After the Riots

Anna Nolan

Festival volunteer and Streatham local, Anna Nolan reflects on her changing relationship to the possibility of Peace:

I have often asked myself: Is Peace something that is actually achievable or is it just an impossible dream, imagined by ridiculous optimists like me?

And I’m not only talking about world Peace; the kind that contestants in Miss World ask for in their chat with the judges; I’m talking about the Peace that starts in our cities, in our communities and in our homes.

How can we expect world Peace to be even a vague possibility if we struggle to keep the Peace with our own neighbors and families?

The recent London riots made me, at first, sad and depressed and they also made me doubt that Peace in our communities was something that would ever happen.

I questioned how we can aspire to put on a Peace Festival in a community where there were individuals who were willing to destroy and vandalize their friends’ and neighbor’s properties with no regard for anyone or anything but their own anger and sense of entitlement.

For a few days I thought about all the negative aspects of the riots and the looting and I found myself doubting the possibility of creating a Peace event in the midst of this.

I asked myself: “Does anyone even care? Is it just plain naive to think that our event will make any difference what so ever in a community where things like this can even occur?“

But then something happened that made me suddenly smile: People started to stand up and say: “No. You will not get our city down. You will not ruin our neighborhoods. You will not get away with it. We will not give up our right to a Peaceful existence.”

People all around London started the Big Clean up!

When I saw the photograph from Clapham Junction with the people all standing, brooms high above their heads like weapons of Peace, I found myself crying. Actual tears of joy rolling down my face. And I realized that the amazing thing about Peace is that it really does conquer everything. If enough people stand up and demand it, the world takes notice. That picture of the people cleaning up and reclaiming their streets stands out, in my mind and I am sure others, as a much stronger image than any of the pictures of smashed windows and empty shops. The lasting legacy would be the brave, positive people who refused to let their communities be broken. The people who stood up for Peace.

And this is when I realized that, Yes, The Little Big Peace Event can make a difference. It can bring us, as a community, closer together. It can enable us to make new friends in our community and to get to know our neighbors. It can even, or at least I hope that it can, make us forgive the people who acted out of such anger and desperation, make us realize that it was their actions and not them as people that were un-Peaceful, that maybe they, more than anyone could benefit from a Peace Event?

And most of all I am convinced that this event can make people think about Peace in their daily lives and in their homes, and that, eventually, that can extend to people trying to be more Peaceful all around Streatham, London, England, Great Britain and the world.

Let’s think big when it comes to Peace. Let’s make it spread further than we can ever imagine. How amazing would that be?

Anna Nolan, 29/08/11

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