Category Archives: Politics

Don’t blame the media for your lack of knowledge

I tweeted about this post’s title this morning after reading an incredibly accurate and concise piece on blaming the media for our lack of knowledge.

I couldn’t have agreed with it more.

Since the awful terrorist attacks that shook Paris on Friday November 13th, I have read so many stories, comments, tweets etc about it that I didn’t feel I could contribute much further to the discussion. I didn’t particularly want to when comments about the attacks quickly turned into attacking anyone who showed any compassion for the lives that had been lost. If you added the French flag filter over your profile picture to show solidarity with French people then you acted on par with a corporate white supremacist. If you hadn’t tweeted about the Beirut suicide bombs the day before you tweeted about the Paris attacks then you were a hypocrite and a selective griever. God forbid you dared urge people to #PrayForParis…
I get it. There’s definitely a need to challenge the narrative presented to us by the media. The Delhi-based blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh beautifully reminded us to pray for the world and we should sympathise with innocent lives lost irrespective of their colour, ethnicity, beliefs or religion. Who should do all of this? The media? Ideally. But in the meantime, it’s our job to do so.

There is information everywhere but it’s up to us to decide how much of it we want to read and the measure in which we want to analyse it. I was amazed when I saw people on Facebook posting stories about the Kenya school massacre that took place in April. Apparently the story demonstrates that African lives don’t matter because of the lack of media coverage. This horrible attack happened while I was in Nigeria and was widely reported here but it was also widely covered by international news outlets at the time. If you just learned about what happened in Garissa University College don’t blame the media, blame yourself.

When I found out I was one of the Good Morning Nigeria anchors I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Eavesdrop on any heated discussion from a group of security people, bus commuters, television anchors or just about anyone in Nigeria with a heart-beat and you’ll likely hear them discussing a political issue. I’m tasked to be an expert in the field of politics. I may love politics but it’s not easy dissecting stories for people who already know the background of much of what I dissect. If I solely relied on the BBC, CNN or Facebook posts to tell me what was going on with the pro-Biafra protests in Abia State or the fuel scarcity crisis we are plagued with or how likely it is that APC’s promise of a N5,000 unemployment benefit for Nigerian youths would be fulfilled, I would be mute for most of our show. I find out about what’s happening in Nigeria not just because it’s my job to but because I want to know.

Likewise, with the Beirut bomb-blasts that took place a day before the Paris attacks, if you didn’t know about it, it’s because you didn’t watch/listen/read the news that day or you didn’t pay attention when you saw the headline or because you simply didn’t really care. I say this because of the tweet below and all the other similar tweets/comments/stories/poems I read — it’s untrue. What happened to fact-checking?

This was retweeted more than 50,000 times despite the fact major news outlets reported the Beirut bomb blasts.

This was retweeted more than 50,000 times despite the fact international news outlets did report on the Beirut bomb blasts.

There is another reason the bomb-blasts in Beirut may not have struck a chord as much as the Paris attacks and it’s the same reason I can at times skim through a story about a bomb-blast in Nigeria — we’ve become desensitised to suffering when it’s in places the media routinely reports on. I’d likely pay more attention to stories about bomb-blasts in Nigeria if I saw it happening in Lagos where I live rather than Maiduguri that is unfortunately frequently bombed…This is wrong but it’s true.

We no longer have to wait for the media to tell us what’s going on. There are citizen journalists out there that even influential media outlets rely on to know what’s going on in the world. If you want to know what’s going on in Africa or anywhere else outside of the West then look for the information. Ask a cab driver, follow analysts on twitter, download a history book for context and then share what you find out with the rest of us. The ball as they say is in your court.

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Pants on the Ground

A town in Florida recently banned people from wearing trousers like idiots. It’s extremely pathetic that adults have to be threatened with punishment to stop “sagging their pants,” but unfortunately we are all sharing the world with morons. I even feel ridiculous typing the words sagging and rileypants because they sound so American. It is however a global issue. In every country I’ve visited and lived in I’ve seen human forms of Riley Freeman — Men and women who just can’t stop wearing their trousers low enough for me to know how often they change their underwear.

