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  Melissa Davis London’s Grief
by Melissa Davis
August 12, 2011

England is hurting right now. In Birmingham on Tuesday night, a father gave CPR to his son while he died on the street after being run over. Later on the BBC, the father responded to his son’s death with measured calmness – saying that as a Muslim he chose not to blame anyone. But he uttered two words that have been on many people’s lips these last days in the wake of the riots: "Why, why?"


The UK press – and every other professional commentator – is in full steam analysis as to why people would destroy their own communities, destroy people’s businesses, loot, rampage, and commit arson. Every night this week sirens have screamed through my local neighborhood, friends send texts in the evenings with reports of riot police outside their homes, and some communities have decided to protect their own turf with baseball bats, wire and knives – because (in their eyes) the police are impotent to do anything.

Those who highlight the current inequalities between rich and poor (The Guardian newspaper cited that the richest 10% in the UK are now 100 times better off than the poorest) are ravaged online because, in many cases, it seems that the looting was opportunistic, organised and, sometimes, a bit of a game. The riots involved a range of people, brought together by the efficiency – and free messaging – of Blackberry Messenger, to outrun and outsmart the police. Through the courts have marched a company director's daughter, a primary school teacher, a youth worker, a university student. For some, the consequence of being caught was not a deterrent (a fine, an ‘anti-social order’, a brief prison sentence).

Blame the riots on government spending cuts, on education, on brands, on consumerism, on parents, on the lack of role models, on the police, on social media, on an obsession with celebrity, on an individualistic society… it all plays a part in UK society today and, to a degree, reflects societies the world over. However, to the outside world, the economically troubled UK – and 2012 Olympic host – must look like it is in meltdown.

But this is not a broken society: communities have gathered together to prove that unity exists. However, it is clear is that there is a massive disconnect on our own doorsteps: a disconnect between the generations; a disconnect between those who have money and those who have less; a society obsessed with consumption where the desire to have more outweighs our (or our planet’s) ability to cope; even a disconnect between those who ‘get’ technology and those who don’t. It has taken four days of rioting and four deaths to realise that these disconnects can no longer be ignored.

And the crying shame is this: London is a great city. It is a city that is integrated, where nationalities blend, where community is strong. In the aftermath of the riots, many people have come out to show that community matters – with brooms and cups of tea, using Twitter as a way to mobilise clean-up operations, to offer support and to get to know your neighbors (check #OperationCupOfTea – mugs not thugs). There is a social media driven ‘anti-riot’ movement and it is bringing people together.

Perhaps this is where things now have to begin – at the grassroots, among community leaders, at community meetings, where the voices of all generations can be heard. The outburst of positive post-riot action at community level has the potential to be sustained. It may also be more effective than calls for old-fashioned corporal punishment, military service and kicking people out of homes. But it has to be inclusive.

   Melissa Davis works in branding and sustainability. She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and a co-founder of Bite Communications. She has written two books on branding, The Fundamentals of Branding (AVA Books, 2009) and More than a Name: An Introduction to Branding (AVA Books, 2005). Follow her on Twitter at mdavis_CSR

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London’s Grief
 I totally agree with what Melissa is saying, but I'd take it one step further and suggest that this past week as highlighted an even bigger disconnection - between politicians and the UK's youth. Watching the news footage of the politicians compared to the people on the streets - the victims and the perpetrators was like being in a parallel universe. Unfortunately, the 'those who have' run the country. 
Lisa Knight, Founder Creative Director, The Brand Foundation - August 13, 2011
 I live in Chile, and through reading this article I started thinking that if we change the city, it could be Santiago de Chile, or other big city in my country.It looks we really have to re-consider the world we are leaving to our sons and grandsons.....and the humongous disconnect between the rich and the poor.Pablo 
Pablo, Educator - August 13, 2011
 As usual the moral majority spoke quietly, in measured tones - and cleaned up the mess of the immoral minority. Suitable punishment would be a longterm community service requirement, not just to mend the chaos they have wrought but to make it better than before.The statistics makes shocking reading with more than 60 of those caught above the age of 18 - adults not kids. Is it the pull of a consumerist society when gangs turn over Poundland and a neighbourhood furniture store and not just the major chains? It's complicated, but the remedy for me is clear. For those who are opportunistic and demand their rights then enforce the community responsibility that goes with it. If these riots had taken place in a major US city then the body count would be very high and the escalation more intense. Congratulate the police for their reserve and decide what support the community and the offenders should give to the small shopkeepers and victims of violence they wronged. Restoration not prison. 
Steve, Director, Dreamstake - August 13, 2011
 interesting reading and although its really terrible that its come to rioting it seems to me that with the way we live our lives now that the heart of our communities has been slowly ripped out and the knock-on effect of that is people care less and are desensitised to the effect their behaviour has on others. Everything we do regularly is less people-focused - tesco instead of your local high street (tesco express doesn't count!), petrol at the supermarket, not your local garage down the road, less butchers, less bakers, less grocers, less bookshops, less florists - replaced by large faceless superstores that want to get you through the tills as quickly as poss. Self service tills. Going to work in cars (little bubbles so we don't have to acknowledge other people). We can spend days not having to interact with our community - and i think it makes us all care less. With your local shops you interact with someones mum/gran/son - you get to know people - which makes you care more. 
, marketing and learning analyst, marton house - August 15, 2011
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