I predict a RIOT

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

It was never my intention to use this blog to make political statements, or to express my political views, but I’m an aspiring writer – that’s what writers do…isn’t it? If you’re studying screenwriting, at some stage you’ll be told you have to ‘find your voice’. I always took that to mean you have to inject your scripts with a dose of your own personality, views and themes that mean something to you. Well I hope that’s what it means; otherwise I’m doing something wrong. So, the themes you choose to explore, characters you develop and scenarios you create will inevitably be influenced by your experiences, beliefs and political stance – right? Obviously people write for different reasons – some to entertain, and others write specifically to make a comment on society. In my opinion, a good writer is one that can do both…that’s my goal anyway. So when something happens within our society, whether it’s a terrorist attack, rioting or some other major event, people want to comment on it. I guess the media is our main source of information for such events, or at least it used to be, but now with the rapid growth and popular use of social networking sites to share information and express opinions, it’s kind of opened the flood gates. Now EVERYONE can put their opinion out into the world for all to see. Is this a good thing? Well I believe it’s always important to listen to other people’s views, even if you do think they’re a complete load of bullshit. What I’m more interested in is trying to understand where their views and opinions come from. Maybe it’s the researcher in me, but I think that’s the key to solving some of the problems we have in our society. If we can learn where people’s views, passions, issues and general outlooks come from, it might help us to understand where they get their motivation to do certain things. To give this some context, I thought I’d discuss the recent riots across England.
The riots. *Disclaimer* I don’t condone violence or looting. The reason I want to make that clear is because I’m not one of these people that believes everyone involved in the riots should’ve be shot. Don’t get me wrong, the riots were bad. They were wrong, they were unjust, and they were upsetting. But were they really without any political motivation? Was it really just a bunch of well-off kids turned opportunist thieves stealing to appease their greed? Did they really have no point to make? My sister is a London Fire-fighter and was at the first riot in Tottenham when the trouble started. She said it was like being in a film. She had to wear riot gear to protect her from missiles and attacks, and I was extremely concerned for her safety. I’m sure I would have been overwhelmed with anger towards any individual that might have hurt her, but still I wanted to understand why this was happening. I had this nagging feeling that the riots were happening for a reason, but no one wanted to face up to that fact. As far as I could make out, there were a number of issues that caused the riots to start and then spread. The way I see it is that you can divide the rioters into three main categories…

Type 1 – the ‘pissed off at the police’ rioter.

I have to say, as much as I understand the police have an extremely difficult job to do and are themselves frustrated by things such as ‘political correctness’, I’ve had a few dealings with the police (mainly as a victim) and they’ve pissed me off too! I’m not saying I want to hurl bottles at their heads, or that every police officer is the same, but I really do sympathise with those young people in London that are constantly badgered by the police for doing absolutely nothing wrong. I was working as an assistant director for a channel 4 show where we were filming on a North London estate. During the filming a gang turned up to confront some of the extras we had on set, and a gun was pulled. Fortunately the gun wasn’t fired, but I can tell you it was an extremely scary and volatile situation. The police were called immediately, but it wasn’t until 20 minutes after the incident that two officers turned up. They literally took the piss! As the only eye witness that wasn’t an extra and who was actually working for the production company, I was the one to give an account of what had happened. Once I had gone through the events, the officers proceeded to ask me a series of quite ridiculous questions in the most condescending manner. I was livid. One of the questions was ‘what colour eyes did he have’, after I’d already explained the guy had a hood up and scarf around his mouth. But the question that really did it for me was – ‘do you know what a gun looks like?’ I just wanted to tell them to ‘fuck off’. I know I haven’t lived in London for a few years now, and things are a lot different by the coast, but have things really got that bad that the police don’t even care about people carrying guns anymore? And even so – what sort of impression does that give me? I have to say I have a number of stories like that, and these experiences really have made me lose all faith in the police service. I don’t doubt there are plenty of good officers and many people who have had good experiences, but unfortunately I haven’t. All it makes me think is, if I’ve been treated badly as a victim, how have certain people been treated as potential suspects? There are obviously a lot of problems in London, but the police have to understand that when things come out in the media like the death of an innocent man (Jean Charles de Menezes), or the assault of a woman found asleep in her car (Pamela Somerville), there comes a point when people say ‘enough is enough’. I tweeted this link literally days before the riots started (obviously I’m a psychic genius), but seriously – this is not a new issue, this is something that’s been simmering away for a long time.