Citizens of Ocala, Florida are no longer to wear trousers that sag two inches below their waist on city property. First-time offenders will receive a warning; multiple-offenders could face up to six months in prison and a $500 fine. I’m sure lots of people think of young black boys like Riley being the main culprits but what about all the builders, maintenance workers and everyone else that seem to always bend over while working? For the love of God, can we not just throw them all in jail as well?

As much as I don’t regard myself a member of the fashion police, is it Bums up 31outrageous that I’m disgusted when someone’s butt is hanging out in my face?

I understand that saggy pants bring up more important issues than personal taste. For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union have pointed to the potential for racial profiling. Well, if everyone pulls their damn trousers up, no one will face a fine or prison if they don’t. Simple.

The power to legislate dress code is already used across America to ban public nudity, so is it really that big of a deal to ban the display of underwear?

So what will be banned next? Perhaps cleavage? What about 4 inch heels? I’ve heard these kind of arguments before relating to this issue and I’ve asked myself the same thing.

But what if sagging your pants was bad for your health? Would that make some of you reading that are against the ban change your mind?

Watch family physician and sex specialist Dr. Rachael Ross (the pretty doctor on The Doctors) explain the dangers behind sagging pants:

Abegi, (as we say here in Nigeria), do you need any more convincing?! Sagging your pants can lead to you struggling to have an erection and can damage nerves in your legs. Ladies and gentlemen, please pull up your trousers — for your own good.

Do you know what you’ll look like if you don’t? Watch my hero of the day explain below.

Should The Nigerian Stock Exchange Change its Name?

I came across an article this morning that said Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State wants  to rename the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) after Lagos. My first reaction was why but after reading his reasons, it seemed perfectly reasonable:

“I think the time has come for us to begin to look at the legislation that was passed during the military administration, that is decrees and acts. I think that was when the Lagos Stock Exchange became the Nigerian Stock Exchange, in unification for the country,” Fashola said.

helloThe NSE was established in 1960 as the Lagos Stock Exchange but it was renamed in December 1977 as The Nigerian Stock Exchange. Put into context, this name change is understandable as it occurred seven years after Nigeria’s civil war (Biafra). This is why it’s likely Fashola was correct to say that the change in name occurred in an attempt to unify Nigeria.

Yet, when I looked at the comments for this story on Linda Ikeji’s blog, (I know, great source right…) I discovered most people didn’t seem to agree with Fashola and I:

“Story, Story. Why should we copy them.”

“Nigerian stock is better.. Sounds united.”

“Padi mi, calm down pls. Lagos is NOT everything.”

“Oga Fashola you are not the one to decide…leave dat one for our oga at d top Joe.”

Hmmm. These comments made me pause and take a moment to think about why people would oppose changing the NSE’s name to what is best global practice. After all, as the Governor rightly said,

“…we have the Johannesburg, Paris, New York and we don’t have the American Stock Exchange or German Stock Exchange while there is a Frankfurt Stock Exchange and so on.”

I asked a few colleagues what they thought about changing the NSE’s name to the Lagos Stock Exchange and the first thing they said was that it would spark controversy. Really?

I understand that many Nigerians feel there’s an ideological divide among those in the North and those in the South, so the timing of the name change isn’t great. Also, it is true that we are again in desperate need for policies to help unify our nation. BUT what’s in a name?

I mean this seriously.

What difference does it make if the NSE is called Naija Stock Tings (NST)? I’m being serious.

So, my questions to you (because I’m attempting to write shorter blog posts from now on), are:

  • Is it actually rational to oppose changing the NSE’s name for sentimental reasons?
  • Do we not have more important issue in Lagos to change like the terrible state of the water on the Island?
  • What if any will the impact on the country be if the NSE’s name is changed to the Lagos Stock Exchange?

What’s clear to me is that Nigeria isn’t united BUT I’m not convinced changing the name of the NSE will change anything (for better or worse) other than its current name…

Should Women be Bishops?

