No Cake for the Working Class

Talyn Rahman-Figueroa, CEO of Grassroot Diplomat, gives her opinion on the growing divide between governments and ordinary citizens.

I just finished baking my “friendship cake” as passed on to me by a friend last week, and as I stirred the remaining batter into the greasy pan, I was outraged by the series of police sirens that wailed down the street in East London. London is bracing itself for one of the worst riots and it all began after a man was shot by armed police. Soon after, a second riot kicked off that same afternoon as a young woman claimed to have been assaulted by a police officer.

Police cars, buildings and public transports have been set alight by disgruntled youths, and ordinary citizens have turned their hands to crime, breaking through window shops to loot everyday goods that are otherwise affordable. While being an exemplary modern city, London has become another illustration of the unsaid divide. 

Britain's political leaders promised to put aside their party differences when the Coalition Government was formed but all we have seen is a strangled hold on power instead of collaboration. In April 2010, Nick Clegg warned that the Conservative budget cuts would lead to riots. Now that he's a 'Tory' Minister himself, he sees no connection. People are angry with the growing gap between the treatment of rich and poor. In the news, police and politicians blame criminal thugs and undisciplined youths for the violence that London is experiencing but the real damage was done when the government implemented its dividing policies upon the British people. There are no jobs. Education is three times as expensive. Social welfare has taken a backseat in the political hub. It is no wonder that the youth – once again – are revolting for change. 

Development begins with nurturing of young minds but when young people are not given the chance to thrive, many turn their hands to areas that may otherwise seem illicit. How are parents supposed to support their children through school when the welfare system is riddled with heavy bureaucracy, which even an educated individual struggles to worm through? How can a young couple be expected to start their life when jobs are sparse and the price tags on homes are beyond reach? How is the government expected to understand social problems when politicians keep themselves so out of reach from ordinary citizens that they no longer know what is real? The divide is no longer a gap but a valley filled with the lost and disenchanted. And this divide is appearing in many countries as we witnessed in the United States and the Middle East.

Grassroots and citizen diplomacy is required at a time when grassroots movements are growing. A new system of governance needs to be administered where people from diverse backgrounds, beliefs and social orientation need to be pulled together to form a united understanding to the unsaid divide. It is no longer acceptable that inner city families and young people are expected to keep to their side of town. Government officials need to take with them a thick pad of paper and pen, open up their ears to all the voices that are screaming around them and be brave on taking on board policy changes from the ground. Politics should never be about party interests. It should always, and remain to be, about the people it promised to take care of.

Maybe politicians should cut through the riot with a friendship cake of their own.