Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Musings of a Londoner about the recent riots

I love London, loved it the very first time I was here 1996 and I feel a strong connection to my new home since I move here almost five years ago. It's vibrant, it's exciting, it has lots to offer and it's a beautiful city with great architechture. I've felt safe at any given time, by day and night. Even when I was on a bus after work, in the middle of the night, witnissing a robbery. The gang of kids have stopped the bus, opened the back doors, grabbed a person's bag and ran off. It all happened within seconds and left me speechless. I wonder if their parents knew what their 12-year-old kids are doing at 4am in the streets of London. I also wonder why they didn't do anything about it if they knew. I see all sorts of things that bother me; the youths doesn't know what respect is - not all of them, of course. Recently, a young young held the door open for me, I was so perplexed I had to say how much I appreciate this polite behaviour, because you don't get this often.

Londoners are shaken by the riots, the other day I was on the market in a nearby affected area and people who don't know each other part with the words, "Stay safe, luv." One can cut the tension with a knife, shop-owners are in front of their properties to react quickly, people seem to be look around much more. London's relaxed atmosphere has changed for the time being, at least in those areas. I personally have difficulties to sleep since I live above a shop and you never know when and where it could kick off again. Now I'm not usually an easy unsettled person, but I had a bag with my passport, memory sticks, bank card and a bag for the iguana at the ready. My heart rate goes up every time when black heavy armed police vans race past my house and I worry about those who are hit this time. It's not only the shop owners with often their live's work at stake, it's also the families who live in that area, who have to evacuate their homes, not knowing if they will return to an intact flat or if it's going to burn down.
The picutes and videos of the riots shocked me, how can a person stoop so low to steal from a heavy bleeding boy who's very obviously scared to death when they approach him? And this guy walks off as if he's just won a match with a heavy weight, I don't think there's any chance to get this guy back on track. He's a lost cause.

I'm also fed up with excuses like: these kids are poor and don't have anything. Well, they have a roof over their head, they have something to eat, to wear and hot and cold water coming from a tap. I would suggest they'd go and pay the really poor countries a visit where people starve on a daily basis, where people lack the basics and don't have a chance of an education. I blame bad parenting and nothing else. Those kids don't have respect for others or even for themselves. 
Last week, I had a conversation with a very young plumber, he might be nineteen and he told me he's left his parents' house at age thirteen and lived in social homes ever since, he said he's not into drugs or alcohol and he loves his job. He's a real gem and the proof that a bad background doesn't mean you need to go off the rails. It might be an explanation, but not an excuse and I hear it far too often.
Good education begins in your own home, kids need love and bounderies, blaming the system for their behaviour, I find, is not quite right. What I blame the system for is that those kids get away with anything they're doing, the ramifikations should be worse, plus I think those who have been charged should clean up their mess instead of the volunteers who do it for them.


  1. I once witnessed a young mother stealing from a department store with her young daughter and GRANDMOTHER standing by. What does this scenario imply? I, too, am tired of people saying being "poor" (and, yes, I would argue about that term also--these people seem very well fed and clothed!)is an excuse for bad behavior and that it is somehow someone else's fault. Yes, perhaps there are things that can be changed in the system but I agree with you that it isn't anything like what kids in really poor countries must endure.

    I know it is a complicated situation but when it comes right down to it, we are all responsible for ourselves.

    I'm not British, so I hope you don't mind me chiming in -- but this isn't just a problem in the UK.

  2. I'm not British either and I know the problems exits in many parts of this world, having the same roots. It's sad, truly sad.

  3. Maybe it will stop now. I hope so! You guys have been through the ringer.


  4. Cheers, Nancy. Yes, I hope it'll stop. Everywhere, not only here in London.

  5. A few years ago we had a riot in Dublin in broad daylight when a loyalist-backed march took place there. I don't appreciate everything the Ulster loyalists stand for but I would have regarded this as an opportunity for the south to show dignity. Instead we got a riot which was terrific propaganda for the most irredentist elements in the loyalist camp. In this case, I think it may have been orchestrated at the outset, but once these things get started and police reaction isn't quick enough they get a momentum all of their own. However, that's not to justify the people involved. They still make a moral choice. Anyone who smashes a window or rips up a paving stone to throw it knows what they are doing.

    We have had riots here in Switerland too at the time of WTO talks - in Geneva, the city of peace! There were no fires but there were lots of smashed windows and some looting.

    In the case of London, I think that, at the very outset, there may have been a few people in Tottenham with a sincerely-felt sense of grievance who just lost their temper with the police (especially if the allegations about a 16 year-old girl being beaten unprovoked are correct). However, to the extent that these people might be allowed some indulgence, they ceased to be the driving factor after about 5 minutes and then it just became thuggery.

  6. Colman, I think you got the facts wrong here. They police shot a 29-year-old as they were about to arrest him, not saying it's right, this should have been handled better, but we all don't know what really happened.

  7. In my neck of the woods, we riot over won or lost championship hockey games or during police brutality protests. It's usually the same group of masked anarchists who initiate the mayhem too.