The Church of England (CoE) decided on Tuesday that women should not be permitted to serve as bishops and I couldn’t be more displeased with their decision. The proposed legislation, which would have paved the way for female bishops needed to gain two-thirds majority support in each of the synod’s three houses – bishops, clergy and laity – but fell short by just six votes in the House of Laity.

When I first read an article about the vote I assumed that the I’s would have it. As a female Christian, I am eager to see the consecration of women as bishops approved. Since the line between the church and state is blurred, I am interested in the decisions that determine who holds authoritative positions within the church and you should be too.

Whether or not you’re female or a Christian, the General Synod‘s decisions are your business (in the UK) because 26 bishops are allocated seats in the country’s legislature; the House of Lords. The measures approved by the Church’s Synod are part of the law of the land and this powerful body sits on a portfolio of investments worth a staggering £8 billion. It’s a national institution whose supreme governor (ironically a woman), reigns sovereign over everyone in the country. In my opinion other churches that are not CoE and do not have political power, should have the right to decide if they want to be backwards thinking and not have female bishops. The CoE however has too much power and political privileges to be left to their own devices when they can make terrible decisions that impact the whole country.

It’s no surprise that Members of Parliament and campaigners are now undermining the case for bishops to have a say in making laws. Some have even called for bishops to be thrown out of the House of Lords altogether, while others want to see the powers of the CoE reduced. Labour MP Chris Bryant, a former vicar, tweeted,

“Would be nice to see men refuse to be consecrated bishops till women included. And pm refuse to nominate. And lords refuse bishops.”

The fact is, if priests and the head of the CoE can be women, it makes no sense that bishops can’t be. It appears a huge majority of the Church’s bishops and clergy agree with me as while 324 synod members voted for women bishops, Church voting rules meant that just 122 votes against were enough to block it.

The role of women in the Church had been a thorny issue for the CoE since the Church’s inception. There are countless rational reasons to believe women should be able to be bishops and just as many sexist reasons why they shouldn’t. I can not ignore the fact that the votes reveal there is a general consensus in the CoE, which began ordaining female priests in 1994, that the role of a bishop should also be open to women. I naturally believe women should be able to hold any office in the church. This is largely due to the fact that I was baptised in a church that is lead by a woman and also because I am an undercover feminist. So I appreciate I am perhaps biased in my thinking.

Radio 4’s Today programme posed the question a few days ago: “What would Jesus do?” In other words, would Jesus support of oppose female bishops. This question is brilliant because despite our personal beliefs, it’s wrong to completely ignore the theological arguments in this debate.

So what does the bible have to say?

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14). The apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men because of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world. Yet, the bible presents many women who held positions of leadership in both the Old and New Testament.

Priscilla and Phoebe in the New Testament are presented as faithful ministers for Christ. Priscilla and her husband Aquila brought Apollos into their home and they both discipled him, explaining the Word of God to him more accurately:

“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts 18:24-26 KJV)

Paul himself writes that Priscilla and her husband Aquila had a church in their house. This means that contrary to his own instruction for a woman not to teach, a woman who in her church taught biblical principles to a man, “more perfectly,” was worthy of Paul’s praise. Was Paul confused on what the role of women in the church should be? Perhaps but I believe that Paul was in fact only restricting the women of Ephesus from teaching.

The book of Timothy was written by Paul to Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus. I was taught in church that the city of Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, a Greek/Roman goddess. Women were the authority in the worship of Artemis so this could have triggered Paul’s conviction that women should not teach. Although Paul does not mention Artemis worship as a reason for the restrictions I believe that context should never be ignored when interpreting the bible. If context is to be ignored, then why do most Christian churches bring context into explaining why Paul said women shouldn’t braid their hair, or wear pearls or gold in the same passage? “Then in like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” (1 Timothy 2:9 KJV)

I know I’m not the only female Christian that dresses in costly array both inside and outside of church. I was taught that Paul said this because the women at Timothy’s church cared more about their appearance than the teaching from the bible. Context is key to understand biblical scripture in this day and age.

