Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London's Burning

It's been a gorgeous day here in South East London, blue skies and scudding clouds. We've been at the park. As usual there's been the odd police chopper going over and the sound of distant sirens. Usually I'd only pay attention to the skies if my 3 year old said  'look Mummy - Hewwicopter!' , but today my friend and I were keeping more of an eye on the number going over. Our chat about our respective weekends - University reunion for her, friend's 60s themed wedding for me - was interrupted not only by children demanding snacks and drinks, but by texts and Facebook updates from concerned friends in the area. "Husband coming home early - it's kicking off in Bermondsey", "Youths gathering around the station". "South Norwood is next". I drove home and our local high street (pretty scuzzy at the best of times) was shut up completely at 3.15pm. Grilles down everywhere. I try to keep this blog amusing, but I'm so angry and upset right now.

We were all on Facebook and Twitter last night, trying to reassure a friend who could smell the burning and see the smoke from the out of control blaze in central Croydon - a century old family business set alight for no reason. A business employing 20 local people, by all accounts well known for its customer service. The fire soon spread to other buildings and we watched the news in horror - the area is also residential, there were houses and flats evacuated by terrified residents. I read on a local news website that one elderly widow has lost everything.


photo credit: Becky Manktelow Croydon Guardian

photo credit: Amy Weston WENN.com


Another friend works in Co-op - she went in this morning at 5.45am to start her shift, and soon reported that thieves had not missed their chance to take cigarettes and booze, knowing there was unlikely to be any response with the police force so stretched. This was pure opportunism - it's been targeted many times before, well before Mark Duggan's death, and before the so called credit crunch and subsequent cuts. I got home from the park, and a neighbour I'd not met before came round to tell me to stay indoors, she'd heard the high street would be next. So much is rumour, but there is genuine fear amongst many. Friends on a road five minutes from mine have just been on Facebook to report a stabbing -  this was at 7.30pm. The sky was still a beautiful blue. 

I - like many of you - have spent hours glued to the news, opinion pieces and social media, trying to get answers. I know it's nothing to do with multiculturalism - the Turkish guys in Dalston defending their street surely prove that. I'm appalled by the outspoken racism appearing on forums once again - reference to 'Blacks' as though we're in the American South in the 1950s. I refuse to believe the casual violence and disregard for personal property - and indeed human life - by the disenfranchised youth taking part is related to the colour of their skin. These are images of people thought to be involved last night in Croydon, caught on CCTV. I don't know about you, but I'm ashamed of all of them, not just the ones who happen to share my skin tone. 

photo released by the Met.

Is it still anger at bankers' bonuses and MPs' expenses? Do the kids wearing balaclavas really think the balance can be redressed by stealing televisions? We've all been living in this culture of entitlement and rapacious consumerism - and those at the top of the pile and those at the bottom seem to exhibit a similar voracious desire for the new, the best, the most impressive - whether that's a yacht, an i-phone or trainers. Of course, we're all being taxed heavily, but this is not the Rebecca riots of 19th century Wales. Is it down to the lack of jobs for school leavers? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I somehow doubt those with ten A* GCSEs are the ones out stealing trainers and flat screen televisions.

There is a lot of 'blame the parents' about and this is to an extent valid  - I'm a parent myself and say the same - those of us with school age children see it every day. Of course, the vast majority of parents I've met since my son started school - those I choose to spend time with - are good honest people. Some are single mums, some are younger than me, some are older, some are unemployed or have a partner who is. Few are wealthy. A cross section of those on my phone and Facebook includes anglo-Indian, Vietnamese, Mauritian, Jamaican...most of them have lived here far longer than me. What we have in common is the ability to teach our children right from wrong, and respect for other people and the school rules.


Where it starts to go wrong is when there is no discipline for misdemeanours, or when parents don't allow the school to administer punishment. When these kids are allowed to run wild and subsequently have their own children, there is no chance for any kind of moral code to be introduced.  Reports are coming in from Manchester, stating that a whole family has drawn up in a car to loot a shop - parents and kids together. This makes me despair, sadly far more than the Twitter organised clean-ups bring me any joy. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to take more pleasure in seeing photos of beleaguered Brits with brooms - I know there are still good people out there. 

