Family is the right answer

By Venetia Thompson, August 19, 2011

Was acting Metropolitan police commissioner Tim Godwin joking when he appealed to parents to "start contacting their children and asking where they are" during last week's riots? You can imagine the phone calls - or rather text message conversations - assuming they even have their kids' latest numbers and they bother checking one of their three phones:

"Where r u?"

"Chillin"

"Where?"

Chicken soup is rather good at stopping riots

"Round my mates innit."

Their mothers might push it a little further if they're feeling brave, perhaps try actually calling, but I'd guess most of the time this is as far as a conversation would ever go before they are sworn at or just ignored.

Godwin's naivety was touching - from his use of the plural (when was the last time anyone came across a thug with 'parents'?) to the appeal itself. Perhaps he was expecting Life of Brian-style cries of 'he's not a gangster, he's a very naughty boy', or perhaps he thought the thousands of absent fathers might suddenly resurface from wherever it is they all disappear to (jail? Magaluf?) and take some responsibility for one of their many errant offspring.

I'm all for optimism but it's just laughably unrealistic at the start of what felt like the beginning of a bad zombie film: we all know it only ever has one ending and it doesn't involve the zombie parents calling up their violent, mindless, unrecognizable children and asking them if they could please stop rampaging through the streets and come home without attacking anyone.

Godwin is the 'acting' police commissioner - perhaps a good starting point would have been at the very least acting as if he had a vague idea of the severity of the widespread family and community breakdown going on around him. I hate to point out the obvious, but for 'parents to start contacting their children', we need parents.

Of course what these vile kids really need is more than parents - they need the ultimate super-parent: the Jewish mother. At any moment she could unleash her secret weapon: force-feed them into postprandial somnolence (nobody feels like schlepping down to Debenhams and smashing it to pieces on a full stomach) and if that failed she could simply hound them into submission with never-ending phone calls. She'd have every phone number of every friend or girlfriend her son had ever made, along with said friend's mother's, grandmother's and sister's numbers and addresses and would call them all until her son was located and sent home for more food.

The fundamental importance of community (if you don't know where your son is someone will) and sitting down and breaking bread as a family cannot be overstated. Much has been said of chicken soup's medicinal qualities, but I would hazard a guess that it's also rather good at preventing riots…

    Last updated: 10:15am, August 19 2011