Ganging up against nonsense

2011

Last week, the world watched amazed as unrelated young English females and males, rallied by social networks, ganged up together in a nonsensical drive to get hold of as much 'stuff' as they could lay their hands on.

The element of surprise on their side meant that they could outsmart the police and thumb their noses at parents, politicians and other authority figures. In their adrenaline fuelled state, they raided, looted and set fire to shops and property belonging to friend and foe alike oblivious to the destruction and distress that the cold light of dawn would reveal. That ganging up to get their hands on 'stuff' was to come at terrible cost, for in the heat of the moment they also took livelihoods and lives.

The immediate response of the general public was one of disbelief. And then almost as immediately - again via social networks – came a call for the general public to gang up, sweep away the debris and begin to help rebuild shattered premises and shattered lives.

The sense of common good forged within communities battered by the events of the previous night's rampage has never been more strong: the idealism never more potent and the words heard from those most deeply affected, never more articulate, heartfelt, heroic.

And it is that type of language that the rest of us, our politicians and police must use in response to these mindless events.

We must beware the danger of splatting blatantly belligerent words onto those who brought all to this pass – for such words will fracture the structure of England's society far more damagingly than anything done by their overnight spree.

Language is power. We misuse it at a time such as this at our peril!

Take the word GANG itself: the different meanings it has and the varied implications that can be derived from it.

To GANG has to do with going somewhere or taking a turn at something or making a journey of a specific length.. And because it has to do with taking steps, GANG came to be the name for the rungs of a ladder.

When combined with the words plank or way, GANG becomes a safe route across air space between a floating or high platform onto terra firma.

GANG also means both a pasture and the way leading to a pasture - an enclosed space where a herd of animals of the same species - also known as a GANG - can move, feed, play and rest in safety!

The idea of a herd leads naturally on to the word GANG meaning the crew of a ship or a company of workmen or any group of persons who willingly work in chorus.

Of course, human connectivity of a less willing form appears when GANG is applied to slaves or chained prisoners. And, unfortunately, it is this last meaning that is uppermost in people's minds and that so many voices have been heard advocating as the only punishment appropriate to the herd who ganged together to get their hands on stuff.

"Nick it! Nick it! " was a punch line from a popular French and Saunders sketch from the 1980s. It was seen then as harmless fun by many of the people who now advocate hanging, drawing and quartering some hundreds of adrenaline fuelled youngsters who did just that!

Shoplifting is endemic to a consumer society. Last week social networking helped to turn it into a fatal force. But we must not allow that fact to destroy the over-riding value of social networking as a tool for the common good.

After all, that other ubiquitous tool which was brought into action in the aftermath of the turmoil and has been used to smarten up the lives of mankind for centuries longer than the smartest phones, could also become a force for destruction in the hands of someone with a strong enough desire to sweep anything and anyone that they considered filth into the jaws of a gang of shredders.

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.