London is burning—here’s why.

Via Ben Ralston
on Aug 9, 2011
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London is burning.

I spent 14 years living in London. I lived in Tottenham—North London—where this past weekend’s rioting started, and Hackney, where it continues. I didn’t live in Peckham, Lewisham, Croydon or Brixton—South London—where more rioting has since broken out.

The violence has not only been rife throughout London—on a 30 mile radius—but also throughout England. The cities and counties of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and Nottinghamshire have all seen hundreds of people rampaging through streets destroying property and looting.

There are reports of scores of injured police; many shops have been looted; bins, cars, buses, shops and residences have been set alight.

London is burning.

Photograph: Kerim Okten/EPA

When I moved out of London seven years ago, I worked for one year as a youth worker in Watford (a large town in the suburbs of London), and what I learnt in that year astounded me.

My job was to take a group of up to 15 young people (aged 16 – 25) and help them to turn their lives around. These were young people who had fallen through society’s ‘net’. I worked with drug addicts, prison leavers and pregnant teenage girls. I was alone with this group of 15. There was no funding for the assistant that I was supposed to have.

I could tell you some horror stories. But not now.

Now, all I want to say is this: look at what’s happening. The thin veneer of our ‘civilized’ society is torn back, and all the world is able to see what lurks beneath. Anarchy.

Why? Today’s youth have been betrayed.

The work I did that year was ridiculously under-funded. I once told my manager that I was reluctant to take a certain boy on a week-long field trip because I feared for the safety of the girls in the group (this boy had recently come out of prison: convicted of stabbing a man in the chest). My manager told me I had to take him. The reason: every ‘YP’ (young person) that I took meant extra funding for the course. We couldn’t survive without it.

My fears were later justified when I was forced to send him home early—he pulled a knife on me.

A few years previous to that, I had voted (along with most of the country) Tony Blair into power as Prime Minister. Why had I voted for him? These three words of his:

“Education, education, education”.

A few years later lack of funding in the education system almost cost me my life: the country had enough money to carry out an illegal, unnecessary and unwanted war in Iraq, but apparently not enough to take care of its own young.

On the news today I’ve seen various politicians talking about ‘criminality’ and ‘gratuitous violence‘. One police chief, when asked what was the cause of the rioting, said that it was just ‘kids looking for some excitement in the summer holidays’.

What hope is there for a better future when the people whose responsibility it is (and who have the power) for making these things better have absolutely no clue as to what is causing the problem in the first place? Or don’t care…

I believe that Western capitalist democracies are a disaster. I believe that what we’ve seen over this last weekend in England, and especially London, is the tip of the iceberg. I urge you to pay attention (most of your attention, not just some of it) to your children, and to the children in your communities. They are the future, plain and simple.

At the moment, the future is not bright.

Please leave a comment. What do you think is the cause of the explosion of violence we’ve witnessed in the UK this last weekend?

Please also share: Tweet, ‘like’, Stumble it up. Thank you.


About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting. He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.


65 Responses to “London is burning—here’s why.”

  1. Ben_Ralston says:

    Great article EcoHustler, thank you. I'll be following you…

  2. Ben_Ralston says:

    Fo' so'
    And it can only be A Good Thing

  3. kurlykim says:

    Hari Om Ben!!

    You know, I wonder how many successive generations would not have chosen to adopt life coping strategies that rely on alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, gambling and gratuitous violence if they had had the chance to explore how to manage their internal landscape and explore/expand their emotional intelligence rather then piss about in algebra (<—- because I've used algebra a whole HEAP since I left school!! But I used some of the alternatives I listed an awful lot more…).

    Ben, no doubt there a tonne of messages those kids were channeling in the last few days from across the ages. However decimating and terrorising your fellow man is not the way to go. I am flexible and with my own chequered past pretty open minded, but that last point is for me not up for negotiation.

    Brilliant to exchange – love Kx

  4. Ben_Ralston says:

    That's a bit spooky (in a good way). Here's a line from an article that I'm writing at the moment:
    "…Perhaps it was because I heard it at a time when the whole adult world seemed to be pitted in a deadly struggle to teach me crap. Parents, teachers, extended family, family friends, and distant relatives were all hell-bent on cramming my head full of algebra, geology, ancient history and chemistry, at a time when all I really wanted to do was climb trees."
    Have you been in my head or what?!
    For sure, climbing trees teaches kids more about emotional intelligence and the internal landscape than algebra. Certainly was true in my case anyway…

  5. kurlykim says:

    Hmmm now that is a tad spooky! Who is channelling who here?? Seems that we are agreeing on more and more at a positively alarming rate Ben 🙂

  6. Jamie says:

    a reply from a friend of mine when i asked for thoughts on the respect video (she's from London, only in Canada a couple of years):

    "Mark Duggan was carrying an illegal firearm. All grandparents think their kids are angels. There is a massive class divide in the UK, there is a loss of a sense of responsibility and community amongst the lower classes. These people have no direction, and no hope given the continued cuts. It must be frustrating to be so young and have no real outlook, and watch other people their age have almost everything they could want. We were born with brains, parents who taught morality, who taught us that we can be anything we want to be, who have the guts and the work ethic to sacrifice what ever is needed to be successful and to show us what it takes to be successful. These kids are missing generations of teachings and lessons and this is an issue that will take generations to unwind. It's complicated and no amount of money will fix it."

  7. brdvghn says:

    I think this article is kinda reductionist (education? srsly?) – to imagine that the cause of the riots is any of the "social issues" within the existing order suggests that something can be done to "fix" our civilization – this or that change of politician or policy, this or that allocation of funds. I think the rioting speaks for itself – why the need to ascribe a "why" to it? To control it – to direct it to some political end. Fuck it. London is burning because people want to see it on fire. I don't think that's unreasonable in the slightest.

  8. Ben_Ralston says:

    Congratulations! In the space of 3 sentences you managed to completely contradict yourself… pretty artful really.

  9. […] a time when there is so much talk about debt, and the ecomony of so many nations seems to be crashing, while other nations watch nervously like hungry ghosts, it is valuable to consider what is genuine […]

  10. Ben_Ralston says:

    Agree with your friend Jamie. But also think that while money is not the answer, the lack of it being directed to those that need it is a symptom of what is wrong with our society.
    Banks are corrupt, inept, unsustainable? Prop em up with tax money drawn from austerity measure some of which comes from closing down youth centers…

  11. […] read Ben Ralston’s article, and the comments, and felt compelled to write this in order to tell you, as a Londoner, what’s […]

  12. missbernklau says:

    Thank you for this post, I hate to say that I actually agree that things will get worse before it gets better (I wish just being hopeful and doing our "work" would change others and therefore the course of the future so we can avoid catastrophic results). I think the only way people will come together fundamentally, spiritually, is with a great tragedy. The best we can do in the meantime is continue to spread positivity and help to change minds and attitudes of everyone we meet to be more compassionate.

  13. Anonymous says:

    […] wife told me to edit this (too graphic). I didn’t – read at your own discretion. (75)London is burning—here’s why. (72)Are supporters of excess heat & sweat in yoga class just full of hot air? ~ Dan Pitko […]

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