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Friday, June 09, 2006
Blighted by regeneration. Here is a telling quote from a recent Observer article about violence between (South) Asian and Somali schoolchildren in Birmingham:
'This issue arises because it is a high density area,' said Farrukh Haroon, a project worker at the YIP. 'Communities are scrapping for scarce resources ...'Here is another:
'It is complicated - there is not one pattern, not one trend and not one answer,' said Simon Blake from the National Children's Bureau. 'But we have to bust these myths about who gets the best housing and how resources are allocated.'Sorry, Mr Blake, but myths with a core of truth are hard to kill. Communities will always "scrap" for government resources because they are correct in their belief that if group A gets more of the pie then group B gets less. Scrapping, with or without bricks and broken bottles, is an excellent way to get more pie. Nor is it wise to hope for a day when resources are no longer scarce; in most of the country the economy is more sovietised than many countries that not so long ago were actually part of the Soviet bloc. If you will forgive an earthy metaphor, an economy based on drinking one's own urine can only go on so long.
Laban Tall, commenting on the same article, congratulates the Observer for having finally discovered that not all racism is white on black. I am a good deal more optimistic than he that multi-racial - and even, to some extent, multi-cultural societies can be made to work. Just not where there is socialism.
God help us if the world ever becomes one multi-cultural society under socialism, as it looks as if it might. I forsee a future of low-level suppurating conflicts that never heal because the reason for their existence never goes away.
We have had a forteaste. A recent report that examined the causes of the riots in Burnley five years ago says that the government handing out "regeneration" money in the 1990s created rivalry and anger that helped create the conditions for the riots.
"Positive regeneration had an unintended side effect," the report says. "Ironically, it contributed to social fragmentation by increasing neighbourhood rivalries ...You know what they say: first you screw up. Then you screw up again in the same way again to prove that it really was a screw-up first time round. You guessed it: Burnley's problems in 2006 are to be dealt with by handing out regeneration money. But fear not!
Regeneration programmes now cover wider areas and are based on themes, rather than simple ward boundaries.Themes. Assuredly these themes will make all well and no one will whisper that some communities are more thematically challenged than others and hence are getting more than their share.
However, never let it be said that government always screws up in the same way. Sometimes government screws up in new ways.
Elevate East Lancashire, one of the government's nine housing market renewal pathfinders, is working - sometimes in the face of opposition from furious homeowners - to demolish inner Burnley's too many terraces and provide sites for commercial builders to create new homes.It does not say whether those "furious homeowners" are black, white or brown. It does not matter. Whatever colour their skins they will be embittered by having their homes taken from them for the greater good - the greater good of other people - and in a place blighted by regeneration it takes but the weight of the feather to tip the balance from general bitterness into racial bitterness.
[Cross-posted to Samizdata]