I also had a minor Twitter disagreement today with a Guardian writer who was pontificating that we shouldn't be calling those who are taking part in this orgy of criminality 'scum'. Apparently this is classist and racist. I do not stand for or indulge in class hatred or racism, but I stand by my opinion that arson and robbery and mugging are scummy behaviour - no matter who indulges in it. How else would you describe throwing bricks at fire-engines attempting to get through barricades to put out burning buildings? I can almost understand - but not condone - how tensions can reach boiling point initially, but this sustained  level of violence is not to do with poverty or frustration - just the worst kind of hooliganism and greed.

I hope you all stay safe and our shattered communities can be rebuilt.


Lakota

52 comments:

  1. So very well said. I'll never understand how some can justify violence being used to protest a violent act. It'll never make sense to me.

    I am so sorry that all of this is happening. Y'all stay safe and we'll be sending good thoughts across the way to you.

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  2. Hope you're okay Lakota. Well-written and just what I think too. This is madness.

    K xx

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  3. Lakota - My heart and thoughts go out to you and everyone afflicted by this rash violence. I can feel the deserved anger in your post, and the hopeful optimism too. I hope you and yours come through this okay <3

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  4. I'm so sorry and hope that you and your family stay safe.

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  5. Here, here Lakota, please stay safe! x

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  6. Well said. What a dismal day for London. I hope life can return to normal for you soon xo

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  7. thoughts are with you and your loved ones lovely. so freakin crazy i truly cannot believe my eyes. hope all dies down soon. take care. x

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  8. Hello lovely, from a fellow south Londoner. I really couldn't agree more with your post. I don't think i'll be doing Greenwich Market tomorrow. Seems to be alot going on round here, not that i can see anything - just hear. i do hope all is ok where you are. Take care. xx

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  9. Take good care of yourself Lakota xx

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  10. I don't think "scum" is a classist or racist term at all - it just describes someone who behaves in a way that is the lowest of the low. So yes, you're damn right I'm going to call them scum. And morons. And criminals. They're not fighting for a cause, they're committing mindless criminal damage, stealing and burning down the homes, workplaces and cars of innocent people. From the few clips/interviews I've heard, it seems like it's all because they feel like they're entitled to it. Makes me sick.

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  11. Well said. Although I`m now deep in the countryside, I did once share a student flat just off Lavender Hill so I can imagine the atmosphere of fear and the outrage at seeing homes and businesses destroyed so wantonly.

    Hoping that normality soon returns for you and yours.
    Stay safe.

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  12. beautifully written Lakota, I agree with what you say. My hubby is from SW London, [Putney] and my heart is breaking for the people of London right now.
    you are right, they ARE scum. We have just seen youths taking things from the backpack of a young, injured boy on the tv news here in Aussie.. now THAT IS SCUM.
    I hope you and your family can stay safe and that London can finally rise above this, but I know it is going to be a long hard road.♥♥

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  13. Scum has no conotations whatsoever- it is another word for muck which is how one would describe behaviour that belongs in a sewer. You put it right. And what you say about it too. And the lack of fear- these people fear no one.
    Stay safe

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  14. I'm still trying to take it all in, I can't rationalize any if it. Human beings are supposed to be blessed with inherent 'love thy neighbour' qualities aren't they? No matter how terrible their childhood.

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  15. So well written - I agree with all that you have said. Hoping that you and all you hold dear are safe. Love Linda xxx

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  16. Completely agree with what you've said. Hope you stay safe!

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  17. I was unaware if all this while off on my holidays, but to see this happening to the place I love so much makes me so livid.
    In my opinion its 'undirected youth'. I work with kids-shitty kids have shitty parents, kids are totally innocent and just go off what they are taught and does not take many in the whole population of London to cock it up for everyone else. The whole migrant culture argument is a bit rubbish, 99% people in my life that treat me like poo have been white, and pretty sure lots of rich black, asian, eastern europeans etc are arseholes too, just go about it in a different manner. Its the one bad apple/jumping on bandwagon kind of thing.
    The very fact that this does not happen in small villages etc shows that cities are taking away a very natural part of human culture of being part of a community so you do care, those turks just proved how a strong community matters!
    Hope you managed to enjoy some of Saturday, and hope it is stopped soon-thatcher would have had the army in pronto!

