This month’s guest blogger is Les Floyd, a writer from Carlisle, England whom I first mentioned on my blog last month with my story “Taxi to India.” Les inspired the tale. Why? Because I’m inspired by people who have a unique voice, and there’s definitely something unique about Les.
He describes himself in the following way: After decades of sleepwalking through life, I’ve finally woken up and realised the greatest dreams are achieved with open eyes and a conscious mind…
Les is a writer of unwavering eloquence, and his words have touched people all over the world, including me.
“Lesism,” the name of his blog, contains writing that is incredibly personal, honest, and devoid of judgement. After reading a post he wrote last month called “The Norway Atrocities, Amy Winehouse, Judgement & Compassion,” I came up with August’s theme of “Passion and Compassion” and invited Les to be my guest blogger.
There are very few people who can elicit the full spectrum of emotions from me merely with words—Les can.
I’m honoured to host Les on my blog, and the timing could not be more fitting given the topic of his post—the riots going on right now in England.
You’ll no doubt feel the compassion and the power behind his words.
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“It is sad to think that these people are thinking of only the next moment, and the moment they have created is a nightmare.”
—Catherine Holmes, Hackney, London
There is a heaving, psychic tsunami of negativity churning through the streets of England and further across the United Kingdom… in the metropolises and smaller cities, as well as in the towns, villages and hamlets of these lands.
Far away from the flashpoints of rioting, there’s anger, hate and seething outrage directed towards the perpetrators of these crimes… to the point of calls for martial law and the summary execution of rioters and looters.
Representatives from the 2012 Olympics have been bemoaning the damage being done to the image of London, just a year before the games begin.
Undoubtedly, there will be people from other countries who are cancelling their flights and holidays to the UK, this year, in fear they’ll get caught up in the chaos.
But let’s put this into perspective..?
London is a colossal metropolis of 7,825,000 souls, sprawling over 607 square miles (1,572 sq km) of South East England, yet from news reports – both nationally and internationally – you’d think the whole city was burning and that everyone who lives there was either rioting and looting or in deep peril.
There are just a few thousand people, amongst a current population of 61,838,154 in the UK, who are actively involved in these disturbances.
As dramatic as the footage may be, the proportion of buildings that have been burned down or damaged is very, very, very small in the grand scheme of things. As a gauge, there are 2018 schools in London – at the heart of communities with thousands of other buildings in their areas.
Although, of course and absolutely, I have huge, heart-felt sympathy for those people directly affected – particularly business owners who, most likely, have been struggling just to stay afloat in the aftermath of the recession, and have seen all their hard work reduced to ashes – this is most definitely a media storm in a teacup.
And this has become entertainment for the masses. People are watching television tonight, hoping that the rioting continues, so they can continue to mete out their judgement and share their sense of outrage and moral superiority with friends and on social networks.
I heard on the bus today, from a young woman and mother: “Shoot the fuckers. Fuck ‘em. Seriously. Disrespectful little bastards. Shoot them.” As she was saying these words to her friend on the seat behind, her little boy was sitting beside her, and he didn’t bat an eyelid to her language. He was obviously quite used to it.
My brother said basically the same thing, though his preferred method of dispersal was baton round, or rubber bullets, which were used extensively in ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland; dark times that we don’t want to see a return to.
And a few messages I saw on Twitter:
“Get the army out, do the country a favour and just shoot them.”
“If you break the law, you should automatically forfeit your human rights.”
“Greenwich Council will seek eviction of any tenant proven criminally guilty of involvement in #LondonRiots”
This is the collective ego at work, on two fronts, both in the ‘pack mentality’ we see in the groups of rioters, and in the wider general public – the vast majority of whom are not affected by these events at all… but they have chosen to take this drama onboard as their own.
What purpose could indignation, anger and judgement serve for someone living in, say, my home city of Carlisle, which is just about as far from London as you could possibly get in England?
Is there anything these people can do to change the events that have happened, or are perhaps happening right now?
Millions of people across the UK have adopted this problem and have amplified the negative energy of the riots a thousand-fold.
You can’t fight fire with fire.
You can’t fight negativity with negativity.
A very wise friend wrote to me on Twitter, earlier:
“The youngsters are depraved. And there is adult thuggery there too. How do we fix that?”
This is a statement of fact, rather than judgement. And a question that is difficult to answer.
How can we fix this right now? To be honest, I don’t think we can… right now.
This is an open wound that will close, in time, and in the aftermath of this chaos, we simply have to – as a nation – look at why it happened at all, then enact positive and productive measures that offer opportunities that bring about real change to the fortunes of the sort of people who are out on the streets, causing so much damage and disruption.
Locking them all away for a few years is not going to help, in the long term. It doesn’t help that we are in a global financial crisis, but these events aren’t part of any true class war. Even when the UK was going through its boom period, there were still sections of society that were marginalised.
If, twenty years ago, the nation had invested in these communities – in training and education and jobs – the events of the past few days simply wouldn’t have happened.
You have to remember these people are human beings. It’s perhaps true that a leopard can’t change its spots, but we are not leopards. We’re an adaptable, brilliant species and inside all of us is the ability to achieve great things, on a grand and humble scale and everywhere in between.
Help people realise their potential and you’ll change their families for generations.
The Small Business Consultancy, in London – founded by Amar Lodhia – works with young people from ‘hard to reach’ backgrounds to help them set up in business – people just like those you see rioting in London.
TSBC has had huge success inspiring, encouraging and supporting them to work towards achieving their dreams; towards a better future for themselves, their families and their communities, which in turn benefits their local economy and the nation as a whole.
Give the right backing to one of these ‘feral scum’ (as I read them termed today) and a few years later, they’ll be a shining light in their community, leading others, through example, to set about bringing their own dreams to reality.
I hope the ethos of TSBC stretches all across this country and then on to other nations, because it will drive a cascade effect of immense positivity right around the globe, and that would go such a long way towards solving both the social and economic problems of our world.
In the meantime, practice compassion. Let go of your judgement of these people and remember that the flame of the human spirit in you is also burning in them. There are no greater or lesser souls in this world and there is no true evil… just the fog of circumstance, environment and upbringing, and the corruption of the dysfunctional mind.
I was in prison in my very early 20s – a story to be written up in my blog very soon – and perhaps if you’d known me then, some of you would have classed me as feral scum, too… but now? Well, I hope I can count myself as an example that there is always a chance for a person to make great changes to their lives, despite earlier failures.
Guaranteed, there will be faces in the crowds of those rioters who will go on to do great things with their own lives, too.
So, please… find it in your true selves to look beyond their actions and see the heart and soul of these people, who are just like you…
… they are far from beyond redemption.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – The Dalai Lama
Connect with Les
Email: LesFloyd [at] Gmail [dot] com
Thank you Les for an incredible piece of writing. To my readers, I’d highly recommend you follow Les in his journey. He is currently hard at work finishing his book, and I personally can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Please leave Les a comment in appreciation of his post here.