millionreasons: (Default)
The Bullingdon Club has been mentioned over the last few days, comparing Dave, Bozza and Gideon's antics to the rioters'. It got me to thinking about (i) teenage high jinks (ii) the temptation of getting away with it and (iii) Mum morality.

Many of the people arrested and already convicted and sentenced have been under 21 and if their tales are true, took things out of already smashed windows, i.e. they were literally looting, as opposed to what was called looting, which was actually burglary. The police seem to have found and arrested the "good kids", the ones that the press have pointed out are grade A students, chefs, ballet dancers etc. Presumably the hardened crims, the bike thief gangs, the arsonists, the murderers are harder to find, more used to evading detection.

Their defence of the looting was that they thought they wouldn't get caught. It made me wonder if I'd been walking down a rioted road and some nice stuff was lying on the ground, whether I'd pick it up. It's pretty hard to say that I wouldn't. I am a veteran liberator of cafe condiments, toiletries in hotels, envelopes in offices. When I was a tediously traditional teenager, I did bad things. The usual smoking and underage drinking, but I can also remember throwing glass bottles across suburban roads and petty shoplifting. Not because I wanted my parents to take more notice of me but because I thougth I could get away with it. The pilfering was usually peripheral, a bag of crisps from Boots, small bath things from the Body Shop. I didn't think it was wrong, just as if now if I found a £20 note in the street, I wouldn't hand it in to the police. If a restaurant forgets to charge me for the second drink, I don't usually point it out. The biggest thing I ever stole was a bottle of vodka, and that was done in the company of some bigger boys who ran away equally drunk friends. Not peer pressure, but the lure and hilarity of the crowd. Being bad is fun. I like to think I wouldn't have burned down a block of flats with people still in it, but I guess all of those people who did the Milgram experiment didn't think they'd ever hurt anyone either. I stopped shoplifting, not because I got caught, but because I found it embarrassing, in other words: I grew up.

So, I guess my point is that the people who smashed up restaurants and the people who stole voddy from corner shops should perhaps have a little more compassion for those who destroyed PC World and stole multipacks of crisps.

Unfortunately, on the other hand, I also think the opposite. It's tiring to be told that because MPs acted in pretty much the same way as the rioters (because they thought they could get away with house flipping and Bang & Olufsen TVs on the tax-payer), we should have sympathy with the rioters. If the lefties hate the rich for tax avoidance* and the MPs for their duck moats but applaud the rioters for taking stuff, it seems somewhat hypocritical. If someone steals my Oyster card on the bus, I don't nick someone else's wallet. If a man hits me in the face in the street (as once happened in Peckham), I don't track him down and blow his face off with an AK-47. This is where mum-morality comes in: Two wrongs don't make a right. If we, whoever we are, believe that we are better than gravy train MPs, tax-avoiding executives (and Irish pop stars), and the likes of Coulson, Brooks et al (and I certainly do think I am, despite past indiscretions and current love of Wetherspoon's tomato sauce sachets), then how can we say that it's OK for one section of society to do it, but not another? Because one section is poorer than the other? Isn't this just Victorian values, to expect the poor to have no morals?

I once read that it is better to hold two opposing views at once than to have no doubt at all about one's opinions. I hope this is true.

* In 2005, UK's billionaires paid £14.7m in tax. 9m of that came from James Dyson.
millionreasons: (men)
Aaargh! This made me angry*. How can a response to four people dying be: "these things happen"?

What does Jonny Jones think, that this is 1905 and 1917 is not too far away? That Haroon Jahan was just collateral damage? Not to mention the Malaysian student mugged after having his jaw broken, Gay's the Word bookshop smashed (Waterstones untouched), people left to die in burning buildings. How does that fit into your revolution, mate? The riots didn't happen in Kensington and Hampstead, they happened in poor areas. Rioters and burglars spreading fear in their own communities, stopping their equally-poor-but-nonetheless-not-rioting-neighbours from leaving the house, setting fire to the shops on their estates? Did Guavera burn down the nearest cigar shop in '59? I doubt it. I think Jones will have a little trouble co-opting the rioters into the Revolution given that they were not interested in smashing Downing Street but more in trainers and multipack bags of crisps. As this blog says, "there was no challenge to the status quo here, only an extrapolation of it."

The only heroes of this are not the police, not the politicians, not Darcus "I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people" Howe, not the EDL, not the left wing apologists, not even the Turkish shop owners in Dalston, but Tariq Jahan, father of the murdered man in Birmingham calling for peace and the woman standing up to the looters in Hackney.