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  18. Well said. I was born and brought up in Hackney and Islington and it breaks my heart to see this happening. I no longer live in London but it's my home and I love it.
    These rioters are greedy thugs and opportunists in my opinion and their parents should be ashamed of them. My 18 year old daughter has just finished two years at college and is busting a gut trying to get a full time job, she works in Tesco three evenings a week and Sunday afternoons so she can run her car and go out with her mates and buy clothes. I bet if you offered any of those kids that chance they would turn their nose up at it.
    Look after yourself and don't take any chances, Mrs.
    xx

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  19. I've watched the news with utter despair and shame.......and I've cried.

    Keep yourself and your family safe x x x

    Jo x

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  20. What is happening at the moment is absolutely sickening!

    None of the youths out there doing these mindless barbaric acts give two shits about the economy or our government! They are just joining in on the riots because it's an opportunity steal and cause havoc. When they are stealing a pair of crappy trainers they're not thinking about the economy.. no they are thinking about how 'cool' they'd look in them or how much they can flog them for!

    It's making me feel ashamed to be British!

    I hope you and your loved ones stay safe! xxx

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  21. Such a well written and heart-felt post Lakota...I've got a feeling you could give that journo from the Guardian a run for his money!
    My head is too cotton wool-ish to write much more, but I'm thinking of you and your fellow Londoners...do take care and stay safe x

    ps it's all about respect...lack of ie.

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  22. I thought of you this morning when I read some news articles about the riots here in the U.S. Then later I saw your post, but couldn't read it until now. I'm happy you are safe.

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  23. My heart goes out to everyone who is being affected by such awfulness Lakota. I hope you and your loved ones stay safe. I can't imagine how frightening this must be. Words fail me really.The images we are seeing on our nightly news are frightening and dreadful.It has been like looking at a war zone. I hope and pray the situation is resolved quickly.

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  24. Thinking of you from across the pond.
    "Keep each other safe. Keep faith. Good night."

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  25. In following this story through my local media, I can safely say that I can no way understand the fear, frustration, confusion and anger the people of London must be feeling right now. This level of destruction, not just of property and history, but of people's livelihoods is heart-breaking. I hope you, your family, friends and neighbors stay safe.

    <3 Jackie @ Let's Go Thrifting!
    http://LetsgoThrifting.blogspot.com

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  26. Rascism is alive and well and kicking Lakota - I doubt it ever isn't, usually people just hide it better. It's a terrible thing.

    You said it all very succinctly and I agree totally about the root cause being the lack of child discipline and the lack of negative consequences for unacceptable behavior. We, as a society, are reaping what we have sown. (I don't mean individuals, but the country, under poor leadership). There really needs to be some changes in our laws.

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  27. Once again blown away by your beautiful writing and calm, measured thoughtfulness - I wish I knew you IRL! I am a bit of a Guardian reader generally, but I am fed up with 'society has taught these children to value flat screen tvs' Emma Thompson type approach. For heavens sake they ARE scum! And all those beastly fires have made a mockery of our green living efforts.

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  28. I am so behind every thing you say. They are scum and give briton such a bad name. They need bringing to justice.

    The country is going mad!

    X x

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  29. i've been glued to the news since the first day of the riot...i just can't believe something like this happening here, i can understand if it happens in my country who is still struggling with alot of things but not to a country like UK! i do hope you and your family are safe and i do hope this will be dealt with and over as soon as possible. x susan

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  30. Great post, Lakota. Hope things will calm down and glad to hear London was relatively peaceful last night.

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  31. Hear, hear ~ a sane voice! Great post, sweetie.

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  32. really a shame what happend in a city that's stolen my heart. really a great post, lakota. shame on the people who caused such stupid violence!

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  33. I'm wordless. Well, I have words, but they aren't joined up at the moment. The family losing that shop - after the previous generations kept it going through both world wars, the 30s Depression, the 80s recession... I saw the 80 year old owner on the news. Hope they put the 21 year old they've just arrested for starting that fire in a room with that man and his family.

    Those stupid kids probably didn't even look up above the shop windows to think about the fact people were living in flats above - there are so many awful stories about people being burnt out, having nothing left but what they're standing up in.

