I have been silent on the #oneaday project for too
long and yet we are living in the most extraordinary times. Since I last wrote
we have seen the unravelling of the Murdoch empire and for most of us that must
be a good thing for our democracy. More on that another day though, right now
that is a long way away from my thoughts.
Ever since Friday last week I have been increasingly worried
that our democracy would be seriously threatened. The shooting of Mark Duggan
in Tottenham by the Police went largely unnoticed by our media and certainly
unanswered or commented on by the Metropolitan Police. That was until Saturday
night which saw an unleashing of protestation, anger and destruction in
Tottenham manifested by a conflagration of epic proportions. Watching the news
on Sunday morning told me that this was really serious stuff and people were
not only disaffected but incandescent with rage and anger. More protesting
morphed into rioting on Sunday night, spreading north to Enfield, political
leaders were still absent and those that muttered, muttered unconvincingly.
Then all hell broke loose last night all over London and the
white heat of technology did its own bit to keep the rioters, thugs, looters
and hooligans connected and focused. Protest was no more, this was rebellion
against the Police and the other people who lived in the same geographical
location as the protagonists. An army of so called ‘kids’ ran amok. Once the
Police strength had been assessed, their ‘guns counted’ if you will, the hoards
knew that the streets had no name and they could do exactly what they liked,
when they liked, to who they liked. And then, predictably, the chaos spread to
Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool.
Let’s get a few things straight before I get accused of
being preachy. Whilst I was born and lived in London, and still do part of the
time, I had the fortune to be sent to a good school (proves the Catholic Church
can get one thing right), get a decent education and make some great, lifelong
friends. But I did fall into the wrong company let’s , when I was 15 years old.
It resulted in 2 expulsions, from the same school which was unique in our
school’s history and many a ‘brush’ with the law. When I finally got my
marching orders from school, the peer group I hooked up with were not my loyal
school friends, who had all started to find me ‘difficult’ company to say the
least, but my mates from the terraces at Upton Park. Football became my life. I
didn’t work for a couple of years, got up to all sorts of capers around Europe
and actually become a societal outcast. I will add I did cast myself out of
society. My peer group were the older lads in the ‘firm’, and our
notoriety was our badge of honour. At last, in my 19 year old eyes, I was
someone. Everywhere we went, we knew we were feared, we knew we were respected
by our opposite numbers and above all we thought we were special.
Everyone wants to be someone. Everyone wants to belong.
Everyone wants. In 1984, aged 21, I finally woke up having missed prison by a
hair’s breadth. I decided to try and get myself to art college and luckily I
had the wit, the will and the intelligence to get in. Once I was there, I was
impressed by how creative people really were, and how refreshing it was not to
live my life on a knife edge of adrenalin, violence and peer pressure. When
fists turn to knives which then turn to guns and crossbows, you either wake up
and get out or you literally will not wake up. My school friends helped me see
who I really was and art college opened my eyes. I left college, got a job, any
job, and started to pay my way in the world namely I started to give back
rather than take. Soon after I used my ridiculous levels of self confidence and
arrogance to start my own business and channelled all my energy into creating
not destroying. It has been a path of steady redemption ever since, using that
‘never lay down’ attitude to prove that our business could not only ‘stand and
fight’ but win now and again.
I still like to think I have a sense of social justice. I
hate excess, and yet I live in a fantastic house, have the most wonderful wife,
an amazing mother, father and brother, amazing friends and work with fantastic
people in a wonderful industry. Life really could not be better. A bit of me
still says this is wrong, wrong given there are young people in Britain who
have little or no hope. People who are so pissed off with their lot, that they
decide to take a risk or two, pursue their version of the ‘free market’ and
reject anything or anyone purporting to be part of their community or indeed in
authority. It is the rule of the street, the survival of the fittest and to the
winner the spoils. No prisoners, no points for second place, no surrender. The
top boys get the top cars, the best drugs, the good looking girls, the most
money and maximum respect. They get all the glory.
When these people, indeed anyone, sees the excessive
financial rewards handed to those who work in a broken financial market, the
very same market that has sent our country and other countries to the edge of
financial ruin, and get away with daylight robbery, it is not surprising that
they just think ‘fuck it, what we can’t afford we will take’. But theft is
always wrong, no matter who takes away from others.
Where are their parents people ask? What parents? The
propensity of double barrelled names tells a different story, literally the hedging
of your identity. Without proper role models, what chance do these people have?
If your eyes get starry and your head is turned by rappers, footballers
and other gangstas, the rest is written. What they need is different role
models, to be involved in building something, making a contribution and taking
decisions, learning how to win and learning how to lose. They need time
invested into them, they need to want to belong and want to conform, they need
to see the benefits of mainstream society, rather than being simply sold the ‘features’
so to speak. In short they need to be someone. Many of these kids do not
have father figures, for everyone’s sake, we now need the mothers to take to
the streets and appeal to their children to stop. Simultaneously, our society
needs to show these people a way in.
A Paul Weller wrote,
‘to be someone is such a wonderful thing’, if ever a phrase cut both ways, this