After the riots of this week, I’ve been hearing a lot about respect, parenting and the lack thereof. My Facebook feed has been full of people calling for the army, water cannons, rubber bullets to be used against what has variously been labelled as ‘scum’, ‘underclass’, ‘chavs’ and so on and so forth..
There have been calls for benefit to be removed, people participating should be evicted if they live in social housing…and so on..
People far more articulate and knowledgeable than me have written some interesting stuff on this..
Camilla Batmanghelidjh wrote about it in the Independent
My personal favourite was this from Nathaniel Tapley
This from Laurie Penny
Russel Brand wrote this in the Guardian today
I keep thinking about the Job Centre. (I know it’s difficult to follow the logic but I’ll get there eventually). You see, I had to sign on at the end of July. To start the process you need to call them. So I did and I called and I called. After a morning of this, I applied online, a long application form took me about 45 minutes but no matter, I’m IT literate and I have broadband at home (for the minute!). An auto reply said someone would contact me within 2 days hours. This was Monday, I figured that sometime on Wednesday, I’d get a call. On Thurday morning, I got the call, they had an appointment for me to attend the Job Centre, on the next Monday at 8.30am. She gave me a list of things that I needed to bring to the interview and I was all set.
At 8.30am on Monday 25th July, the job centre wasn’t open. A group of us stood and waited. At 8.40am they opened the doors. At no point during the time I was there, did anyone attempt to apologise or explain why they were late opening the doors.
At 8.45am – ish, a lady starts to talk to us about the packs we have been given. She tells us that we can have 14 days a year off from job seeking but we can’t go abroad, that we must attend every 2 weeks to sign on or we could lose our benefit, that if we have an interview and that is the reason we can’t attend, we must call them and let them know, that we will have an appointment today and sign a job seekers agreement, that if we don’t keep to this agreement we will loose our benefit, at no point does she introduce herself and the ‘presentation’ is all over the place and hard to understand because her English isn’t that good.
After this we go to have the interview and make the job seekers agreement. I wait 30 minutes before I am seen. We talk about my skills, she looks at my CV, etc. My next signing on appointment will be in 2 weeks at 10.40am. I’m told it’s on the 2nd floor and given a cycle letter. That’s it.
2 weeks time. I arrive at 10.35am, I was at my Mum’s the night before, so I go straight there, I have a coffee in my hand, I’m told that I can’t take my coffee in as I might commit violence against the staff with it. Ok that’s a fair point, until I notice the cups of tea and coffee that the staff have on their desks – what’s to stop me committing violence with their tea and coffee. There’s a big sign saying ‘No mobile phones’, my book is on my phone, so I switch it to airplane mode and start reading. “No” says the security guard,
“But it’s on airplane, I can’t make any calls with it”
“No mobile phones allowed” he repeats.
It’s nearly 10.40am, it won’t be long until I see someone. At 11.05am, I hear someone saying, what sounds like my name…”Ms Demps, Ms Demosay”, I figure it’s me they’re calling and I get up but I can’t see anyone calling my name. That would be because they are around the corner and sitting down. I get there and say hello, I sit down, I say “it’s Dempsey, my name”
“Oh” says the man, who didn’t stand up, didn’t apologise for the 25 minute wait, is wearing a sweatshirt, “Where’s your job search booklet?”
I hand him the booklet I have to fill in to document what I have done to find work. He reads it, signs it hands it back to me, gets me to sign something and tells me I can go. I haven’t had a letter from anyone confirming I’m going to get any money, does he know what’s going on with that? No he doesn’t, call this number downstairs.
I think about respect, I have worked since I was 19. I lost my job because a director of the company I worked at, didn’t pay tax preferring to gamble it away. I was unemployed for 9 months. The next job was a temporary contract and when that ended, I tried to temp but it’s not regular or enough money to pay my rent (I live in London, it’s lovely but expensive) and there are no holidays, sick pay or benefits. I’m not signing on because it’s easy or fun, I’m signing on because I like eat occasionally!
If I call up my bank, the person answering tells me their name, if I’ve been waiting in a shop to be served, the server normally apologises for the delay, in the job centre you aren’t treated like you’re worthy of any kind of courtesy and don’t even get me started on trying to understand Housing Benefit.
When I was about 10, I decided that no-one should come into my room without knocking. That was fair enough said my parents, but that being the case I needed to apply the same rules to them and my brother. If I was going to demand that my privacy be respected, I had to afford the same respect to other in my family.
Were the rioters criminal? Yes.
Stupid? Yes (and as my mother has been pointing out, this is England, they’re called the Police – you can call them coppers, bobbies, pigs, scum if you like but they are not the Feds, idiot).
Greedy, violent, amoral? All of those things.
Poorly parented? Probably
Disrespectful? Yes but who isn’t?
We live in a culture of disrespect, of doing amoral, sometimes illegal things and getting away with it.
MP’s, bankers, News International, policemen…they’re all taking what they want, it’s damaging society, no-one’s stopping them. They’re not only getting away with it, but being flattered, courted, respected.
I think the reasons the riots happened are complex and a huge part of me hopes that they are all caught, locked up and keys thrown away. However, we need stop pretending that the rioters were being more disrespectful than other people. They were just more violent.
The disrespect, that’s everywhere…and they are normally on the receiving end of it.