+ The London Riots

Croydon ablaze during London riots

Since when has been trashing your own community and throwing missiles at your community's police force been an acceptable expression of dissatisfication with the lack of opportunities in society? It has not and will not be an effective impetus for social change.

Anyone who thinks looting, burning cars and setting fire to wheelie bins is going to improve their lot in life then they are sorely mistaken. Let's be frank - if you're in need of a job and resentful for your inability to afford flatscreen TVs and a new pair of Nikes, the worst thing you can do is contribute to the degeneration of your community by causing thousands of pounds of damage and wrecking the livelihoods of local business owners.

I know that times are bleak for young people today, (even with qualifications you're not guaranteed a job at all, let alone a poorly paid one), but surely there are more effective ways to improve your lot? I'm hearing so many people blaming the riots on a lack of optimism for young peoples' futures, but surely adding to the bleakness is the worst thing you can do?

I don't dispute that the riots have pushed the challenges of deprived areas in London to the top of the news agenda, but, when the smoke evaporates and the windows get replaced, it won't have succeeded in bringing more investment into these areas.

In times of crisis and stagnancy, innovation is what's needed to create new jobs and opportunities. This isn't exactly helped along by the cuts made to local councils and charities best placed to help improve the lot of young people, but that is still not reason enough for trashing your own community.

Residential areas, double decker buses are up in flames while I'm writing this, and it disgusts me to think that these are the images being sent around the world with 'London' as the tagline. Wouldn't it be so inspiring if these youths (as the media love to label them!) vented their anger through creativity, through pioneering their own community schemes or burying their head into a book to enable them to put words to their fury? With rationality and the patience to foresee the long-term consequences of your impulsive actions, these disenchanted members of society might have realised that setting your community ablaze is the most nonsensical cry of help for a better world imaginable!

The Notting Hill Carnival is now in jeopardy, my friends are now updating their Twitter/Facebook feeds about riots happening in their area, and flames are still blazing in areas around the city.

Perhaps the last word should go to this woman who was filmed angrily trying to appeal to the senses of the looters:

+ The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

Celebrations outside the White House
Photo via This Is Bossi @ Flickr

When I woke up this morning and read dozens of headlines announcing Osama bin Laden's killing and President Obama's assertion that "justice had been done", I found it hard not to feel uneasiness at celebrating death, regardless of whether it's from a man who faciliated the deaths of thousands.

Lots of people around the world will feel a genuine sense of relief and happiness at Obama's efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to pay for his role in 9/11. I agree that we should be happy a man responsble for such actions is no more, but why can't people question WHY he held the views he did, and why it's a safe bet that he will not be the last person to want to 'punish' the Western world?

A survivor of the Twin Towers attack, Harry Waizer, sums up the conflict between congratulating a person's death and wanting justice for the atrocities of September 11th: "If this means there is one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that [...] But I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden.”

Here are some interesting opinions I've read in the past hour or two on the killing of bin Laden:

Even if one accepts the official narrative of the events of that day, killing Bin Laden fails to address the core issues at the heart of modern terrorism. Attacking Al Qaida addresses the symptoms of the disease but not its root cause; it’s like bailing out a sinking boat but ignoring the holes in its hull.

If terrorism exists, it exists because we encouraged it by our own actions. The actions of American corporations – and the puppet government that it controls in Washington – are the real cause of hatred against America, and therefore the cause of any acts of violence against us. If the United States was not engaged in five concurrent wars, we would have far fewer enemies. If the U.S. military empire did not have outposts in some 150+ countries, we would have far fewer enemies. If American corporations – aided by the IMF, World Bank, and U.S. government policies – were not involved in the systematic exploitation and suppression of developing nations around the world, we would have far fewer enemies. If the U.S. did not continue to offer unrelenting financial and military support the brutal Israeli regime, if we hadn’t directly caused the deaths of some 500,000 Iraqi children, we would have far fewer enemies. In actuality, if the U.S. refrained from any sort of interference - either militaristic or economic – in the affairs of other nations, we would have no enemies whatsoever.>

The Failed Empire blog--Obama Reports Death of Osama Bin Laden – Why Should We Care?

