A year after Blair backed a ban on hoodies, Cameron made a tearful speech calling on society to 'understand the hoodie'. He became the 'hug a hoodie' leader. That was 2006 when he was in opposition. Now with himself and his cabinet members forced to cut short their holidays by the hoodie mob on smash and grab shopping trips, he no longer appears to be saying, "But hoodies are more defensive than offensive". He says, "they are criminals, there is no excuse!" Opinions change.
Of course there are no excuses. But there are causes and explanations. London 2011 is not the first time young people have rioted in history. Moreover we have paid enough academics to study and analyse most riots. And none seem to have come with the inference, 'sorry can't make sense'. Or, 'as mysterious as crop circles'. Nor have they said, 'best studied by psychiatrists'.
Fact is that study after study has suggested one or combinations of factors. They include social deprivation, marginalisation, poverty, loss of self esteem, inequality, political oppression, cultural politics etc. And second fact is: Police forces around the world are trained to deal with riots.
Yet the State was disorientated for three days. Police forces stood by as if paralysed in time and space by Hiro Nakamura from Heroes. Politicians and Police Chiefs looked baffled. Like a virus the riots spread across England. The Government apparatus across the land was found to be lacking riot immunity. Or rather preparedness.
Surprise! Now that baffles me. Time after time riots have shown the ability to move with the speed of sound, tweets or blackberry texts. So why was the chief of police in Manchester dumbfounded? Why? Why? Why? Why in my perfect city? He asked.
Once politicians stop having a collective amnesia for history and causes of riots, serious questions need to be asked. Why did Government seize up and why cannot we prevent these riots?
For a start the Rapid Response Police Force for riots needs to be a Rapid And Active Response Action Force (RAAPA) with emphasis on Action. The commander on the ground needs more autonomy and training in decision making. He/She cannot simply be waiting for the Gold commander's instructions from an already besieged headquarters. Our police have been turned into one of those UN forces that stand around ceremoniously in blue helmets watching every crime being committed around them.
With so many viral riots in our own history, should the police forces around the country not have a national coordinated plan that should kick in on the first day a riot take place anywhere?
The Government cannot get away by saying its policies have not triggered the riots. For instance: Why do the young hang out in streets instead of youth clubs?
Surely riots do not occur without cause. There is a critical mass of discontent that melts the cement of law abiding society and randomly descends on the streets. Most riots are unfocussed and without a clear leadership. If there is no political cause such as student grants, poll tax etc, they end up in looting. It is a distraction to delve into explanations such as greed and capitalism. Riots provide opportunities for criminals. Even otherwise law abiding people sometimes get carried by the wave of looting.
Riots and their causes are defiantly not one of life's great mysteries. They can be avoided. They can be controlled before they travel up the M1, M4 and M6 to other cities. In twenty first century, there is no excuse for the State to be baffled by riots. If we have paid all those social scientists to study riots it is time to read their findings. Government policies need to take those causes into consideration.
It is the State's primary responsibility to protect life, liberty and property of its citizens. There wasn't much of that responsibility on show in the first three days of riots. Apart from empowering police there is a need for Government to shoulder responsibility by preventing them in the first place. Moral sermons are not enough.
It is a no brainer that Cameron won't hug a hoodie for the next elections. However it is incumbent on his Government to understand the causes of riots. He should reflect on his words from 2006. 'What is it that brought that young man to commit that crime at that time? What's the background to it, what are the long-term causes of crime?' Unfocused riots are a mini tsunami of crimes. So go on find those causes and tweak your policies accordingly. Save us another nightmare.
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