I’ve read and heard so many different views on whether a bishop should be a woman. When I read 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the description of a bishop helped me to better understand why people who apparently follow the same faith as me, believe it is wrong for a woman to be a bishop:

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

Hmmm, pretty clear here that Paul either assumed only men would want to be a bishop or he believed it to be a post to only be held by men. Yet, there are many examples in the bible that Christian males and females follow irrespective of the gender the speaker is addressing:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27, 28 KJV)

So I guess since I’m a woman, I’m free to lust after guys without the burden of committing sin? No? Jesus was led by the spirit of God, not by religion. He broke protocol and spoke to, touched and even dined with people He shouldn’t have; according to Jewish customs. But He did everything in love. He accepted the stones the builder rejected. I believe that if Jesus had voted on Tuesday, He would have voted in favour of female bishops.

I remain convinced that a woman should be able to be a bishop. Female priests have become indispensable, making up a third of the Church’s 11,000 clergy including in senior positions as archdeacons and deans of cathedrals. If the church wants to remain influential in the legislature, then it ought to look more like the people it’s meant to represent. We’re not just talking about religion here in this debate, we’re talking politics. The CoE isn’t a typical church so we shouldn’t be blasé about their business – it’s our business too.

On that note, I’ll end by saying that the CoE’s history in my opinion is nothing to be proud of. It’s a product of government interference, established by naughty King Henry VIII who appointed himself as head of the Church in order to divorce his wife. The CoE this week had a chance to really make history and prove that it’s legislative role is justifiable. I’m saddened to say that until the CoE decides women deserve to be bishops as much as men, I don’t think the Church deserves to have the political privileges it currently has.

Why do Nigerians Take the Law into Their Own Hands?

I remember years ago in university hearing someone sing, “Ole! Bring matches, tyre, carry am’ go!” I was shocked to discover just how gruesome the pigeon English lyrics translated into English was, as the song was catchy and sounded funny. The singer is actually asking for matches and a tyre to kill the suspected thief (ole) by putting a tyre filled with petrol around the victim’s chest and arms before setting the tyre alight. This barbaric practice is also known as ‘necklacing’. I once asked my dad why in this day and age this still happens and he told me I’d have to live in a country like Nigeria to truly understand. So, here I am living in Nigeria and I think my dad may have been right.

Last Friday, a mob attacked four students from the University of Port Harcourt (Uniport) in Rivers State. The young men were stripped naked, had tyres put around their necks, and were beaten by people from the Aluu community with wooden sticks, before being set on fire.

The killings, which were videotaped and posted online, sparked outraged among many Nigerians who were angry people had taken the law into their own hands. I can’t count how many blackberry broadcast messages I received about the incident. Although I was horrified by what I read and saw, since the lynching of thieves is not as uncommon as one would hope, I was curious to know/understand why people here seemed so moved by this particular event.

My younger cousins were the first to tell me about the murders. They received bbm messages with links to the video. I dared not watch as the description of the killings coupled with the before and after pictures of the guys was enough to warn me that I would most certainly cry watching. I asked my cousins if this was the first time they had heard of this type of thing happening and they said they were fully aware that thieves suffered this treatment here. What shocked/upset/angered my teenage cousins so much was the fact this incident was filmed and published on the internet. Seeing the faces of the young men that are no more, has shocked this nation in a way that’s necessary.

At long last, the discussion about Nigerians being disillusioned with their police force to the point they are prepared to take justice into their own hands, is happening among the people and those in authority. Mob justice in Nigeria has been accepted as a norm among citizens here for far too long. The sad truth is that the extrajudicial executions of crime suspects in Nigeria shows how profoundly devalued human life has become here. However, the fact that many people here seem outraged by what happened to the four students gives me hope that there are still people here that want to help create a better Nigeria.

Since Friday’s murders, many versions of the story have appeared in the press. I’ve heard that the students killed were cult members and were actually on their way to kill someone. I also read that the boys went to collect money from someone owing them money and failing to do so, took his laptop to hold until he paid up. Someone even told me that the boys were shooting at people and the mob got them once they ran out of bullets.

