A must-read: youth leader's plea for the socially alienated
Wednesday 10 August 2011
A column in yesterday's
Independent has caused widespread debate about the reasons behind the violence which has swept the country.
Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of youth charities the Place2Be and Kids Company, said she had met many young people who felt cut adrift from society and alienated – a disengagement which she said had led many of them to turn against the establishment.
Through the work of charities such as her own, Ms Batmanghelidjh said some young people have walked away from violence, because they now feel they have a stake in society. Her final point was that such support needs funding, but then civil unrest is more expensive for the country in the long run.
Her column has provoked debate among politicians, the public and commentators.
The reaction: 'Someone we should be listening to'
CamberwellOnline – a blog dedicated to covering the news in the south London area, which has been blighted by violent protest, said: "Camila Batmanghelidjh works with deprived kids every day; if you pay attention to no one else, pay attention to her."
Former deputy prime minister John Prescott said: "If you haven't read this, please do."
Broadcaster Emma Freud said the article was "immensely wise".
Writer Umair Haque said: "I cannot recommend strongly enough that you read this."
Novelist Stephanie Merritt called it a "very clear-eyed piece".
The Crafts Council said Ms Batmanghelidjh was "one of the people we should be listening to".
One youth worker wrote on Twitter: "An excellent piece of writing... I agree wholeheartedly, having worked with Hackney kids."
One member of the public added: "Theresa May should quietly hand over to Camila Batmanghelidjh."
The chair of Wigan Young Labour, Darren Burgoyne, said: "Great column on the London riots and the underlying causes by Camila Batmanghelidjh in The Independent."
However, some disagreed with her analysis. Television presenter and blogger Clemency Burton-Hill said Ms Batmanghelidjh was "heroic" but added her piece felt "somehow blinkered in the face of riots via smartphones for TVs and trainers".
One letter to The Independent, from Simon Tuffen, quoted a line from her article: "The individual is responsible for their own survival because the established community is perceived to provide nothing."
Mr Tuffen commented: "Oh? I always perceived that a free education, free healthcare, social services, child benefit, housing benefit and unemployment benefit were all things that the 'established community' provided for the less fortunate. I thought we all paid a huge slice of our personal income on these things, as well as making voluntary contributions to innumerable charities. I thought we had racked up a huge national debt providing these things. Clearly, I was wrong. All these benefits just drop out of the sky and have nothing to do with the hard work and humanity of the vast majority."
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