‘Til the sigh becomes a song… where do we go after the #riots ?

Despite having just written about the early 19th Century Luddite Uprising for the latest Dark Mountain journal – which, like many of the riots which feature so prominently in our country’s history, offers some remarkable parallels to modern events – I’ve largely resisted making any comments about the current problems in the UK (apart from saying something like “The looting in London is terrible; all them bankers & politicians stealing OUR money… OUR resources… and OUR kid’s futures!” on Twitter).

Not that I don’t have an opinion – who doesn’t!?! – but, having lived my life within heavily demonised communities, I’m well aware that every statement made during this initial knee-jerk period must be carefully measured if it is not to become just another weapon to beat us with. This is not to say we should be silent, as Ian Bone has said:

We will then [after the rioting] have to be strong because to speak positively of the rioting will be difficult in the face of the welter of reaction to come.While all the poitical class will outdo each other in condemnation it will not be the time for us to duck below the parapet.

In another post Ian links to the poet Gerry Potter, whose poem ‘How Do You Respect Fuck All’ says so much more than most of the comments, articles, tweets or rants I’ve read anywhere else…

Gerry accompanies his video with these words:

I am and have always been a pro-active pacifist.. I long and pray for a peaceful caring world. A world of respect and sharing. Whats happened in London and Birmingham and Liverpool and what will be the rest of the country deeply upsets me. Violence sickens me. Mob violence terrifies me. I feel for the people cought heavily in the cross-fire of this dreadful mess. But we have problems in this country deep rooted and difficult and they don’t go away if we do nothing. They certainly don’t go away when we erode what little we are hanging on to. This coalition is idelogically intent on devastating whats left of an already crumbling infrastructure. Its doing a brilliant job. They have to go. I’ve seen something like this before but this is worse. It is even more destructive than Thatcherism. We have to be bigger than the media and violence. We have turned our back on enlightenment. It can’t be about fuck all anymore it has to be about something. We have to recognise the wider reasoning behind this awful situation. We have to invest in all our people and in all our futures. Peace…I hope. Gx

As I’ve already mentioned, a quick glance at the history books will reveal that rioters are always heavily condemned as ‘criminals’ (in this country poorer kids have been routinely treated as criminals since long before the events of August 2011) and somehow less than human, but slowly a pattern of inequity, voicelessness and a lack of hope emerges. Sometimes this leads to positive change… with more people like Gerry this could be one of those times.


2 thoughts on “‘Til the sigh becomes a song… where do we go after the #riots ?

  1. I’d just finished watching the Darcus Howe interview when you posted this. Gerry Potter’s eloquence does take me past the inchoate revulsion at Mr. Howe’s treatment at the hands of those “gatekeepers.” It provides a context and focuses my attention on empathy instead of on the hatred that could easily well-up and take us down to the oppressor’s own level.

    As with the Luddites and every other such revolt before and since, they were overwhelmed by force and numbers as they simply tried to defend their need for respect. This is, and will increasingly be, one of those times. How do we change the way we respond so as not to simply become the next wave of martyrs?

    Mr Potter ends with, “it has to be about something. We have to recognise the wider reasoning behind this awful situation. We have to invest in all our people and in all our futures. Peace…I hope.”

    It does have to be about something, and he points us in the right direction, but it also has to be accomplished in a way that doesn’t just create another misunderstood footnote, as the Luddites have been condemned to be since direct memory of their efforts passed from this earth.

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