What angers me the most is when people attempt to excuse the barbaric act as necessary due to the incompetence of the law enforcement agencies here. That’s a rubbish excuse. I don’t care what the boys did. So long as we have prisons here, suspected criminals should be kept there. There is no justification for what that mob did.

If there is, then shouldn’t the nation’s oil thieves have tyres round their necks by now? What about all the governors that have embezzled money from their states for luxurious cars and homes? Are they not thieves as well? No, they should be brought to justice, just as the four boys should have been.

The Federal Government, security agencies, state governors, Senators, and members of the House of Representatives urgently need to discuss the following:

Police are unresponsive.

Police are unwilling to patrol high-risk areas after dark.

Police are ill-equipped.

Insecurity has become a constant companion for many Nigerians.

Money talks – too many criminals are free as a result of bribing their way out of prison.

Participants in mob action need to be prosecuted.

Vigilante groups either need to be replaced by competent police/army men, or be registered and offered adequate training to bring suspects to justice.

The standards for recruitment and training of police officers should be significantly improved.

Police officers need to be paid more and given better benefits.

ETC.

Oh, the list could go on and on but if these points are addressed, Nigeria will become a better place. I can’t justify mob violence on any level so I’m not entirely sure why Nigerians take the law into their own hands. All I am sure of is that it’s wrong. I hope the folk in charge come to the same conclusion.

Why I’m Glad I left Nigeria

*SPOILER ALERT* Contrary to what the title of this post suggests, you’re not about to read a country-bashing entry.

This time last year I was in a state of utter confusion. I was living in New York and loving it – had made great friends, had a cool place and really loved my job. However, I also knew if I didn’t get my ass out of America in a months time, I’d probably have immigration folk sending me back on a one-way (never to return) ticket to England!

Leaving far too many belongings behind, (thought I’d be back in a jiffy) I left to London excited scared of what the future had up its sleeve for me. I desperately wanted to return to New York ASAP but evidently Mr. Future had a different idea.

I spent most of my days watching daytime television, chatting with my sister and playing with my nephews. I freelanced writing stories for an American news startup for a few hours a day but still felt totally jobless. It was time for change and Nigeria seemed the best place for that change.

If you read the post I wrote just before I left London for Nigeria to start my new job, you’ll see that deciding to relocate was not an easy decision to make. I had to say goodbye to my family and friends (and constant electricity) with the hope that I would have an amazing adventure without getting kidnapped!

My eight months in Nigeria was definitely the craziest period in my life! There were days where I was ready to throw in the towel but then there were also days that I truly felt moving out there was the best decision my dad I had ever made! At work I was pushed to achieve and encouraged to be as creative as I could. Despite the many challenges any journalist or even worker will inevitably face working in Nigeria, my confidence, skills and wisdom definitely rose. Nigeria has a way of forcing you to be decisive, slightly aggressive and most importantly, street-smart – areas I definitely had room for improvement in.

Nevertheless serious events in my Motherland really made me homesick and ready to leave. I was still prepared to stay after the fuel subsidy crisis but the mother of all disasters occurred after. Exactly three months ago I lost someone incredibly dear to my heart. He wasn’t killed by the car crash he was in but by incompetence, mismanagement, negligence and greed. The same killers that were responsible for the Dana Air crash that took place a few days ago.

In this day and age, a patient in Nigeria with serious injuries could face not being attended to until morning if they were injured at night. Someone with internal bleeding could be sent to another hospital because the hospital is ill-equipped and doesn’t have blood. In short, many Nigerian hospitals suck so God help anyone who gets a serious injury there…

Perhaps if I hadn’t experienced my loss, I wouldn’t have been able to fully comprehend why many Nigerians on my Twitter timeline tweeted such bitter anti-government/anti-Nigerian establishment tweets like these:

“@Austinokonakpan: We have given them reasons to ground Dana but who can help us suspend this terrible leadership in Nigeria?”

