Thursday, 15 December 2011

The final wise man, but what a wise man

So, to my fourth and final wise man.

I hope you enjoyed and were provoked by my last piece. Here, a few days later, just like that fourth wise man, is the conclusion.

Like everyone who was forced by human compulsion to watch last summer’s diabolic riots with enormous sadness, three images stand out for me. I’d like to point out at this point that I know the run up to it, and know that our police force may not be whiter than white, but I’d rather have them there than not. Regardless of their actions, we have something difficult, cumbersome and utterly, utterly irrefutable to deal with such incidents: it’s called THE LAW. The law should have dealt with it, not the mob. Note to mob: You’re wrong, whatever you say on Twitter or Facebook, you’re wrong.

The first image was the sight of the furniture shop in Croydon totally engulfed by flames. Had it not been such a painfully sad story, the spectacle might almost have been beautiful.

Secondly, the sight of a teenager, dressed top to toe in expensive clothes (so no real social injustice there) climbing up a wall in a bookmakers to rip a television screen from a shelf, and the mindless, needless aggression that must have accompanied that act.

And the third? A father, who had lost his son, with every justification in the world to be angry, standing up to the mob and telling them to go home. It is this man, Tariq Jahan, who I would like to nominate as my fourth wise man.

We have our leader already – step forward Mr D. We have the quiet, sensitive toiler, who kickstarted (quite literally) a breakout of monumental peace. We have our social glue, our smiler. But every successful team needs an activist, and energy bringer, a spark. One who compliments the qualities of the others and still brings something new to the group. A d’Artangnan figure, if you like. I believe Mr Jahan could be this figure.

Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir were victims of this summer’s riots. Three young men who stood up to defend their community. At the news of their deaths, tensions rose even higher, and thousands took to the streets. This was transforming slowly, subtly and powerfully from a pointless act of violence to a thirst for concentrated revenge. Something had to give.

Step forward father of one of the men, Tariq Jahan, who stood and addressed the baying crowd. No-one needed an introduction to know who he was, or how he must have felt at that moment. He had more right than anyone in that city of my birth to feel grief, anger and injustice at that time.

However, with the streets at his disposal, did he call for vengeance?

No. He asked a question.

“Who here wants to lose a son or a brother tonight?”

I recall watching these images with tears in my eyes. What bravery this must have taken I can only guess. The streets around him remained silent and deferential, but the tension remained. When no answer was forthcoming, Mr Jahan stepped in.

“Then go back to your homes.”

In the following days, he stated publicly how humbled he was by the reaction of the community, especially the young people, who listened to his request for calm. Surely it is we who should be humbled. Surely, as it is us who have not experienced this unbearable loss (and, trust me, I love nothing more on this planet than being a father) who should be truly humbled.

“If I were a wise man, I would play my part”. Mr Jahan, who, as far as I’m concerned deserves a knighthood, certainly played his part. Therefore, I would humbly ask him to play the role of my fourth wise man for the 21st century. Dickens played his part. The unknown football instigator played his and then some. Noddy continues so to do. Ask yourself: have I played mine? Have I been the human I’m cracked up to be?

So my quartet of wisdom comprises men of all ages, of different faiths and of different nations. Different skills and talents representing different standpoints. But isn’t that what a successful team needs? Also, in order to face up to the challenges and demands of the 21st century, we need to appeal to the world entire.

No women? I know a thousand wise women, but that’s another blog, and some stories I shouldn’t reveal on an education-based website.

So, as we usher in 2012, let us hope that these and other wise men (and wise women) can contribute to the leading the world to a safer and happier year. 2011 has been a worrying year – the middle east and our own country just a part of a larger global antagonism, and then we must remember the poor people of Japan. Below the news, we must try and reclaim a happier, brighter world for all those on the margins: the homeless, the unwanted, the downtrodden, and even further, those people who have every material comfort imaginable, but live in fear of those near by. Don’t give something up for new year; take something up, and let that something make a small, unnoticeable difference.

To all who have read and understood, peace be with you. To those who have not understood or have taken offence, my most humble apologies, and peace also be with you. However you celebrate the impending festivities, I hope it is incredibly special for you and yours.

For 2011, that is all.