Huffpost UK Politics uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Teresa Goncalves Headshot

Big Society : Forgotten Society

Posted: Updated:

'Mindless' violence, as irrational and disturbing as it may seem, comes about as the result of deeper conflicts within our society that all too often we are blind to.

Whilst few will sympathise with the destruction caused by the events of Saturday night and the heavy violence that has continued since, one would do well to in the least empathise. Understanding why events unfold in the way they do is paramount in order to be able to rectify the damage that can be inflicted on a 'forgotten' society, including the damage it can inflict upon itself.

Having grown up on an estate in Tottenham, as news broke of what was happening I was left with a heavy heart, sadly however, I was not surprised.

Violence in Tottenham is not a new phenomenon. The area is known for violent crime as a daily occurrence. Just a few months ago a group of local school children were involved in an incident with another local resident which left one teenager dead. This particular story reached the mainstream media, but countless other incidents never leave the bubble.

Tottenham suffers from its poverty; the provision of education is of a very low standard, housing can be atrocious, council estates are a breeding ground for gangs and our local high streets are a catwalk for intimidation. The same can be said of countless other inner-city London areas that have for years been left deprived and destitute.

Nevertheless, too often the attempt to link the cycle of poverty with 'bad people' is easily made. It is ignorant to assume that poor equals bad; poverty does not inherently make you violent.

The living conditions and scarce opportunities of a disenfranchised society have created an environment where carrying out such intense violence does not phase it's youth. The faces captured in the photographs taken on Saturday depict mainly young males, some reported to be as young as 12. We need to ask ourselves why.

As violence continues to spread throughout London, a careful look needs to be taken at the consequences of the socio-economic conditions of those involved and the depravity of the areas in which it is occurring.

The arson of shops, homes and cars within these same communities seems senseless and is certainly abhorrent. Most of the blame will naturally fall to the government and Prime Minister David Cameron will now have a lot more to answer to than just how many police officers will be available to defend against further rioting.

This country has seen a great level of civil unrest since the coalition government came into power; the cuts and 'reforms' have affected many lives in serious ways. The scrapping of youth programmes, the Education Maintenance Allowance and apprenticeship style schemes, for example, have undoubtedly impacted these communities negatively and will continue to do so. But the underlying problems faced are not new ones.

David Lammy was elected as Tottenham MP in 1997 and was hailed a hero, someone that would represent the community and help it move forward. Fourteen years on, he is still MP and nothing has changed. However, it is interesting to note that despite this, he has continually been re-elected with an overwhelming majority.

The core issue here is that these communities feel that they are not listened to by anyone. The rhetoric of the Labour party, in the least, makes people feel that they are somewhat understood and that their needs may be attended to. With the election of the Conservatives and the rhetoric of their policies, this hope has vanished and the feeling of being ignored exacerbated.

During the Brixton and later the Broadwater Farm riots, Margaret Thatcher was quick to shy over any notion of the fact that unemployment and racism issues may have anything to do with the riots. Similarly now any attempt by the left to try and empathise with what is happening is met with harsh responses of condoning violence and outright criminality. The apparent inability to link social deprivation to this criminality is indicative of the very social marginalisation that has led to such collective disaffection.

London will now struggle to contain the rapidly spreading violence as police forces are stretched to near breaking point; the priority will be to protect the homes and livelihoods being attacked. However, once the dust settles and the smoke lifts, we will all need to take a good look around and ask ourselves, how can we help fix these forgotten societies?