“@Steve_eko: 4get about d national flag, if most politicians fly their greed at half mast for just 1 second we’ll have a better country”

“@omojuwa: How many times have you been driven in a Lagos bus where you suspected the driver was “managing” the brakes? #Nigeria”

“@Mekus_Mekus: Pls FG suspend DANA and jail all the Indian owners”

The fact is, there is sooooooo much work to be done in Nigeria. More than I’m prepared to wait for, which is why I’m (sadly) happy to not be there any more. I’m someone who gets incredibly frustrated by the lack of good governance I see in the world and thus find it difficult to live where I see the result of bad governance daily. When I lived in New York I actually tried to stop reading articles about UK politics shortly after David Cameron became Prime Minister. I was sure his party’s changes would grind my gears so I decided to be a wise monkey (similar to my attitude towards watching Nigeria’s football team).

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Things did get bad and I only managed to abstain from UK political articles for a day or so anyway! I could follow what was going on but from a distance. A bad attitude? Definitely. Alas, I found myself exactly a year after the general election booking my flight back to London. Perhaps frustration can be deemed a virtue when it motivates one to fight for positive action? I think that’s Nigeria’s saving-grace – the people’s frustration. It is what makes them take to the streets and demand for change….So although I’m glad to be away from the fight for now, I’m sure (if I know myself well) I’ll at some point want to be back fighting. Not a physical fight but the good fight I like to believe I can have via my reporting.

So as usual, this post has been incredibly therapeutic as I have come to realise exactly why I’m glad I left Nigeria — I’m a big baby not ready to “fight”. Since I said goodbye to the greatest man I knew, Nigeria stopped feeling like home. I lost the one person that made me feel confident in my decision to move there in the first place… Perhaps one day Nigeria will again feel like home but for now I’m happy to be in my other home – London.

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Spare the Rod, Cause the Child to Riot?

The underlying cause of the riots that broke out last summer across England has been the subject of fierce debate among politicians, activists, journalists and the like since the chaos erupted. I’m sure like me, you experienced your Facebook and twitter timelines get jam-packed with comments from overnight scholars who wanted to give their two cents on why England had been transformed into what appeared to be a war-zone. You probably heard many of the following riot explanations below:

British youth are frustrated.

The most vulnerable communities in London are lashing out.

The whites have become black.

Pure criminality.

Cuts in public services.

Expression of anger and alienation.

A masked rioter is seen in front of a burning car in Hackney, North London, Britain, 08 August 2011. EPA/KERIM OKTEN

I leaned most towards pure criminality as an explanation of why thousands of youths marauded through British cities looting and firebombing along the way. But I acknowledge that there must be more complex issues to consider to understand what turns someone into a criminal in the first place…

Yet, almost six months after the riots in the UK and all the debates that followed, Labour MP David Lammy said in an interview on LBC radio a few days ago that restrictions on smacking was a contributing factor in the unrest! Although Mr. Lammy has since stated that he didn’t mean to imply a direct connection between the smacking ban and riots, it is tasking to try to take back what we journalists call “the money quote” from people’s minds. His words:

“If parents were allowed to hit their children, the riots wouldn’t have happened”

Yeah, not much room for interpretation with that statement! He may not have meant to provide a clear-cut correlation between smacking and the riots but he hasn’t said much regarding the issue to discount the connection either.

But should he?

Mr. Lammy claimed, ”Many of my constituents came up to me after the riots and blamed the Labour Government, saying: ‘You guys stopped us being able to smack our children’.

”I have to say when this was first raised with me I was pretty disparaging. But I started to listen. These parents are scared to smack their children and paranoid that social workers will get involved and take their children away.”

People can correctly blame the Labour government for making parents think twice before using violence to discipline children because of Labour’s 2004 decision to tighten up the smacking law. Before 2004, parents were able to use “reasonable chastisement”, with certain cases decided by a judge. The introduction of the Children’s Act specified that parents were allowed to smack their children so long as they did so without causing the “reddening of the skin” and left decisions to social workers over whether parents had overstepped the mark. So black people are still basically screwed :s

First of all, I think it’s preposterous to suggest that parent’s confusion over smacking their kids is what sparked off the riots. Mr. Lammy also said working-class parents should be able to physically discipline their children to prevent them from joining gangs and getting involved in knife crime. His statements just reinforce unjust stereotypes about working-class people. Are we to believe that only working-class children require such discipline? I always thought that a stereotypical working-class person hit their children… Now it seems the same set of people are to blame for not hitting their kids enough!

