and endless hours of TV are filled with the utter drivel that is reality TV, Big Brother, TOWIE and Geordie Shore anyone? You must seek out knowledge but banality seeps into your life like water from a leaky faucet.

We are at a cross roads, in a complex world with complex questions, about the economy, education, the NHS and many other national institutions, affecting just what sort of society we want to or can be. Navigating the nation through this time requires deft leadership from our elected and unelected leaders. It also needs a populace that is focussed and engaged in the process of change. But just how engaged can the populace be when it is so easily distracted by the banal and trivial?

How do we navigate our way through this time of social and economic uncertainty with a population that does not fully understand the changes going on around them? What will the consequences of not fully engaging the populace in these changes be, when the effects are finally felt? A year from now when the cuts really begin to bite, will we be back where we were last week, trying to make sense of the actions of the disconnected, disengaged and disenfranchised of our society?

Next time their numbers may be larger and they'll be fuelled by anger not greed, question is, would they care what Rio and Rooney have to say about it then?

 

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