London is a riot

Well I have to say from the confines of our Chelsea rental the violence of the past few days just a few miles from our front door seems a little unreal. But real it is, and so many people are posting their thoughts and feelings onto Facebook and their blogs that I decided to write a bit too and tick that political category box for once.

The looters and rioters, as far as I can see, are a random group of individuals setting about their nightly vandalism in the hope of achieving notoriety, gaining power over the authorities, and acquiring a few bits and pieces they can sell or boast about to their mates. They have no cause, no aim and no respect for anyone or anything outside of their own anti social community of thugs. They don’t care that they are destroying the very place they live in because these people completely lack the kind of moral compass that makes the rest of us so shocked that this is happening. Why any of this is so surprising to anyone who’s lived or worked in London for any period of time is beyond me.

London is full of violence and crime. I’ve lived alongside crack dealers in Brixton, carried a Stanley knife to protect myself walking through Lewisham and had my car stolen in New Cross. I’ve heard numerous stories of muggings and thefts first hand from my friends, watched a local from the pub I worked at in Hither Green stick another mans head through a shop window and broken up a fight with a pool cue in that self same pub. Thirty, twenty, ten years ago or now, there are areas in London, and anywhere else for that matter, which are always subject to random crime and mindless violence by people who consider themselves above the law and immune to the idea of common decency that the rest of society lives by. The past few days is merely what happens when all these issues rise to the surface and gain momentum.

The kids who are doing it are only partly to blame. I’m sure they are mostly poor, badly educated and bored, surviving in a street culture which rewards this kind of behaviour. They are the football hooligans and the hoodies on street corners who make you wish you’d chosen a different route home. They have little to do with real communities and are part of a ‘me’ generation who think of no one and nothing but themselves. In order to survive and be counted, they must fit in – like any other band of teenagers or young people, they depend emotionally and spiritually (and unfortunately sometimes physically) on being part of a group and they shape their behaviour around it.

Of course they must be stopped. Today. They know nothing of reasonable behaviour and have no respect for anyone, so I doubt asking nicely if they can all go home now will have the desired effect. I fear the police will have to get tough and instill fear to regain their authority , and worry about the social welfare of these kids another day. But it does need to be considered, that action must be taken to help these lost children who parade our streets with knives and fire and guns and drugs. When this world is the most real, the most attractive, the most prosperous, a new incentive must be found in the longer term to counter it and rescue them from this bleak existence. Since the Brixton riots of a whole generation ago too little has been done to control the spread of inner city problems of poverty, crime, poor education and violence. The bigger surprise is that this kind of mass outbreak hasn’t happened before now.

I love London and whilst the events this week are deplorable and frightening I still believe they are in a large part preventable or at the very least controllable. I commend the men and women who have to work on the front line to stop it, and I pity the politicians who have the unenviable task of trying to fix the problem literally overnight to the satisfaction of the general public. There are many opinions on how to get both jobs done and I don’t know enough about either to add my voice to the mix. I watch and wait and hope the streets of this great city are safer soon.

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