I can’t help but remember a comedy sketch I saw a few years ago by Russel Simmons, which covered the  difference between discipline methods used by different ethnic groups. Check the video out below — *Spoiler alert* — Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVcePxjFujs 

Following Mr. Lammy’s controversial statements, I went to listen to a lecture by the man himself last night at my old university — the London School of Economics. The title of the talk was, ‘A Tale of Tottenham: race, riots and the future’ and he used the session to reflect on the causes of the riots and what role, racial inequality played in the uprising. It felt great to be back at university and I even had the opportunity to meet some amazing people involved in youth work and general community projects that help combat the kind of anti-social behaviour Mr. Lammy spoke about.

Mr. Lammy quickly addressed the issue of smacking in the lecture by saying that he hadn’t planned to be on the front page of the Daily Mail a week before his public speech at LSE (hmmmmm). He said that he wanted to quickly clarify that he didn’t think that the sole cause of the riots was parents not smacking their kids and that he wouldn’t have written a 250 word book (all proceeds go to charities in Tottenham), if he believed so! He did however defend sparking media attention around the smacking issue, as much of the liberal left in his opinion want to shut down the debate all together.

As the MP for Tottenham — where the riots began, he is probably the best politician to speak about the riots. He didn’t justify the rioters actions but he did put on the table disturbing statistics and information that helped explain why the riots took place. For instance, according to Mr Lammy, (comparing black and white people in the UK) black people are three times as likely to be excluded from school and three times as likely to be unemployed. A shocking 65% of Caribbean kids are raised by single parents (obviously two incomes can do more for a child than one), and black people are still 30 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by police!

Many of the areas that encountered rioting had the highest number of unemployment in the country, with people at home on the doll. It’s not rocket science to figure out that it is dangerous to have young adult men with nothing to do during the summer period — what is it about the sunshine and bad behaviour?! Mr. Lammy rightly said that it’s no surprise that 90% of those that took part in the riots were young, male and unemployed.

Also, history reveals that riots have often occurred following a significant event — usually an event that sparks a profound sense of injustice being felt by people. Mr. Lammy said that spark is usually aroused after someone dies at the hands of the police — just as the fatal shooting by police of 29-year-old Mark Duggan sparked off the protests that lead to the unrest.

So there are definitely lots of factors to explain how the riots came about. Mr. Lammy helped me to lean away from believing that the riot began solely because of the criminal mentality of youth and more towards believing it happened because the devil makes work for idle hands and too many youth are idle.

Quick aside: All this smacking talk really got me thinking about how I will discipline my own children. I always say that being a parent is probably on par with being a president in terms of how difficult it is to do the job well. No matter how hard both sets of people work in our interest, there will always be someone pointing out what they deem mistakes. In the case of smacking, many feel that the government should not tell people how to raise their children but as James Madison said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” We are not angels and therefore need the government to safeguard societies most vulnerable — children.

A growing number of reviews are finding that there are more effective and acceptable methods of disciplining children than smacking; and that Section 58 has improved legal protection for children by restricting the reasonable punishment defence in court proceedings. Personally, I hope I will choose to ban my boy from playing on his game console for a week instead of giving him a slap if he misbehaves….time will tell!

The presence or absence of one form of discipline is unlikely to provide any explanation for August’s events. I believe the discussion of how to control British youth still needs to be somewhere near the top of politician’s agenda. Clarifying if parents can smack their kids  may not be the sole way to avoid another riot in the country but it may be what is needed to spark a serious discussion about practical steps to rid the youth of idleness that can lead to serious trouble.

What do you think about the idea of linking the British riots to smacking? Will you give your child a can of whoop-ass if they step out of line or do you know any interesting (non-violent) methods to discipline children?