* you probably can't read it unless you're on Facebook.
millionreasons: (men)
There was a comment on twitter: "How many liberal lefties are feeling their inner right wing authoritarian?" or words to that effect. Cuts to EMA and youth services, lack of jobs, poor schools, poor parenting, an aspirational capitalist culture and so on are no doubt to blame for the weekend and Monday night's events, but in the end, there has to be some individual responsibility. It stopped being anything to do with Mark Duggan when the first JD Sports was hit and I imagine that a lot of the youths looting/burgling are the same ones who stab other youths because they are from a different postcode. What started as a protest against police brutality deviated into something that will create far more police brutality. Attacking a PC World is not the same as attacking the corner shop on your estate: it just means there's no longer a corner shop. Your area gets worse.

On our estate, we live with white, black, Asian, Jewish, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, African, Polish and Indian-Caribbean people. There are several single parents. Apart from me wanting the noisy family upstairs to die in a car crash, everyone gets along all right. People send Xmas cards. It helps that it is a small estate (only 20 flats, 11 are council, 9 are owned (actually, 8 are owner occupied, one is rented to a couple)), so you more or less know who lives here. None of the children or teenagers went rioting, in fact the playground was dead at 8 p.m. (they are usually out there until 10 or so). To blame things on poverty seems an insult to the people who grew up in the same situation and yet didn't become gang members or criminals.

Riot Girl

Aug. 9th, 2011 10:08 am
millionreasons: (Default)
Yesterday was David's post-birthday so we went to Store St for a flattie and Leighton House in Kensington where we were unable to take pics of the arab-inspired mosaics and stuffed peacocks, but the internet has some.

Going home at about 3 p.m. we were told that the Victoria line was part-suspended "at police request". I thought this meant Walthamstow to Seven Sisters (the Tottenham area), but it was actually Brixton to Stockwell - the police were already stopping people travelling to the area. It seems that they were also preventing people from going home in Hackney which seems to cause, not halt problems.

In the evening, we went to Saf for a meal. I didn't think much of it; I was more worried about rush hour traffic through Dalston than masked youths setting buses on fire and it wasn't until we came back and saw the shuttered shops and cafes (Dalston Superstore has forever lost its so-called edginess by closing, whereas City Kebab was still open) that I realised that the riots might spread. People were sat outside the Stone Cave restaurant, reminding me of 7/7 when people stayed eating and drinking in Upper Street cafes, as if nothing had really happened. I remember wondering if it was keep-calm-and-carry-on blitz-esque spirit or London self-centreredness - nothing's keeping me from my foccacia. Possibly at the Stone Cave, it was Turkish Muslims looking forward to their Ramadan evening meal.

The buses going to Wood Green and Tottenham seemed in a hurry to finish their routes before nightfall, and back on our road, all the Hassidic Jews had disappeared which made the streets eerily quiet. Imagine Brick Lane with the Bangladeshi community suddenly not there. I was quite surprised by the Hassisdim absence as I tend to think of them as a) quite hard and b) not that interested in things happening outside of their community. A married woman not wearing her wig, well, that would be cause of a civil disturbance. I could hear police cars up and down Upper Clapton Road and helicopters circling Mare Street, but on the streets of Stoke Newington, even at the wrong end, everything was quiet. Apart from our upstairs neighbours of course, who decided to have an impromptu prayer/singing vigil - I was tempted to knock on their door to ask them go join the riots. I awoke at 2 a.m. and double locked the doors and windows, looking at the estate opposite which, in the summer, usually has small gangs of youths climbing the fence to get into our estate, whereby they then sit on the roof of the bin area staring menacingly at people, but nothing was happening.

The internet was going mad, of course, with someone starting a riot map which seemed to be causing unnecessary panic as some of the incidents were along the lines of "hearing sirens in N1", but a new map details areas of unrest and violence from twitter and flickr reports. The issue was no longer fighting the police and starting fires and nicking trainers but mugging in parks and attacks on people on bikes. Now that the barbarians were at the metaphorical gates, the thought tide has turned somewhat, from quoting statistics about poverty and cuts in Haringey and reminding Twitter followers that Boris and Dave liked smashing things back in the 80s, to calls for the army and rubber bullets. Much reposting of this video was made as well as pictures of the Turkish and Kurdish community fighting back against looters in east London. The right will demand national service and flogging, the left will blame the government, but I'm not sure you can blame rioters attacking cyclists on David Cameron. Perhaps "they" see "us" as the enemy just as much as the police are.

January 2017

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