After the English riots last week there was something very reassuring about this photograph by David Levene which whizzed around the news wires and the internet. It showed a strength of community spirit that wasn’t going to be broken in spite of some pretty severe provocation and not inconsequential damage to town centers throughout England. It got me wondering why there weren’t similar riots or at least disturbances in Scottish towns and cities which, I am sure, most Scottish politicians could answer, but I, not being from around these parts, was unable to answer.
As an Englishman having lived in Strathbungo for the better part of two years now, it has struck me that Scotland has a much stronger sense of national and cultural identity than England. No doubt the reasons for Scotland remaining riot free are considerably more complex than a strong sense of identity but I suspect that it counts at least for part of the explanation.
An (unrelated) discussion with Police Officer this week about crime prevention in Strathbungo did yield an interesting comment from her on community spirit. She said that in the past people were much more willing to challenge antisocial behaviour whereas now people were more minded to call the police. Perhaps we are more afraid of the consequences of challenging unruly behaviour for fear of being verbally or physically attacked. Certainly the level of violent crime in Glasgow reported weekly in the press would appear to warrant such concerns, but it is a pity that we are more afraid of challenging bad bahaviour that we were. My suspicion is that, like the fear of hitchhiking, the fear of reprisal following challenging antisocial bahaviour is more imagined than real. Challenge doesn’t need to be aggressive – indeed it should never be aggressive – but more a reminder to those out to disrupt the social order we have enjoyed for a long time that antisocial behaviour is not acceptable.
Those people in the photograph holding up brooms are not afraid. They are not aggressive. They do not even appear to be angry. They are just reclaiming the streets from thugs and louts. The response to the riots in England as shown in the photograph should be an inspiration to us here in Strathbungo. Certainly next time I come across someone raking through and overturning the bins in the lanes, or trying car door handles, or shouting at someone I will be having a quiet word to remind them that Strathbungo is not Enfield, Peckham or Croydon. If it gets nasty I will however be the first to hightail it out and give the police a call. But the first line of defense in Strathbungo should be its community members. Every riot has its warning indicators and they invariably involve a breakdown of any sense of community spirit and antisocial behaviour and petty crime left unchallenged.
Let’s never let Glasgow look like this on google maps! Let’s clean-up Strathbungo before we need the brooms!