Nothing is actually resolved, nothing concluded, and nothing to be celebrated in taking away life. If we want something to celebrate here, we should celebrate the end of one of the pieces of war propaganda that has driven the past decade of brutality and death. [...] A decade ago, if a president had announced his new power to assassinate Americans, at least a few people would have asked where in the world he got the power to assassinate non-Americans.

David Swanson--Killing Resolves Nothing

He was an evil human being, one who corrupted himself. And now he is dead. He is to blame for this outcome. Justice served on a killer, a vicious man removed from the face of the earth.

But this is also not perfect justice. Perhaps he could have been captured. He certainly would have been a valuable prisoner, and his imprisonment would have denied Al Qaeda a martyr. It’s too bad we didn’t get him alive, not to mention one more thing…

This was a human being, in his core, like you and me.

The Ethics of Killing Osama Bin Laden

I am genuinely scared that we can so easily see a person's death as a reason for celebration and dancing without looking at the bigger picture. Why can't people think critically about the motives surrounding bin Laden and any other human being who feels strongly enough to want to enact such an atrocity? Why can't we question the easiness with which a president can assert justice can be carried out in a foreign country with no trial?

Exclaiming with happiness about the death of one terrorist is all well and good, but it should be done so with at least a grave nod to considering the implications of bin Laden's death around the world and how it does not, by any means, signal an end to unjustifiable wars and problematic foreign policy.

At the risk of sounding like a bleeding-heart Liberal, we should only truly have cause for celebration when troops pull out of Afghanistan and war is seen as a barbaric practice witnessed only in history books rather than today's newspapers.

In President Obama's speech announcing bin Laden's death, he employed several instances of rhetoric surrounding the concept of "unity":

On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family. We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. [...] Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I look forward to the day that all countries can identify as united with common interests and shared hope in what can be achieved in the absence of nationalistic superiority, "us" and "them" mentality and irrational religious extremism.

+ BNP and Question Time

As its website proudly boasts, the BNP won a million votes and gained two seats in the European parliament in the June European elections. And, in its responsibility as a public service broadcaster to remain impartial, the BBC is allowing BNP leader Nick Griffin airtime on next week's Question Time.

There are a number of options when deciding whether such a fascist and racist party should be represented. One is to ban Nick Griffin and his the party the right to speak to the public on such a high-profile show. But banning Nick Griffin will do nothing to halt his popularity with extremists. Even without substantial media attention they have been elected by a small, but successful group of people. So, to my mind, preventing his participation in a debate will not exactly hinder the party.

Rather, many people believe it is only by giving Nick Griffin a platform that the public can truly see the irrational and fascist truth behind the BNP's mission. I don't believe that he could possibly endear himself to the majority of the British public, particularly when his party seem to think that national identity is something innate. No, it is merely a cultural assumption that indigenous 'whites' own this country and as such are the only people who should belong here. Considering migration has been a vital aspect of human history, it is quite laughable that the BNP do not realise their own sense of 'Englishness' is derived from immigration, albeit from Caucasian settlers:

The migrations of the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Norse and closely related kindred peoples have been, over the past few thousands years, instrumental in defining the character of our family of nations. - BNP Mission Statement

While I can see the argument for tightening the laws on immigration, that does not provide us with a legitimate reason to vote BNP. The British public must not forget that this party merely has an issue with immigrants, or non-indigenous citizens because of the colour of their skin.

I had a quick peek of the BNP's website and comments from their supporters are undeniably, yet predictably racist. One commenter believes white boys perform worse in schools because of prejudices against 'indigenous whites', even though "their average IQ is far higher than some other racial groups". Another comment even shows how Christianity can be brought in to support the extremist views, with one support arguing that "There is a reason why divine wisdom and love separated the races and nations into their own spaces and stations".

Personally, I feel that the relentless media hype surrounding whether the BNP should be on Question Time drowns out the most important question of all. HOW did our country get to the state where a fascist extremist and downright racist party could become legal British representatives in the European Parliament? Immigration policies and islamophobic hysteria has allowed the BNP to gain ground.

No-one seems to question whether it was right that the BNP were able to win a million votes and, let's not forget, two seats in the European parliament. The real debate should be why so many of the public wanted to vote for someone other than the mainstream parties to begin with.