Whether you believe the shooting of Mark Duggan was justified or not, the man was a father of four and belonged to a community where he was well known. They’d obviously had enough. If the police say they find it difficult to police for whatever reason, let’s find out why and deal with those issues. The police need to do a lot to regain the respect they once had, and they need to do even more to regain my respect.

Type 2 –the ‘pissed off at society and the government’ rioter.

I don’t care what anyone says, these rioters existed. I heard so many news reports with people saying ‘we have to be careful not to turn this into something political’. Oh right, I see…let’s not turn it into anything political otherwise we might have to actually comment on it and face up to the fact that we have some major problems in this country. There are people that feel let down by this current government. They feel lost and let down by society. I’m fortunate to have a nice flat, a good job and enough money to get by each month, so it would be easy for me to sit on my high horse and say – ‘well they’re not doing anything to help themselves’, or ‘there are plenty of jobs out there’ or any other completely ignorant comment that allows me to feel safe in the knowledge that these people are just ‘bad’ and I don’t have to give them a second thought. The  fact is, there are a huge number of people that are now worse-off due to decisions the government has made…we can’t just keep ignoring them.






Type 3 – the ‘I don’t give a fuck about anything and I want a free TV’ rioter.

Yes there were people out there that I’m sure were ‘bad’ people who literally used the riots as an excuse to make a quick buck off of a stolen TV. So, should we shoot them like a lot of people on facebook were saying? OK, let’s shoot them…but let’s think about this logically. What are we shooting them for? Theft? OK, if it’s theft, we now have to shoot every thief in our society. Oh wait a minute, doesn’t that mean we then have to shoot all of those politicians who were caught stealing off the tax payer? Whilst we’re at it, we better shoot those wankers…oops! I mean bankers. Maybe they steal legally, but who likes bankers? So that’s that sorted. Unless…just an idea…why don’t we try and understand why we have people in our society that think it’s OK to steal? To loot? To riot? What has happened in their lives that have made them the way they are? I’m sorry, but when you have a society with a government that are found to be stealing (and you can dress it up however you like – it’s still theft), what chance have we got? Way to go with setting a good example guys.

So that’s what I think, and I guess everyone’s going to be calling me a ‘crazy liberal’, or a ‘hippy’ or something to make it seem like the idea of trying to better our society by helping and understanding people is just some unrealistic fantasy. I purposely didn’t write any comments on any social networking sites at the time of the riots simply because I knew what they’d be met with. A couple of my friends put comments about the way some young people in London are treated and how certain groups might feel frustrated, but they were bombarded with abuse. Unfortunately I have a number of people on my facebook that would respond to such comments with the same ignorance, so I thought I’d save myself the onslaught. I guess I feel a little apprehensive about putting this blog out, but as well as giving my thoughts on this particular subject; I really want to think about how it’s relevant to screenwriting. As I said before, everyone now has the opportunity to express their views to a fairly wide audience. So I guess the goal of a writer/screenwriter is to reach the widest audience possible. Rather than write a blog, I could make a film that might include some comment on this subject, or a related subject, that tackles issues I’ve outlined in this blog. I don’t think it’s a matter of trying to influence people to think the way you do, or to change their views in an instant, but I believe it’s important to make them think. There are films I’ve watched that have really made me think, and I want to make films that make others question their own views and beliefs. I don’t claim to have the answers to all the problems in the world, but I like to think I’ve been brought up to maintain a set of morals and values that make me think about those individuals who are worse off than me. It’s easy to turn your back on people or issues that don’t directly affect you, or make comments and pass judgment on things you don’t fully understand, but perhaps it’s time we faced up to those problems we so readily ignore. Just like all the reports I read about communities coming together to protect their homes and clean up after the riots, why don’t we all come together to listen to these individuals and find out why they feel so frustrated and detached from their own communities that they feel the only option they have left is to destroy them.

So I’ve put my views across in black and white, but maybe I’ll go further and feed them into my scripts somewhere. I always remember what our lecturer Jon used to say to us – as a writer, you have to be responsible for what you’re putting out into the world. What you write can influence people in a good or bad way. I hope what I’ve written in this blog will make you think, just for a second, that maybe we should start looking at how we can avoid another disaster like the recent riots. Then, once that thought has passed, we can go back to building more prisons and locking up thousands of people that were involved without ever thinking about why we’ve let things get so bad. I know what I’m going to do – I’m going to write a film.

  1. Simone Chaplain says:

    Most of the “Riots” in my opinion were simply a demostration of mob mentality. I’m sure that if you asked everyone involved why they took part a good 60% would say that they didn’t know, apart from going with the flow.
    I would love to know how the other 40% fall into your 3 categories.
    I’d be up in 2. Where would you be? I suspect with your back story and artistic bent you’d be painting police cars.
    Anyway I’ve rambled enough. Thank you for the blog. A pleasure to read as always. Xx

    • dom beno says:

      That’s just it, no one will ask them why they were involved – so people just go on assuming it’s ‘mob mentality’ or ‘mindless looting’ etc etc. Let’s talk to our youth and not just wash our hands of them. Obviously there’s a lot more to it than just the three categories I outlined, things like relative poverty and other issues are at the heart of this wider problem, but it’s easy for us to be sat in our nice little seaside town and wag our fingers at the ‘hooligans’. I think I’d be a mix of 1 and 2, but not just because of my own experiences – I always try and stand up for injustice even if it doesn’t directly affect me. Maybe it’s a cop out just writing a blog, but at least it’s something. As always, thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment 🙂

  2. spencer says:

    Hmm, well it would be good if you asked your questions whilst remaining objective? You say there are are people who pass comments about the rioters but they are ignorant to make such comments? Yes there are issues needing to be addressed, but no it isnt all about going and giving them a hug and castigating anyone that doesnt have a picture of Dennis Skinner hanging on their wall next to an authentic African mask. Just because someone thinks that punishment (no, not shooting!) is right it does not mean that they do not have the same desire to see different cultures live together as one Society. However, all cultures or societies have rules and boundaries, without which it would not exist ( the aim of some of your readers I am sure!)
    Why do you think that this was an attack against the government? Is it because of militant writings and the failure to understand the previous governments failings? I am unhappy with many things Dom but I do not go out and rob the local JD Sports.
    People need to learn that all actions have consequences. By that I am not meaning that we round them up etc as I suspect this reply may be interpreted by some. Start small, start young. No means no.. kids need to learn from an early age,from school, from home, from society what is right and what is wrong. If you want something, you do your best to achieve it. The fact that so many think that you can just go out and take what they want, as an automatic right, whether its a dvd player, another kids trainers or benefits.

    As for the police asking stupid questions, frustrating as it is, asking if you recognise that it was a gun is so they are clear what they are looking for and it helps if it ever it gets to court..

    Sometimes Dom, things are what they seem and it really isnt always down to the politicians or the police.

    • dom beno says:

      I agree that they do need to be punished, I’m certainly not suggesting that those individuals who were looting should just ‘get-off’ because everyone was doing it or because they believe there are problems with society, but it’s the attitude that goes with it – all this ‘take away their benefits if they were caught stealing’ and ‘they should be shot’, it’s just not a mentality I can stomach. You’re completely right we need to start early, but like I said in my blog – what sort of example are we setting for kids when we have people in authorty abusing the system to line their pockets? In exactly the same way these looters were abusing the situation to do exactly the same thing – I don’t see any difference. And I’d never expect to see you robbing from JD because you’re unhappy – you’d definitely go for House of Fraiser! 🙂

      In response to your point about the Police – maybe the officers were having a bad day that day, but it was not the specific questions I had beef with, but more the tone and manner in which they were delivered. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one there at the time – the producer was also present and couldn’t believe the way I was being spoken to – he actually made a complaint to the police about the whole incident. Plus, some of the dealings I’ve had with Dorset Police have just confirmed that this wasn’t a one-off incident. Like I said, I know not all Police officers are the same (we both know a few that are very decent people), but I’ve unfortunately had some very bad experiences. I’d like to say more, but won’t on here.

      If you’re right and all those thousands of people were just ‘scum’ as people have portrayed them, things are much worse than I thought. I love where I live, but it just makes me want to go abroad and leave England forever. People always say ‘it’s down to the parents’, but why are they bad parents? Why are THEY the way they are? It goes beyond that, and I’m sure there are MANY more factors to consider, but I guess the aim of the blog was to ask people not to be so narrow minded. Let’s not just sit here and say – they’re all little fuckers, let’s spend all our tax money locking them up in prisons and creating a generation of criminals. No, let’s sit down and think seriously why we have a generation that think it’s OK to steal and behave the way they do. We’ve lost so many standards in this country and I think governments past and present have a lot to answer for. If not, who does?

  3. spencer says:

    now thats more balanced!

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