    Stupid, selfish kids. Dragged up by more stupid, selfish, kid-adults.

    Where the bl**dy hell do we go from here?

    xx

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  34. Hi Lakota! Very well said.
    We have our own problems, here in Spain, with the youth encampments asking for change. With those I agree, mind you. But those are gone. The "militants" left now are just jobless, toothless junkies that have nowhere to go, that leave their garbage on the sidewalk and stop you on the street asking for a cigarrette.
    I also refuse to accept these as examples of a new democracy. These scumbags are NOT representing ME.
    Although we all agree a change is necessary, violence, vandalism, theft, arsen and murder are NOT the way to get it.
    I've had you and many other UK blogger friends in my prayers these days, and hope you remain safe.

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  35. This makes me so sad that in this day and age this kind of stuff still goes on. Scummy indeed. Scummy has no color. I'm sorry this is happening Lakota. It especially angers me now that I have so many friends over there (due to blogging). All real humans, having to deal with this situation :(

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  36. A very well though out post! Stay safe my dear friend! xx

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  37. I wish I could leave a comment half as eloquently as your post deserves.
    This behaviour breaks my heart. Scuzzy, scummy, call it what you will, it's just plain wrong.
    Who can we blame but society? Parents who go out on the lash leaving their young kids roaming in the town centre in the dark, airing their dirty laundry on the internet and the Jeremy Kyle Show, placing great value on fame and owning the latest gadget or designer accessory.
    It took decades for Birmingham to rebuild it's reputation after the handsworth Riots of '81 only for all that hard work to be destroyed in a matter of hours. x

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  38. Beautifully written Lakota, and sums up my feelings completely. Stay safe and hopefully all this madness will stop soon, although the scars its left will be evident for a long time :o( Scarlett x

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  39. One of the best things I have read so far on the riots. I think you echo the sentiments of a lot of Britons including me. I really hope that things calm down soon and that you and your community can get back to some sort of normality.
    With lots of love,

    Kathryn x

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  40. Excellent post Lakota. The only thing I would add is that not all the so called rioters are young, as you say it is scummy behaviour. I feel that this umbrella of so called riots is just an excuse to steal and behave in a lawless fashion.
    I agree with you arguing with the Guardian journalist, it is all very well living in a lovely liberal Guardian bubble however, I'm sure if said journalist was living amongst this, and not in an ivory tower, they might not be so sympathetic. Rant over.
    take care of you and yours.
    twiggy x

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  41. An exceptionally well-written piece Lakota; well thought-out and a balanced view. I’m so glad that you told it how it is. I’m afraid the current problem is partially the result of raising a generation (or two) who have had everything handed to them on a plate and therefore take no responsibilty for themselves. Sadly I had to deal with some of those families in my working life, and although I am at heart an optimist, I do worry about the future. The only consolation is that this may just be a catalyst for change - that’s the optimist talking.

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  42. Thanks everyone. Just to clarify, I didn't call anyone scum on Twitter - I saw the tweet, taking exception to others that had. The journalist was a young black woman, she grew up in Tottenham. We didn't exchange harsh words, just a debate. What she said may have had some validity in isolation, and with reference to the original tensions there. But once it spread, I think we can all see that the vast majority of looters were mere bandwagon-jumpers - justifying their criminality to themselves after the event. Of course the general public are going to be outraged - scumbag is hardly racial hatred is it?

    I do understand her point, the common usage of the word 'chav' to describe any tracksuited mum with several kids is an insult. Certain parts of society do look down on the poor. However, it's no comfort to anyone who's lost a home or business to read treatises on mob mentality, or assumed social identity.

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  43. Catching up with all my blog reading, this was so well written Lakota. It has all made me so sad too. And I don't think scum is in any way a racist word, and I think it can be justifiably used right now when so many people are upset and angry. x

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  44. Great post amor!
    I dont get it, how is this justifying anything. I am embarrased and I'm not even English. so sad to see this happening in these times. some of those iditos were adults and a teacher. how low can you go.
    Hope your keeping well.

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  45. It has been horrifying the last couple of days seeing the extent to which these looters are prepared to sink. I don't know which incidents have stunned me more because they're all so abhorrent.

    Glad yourself and family are safe!!

    Jem xXx

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  46. My family is praying for you and yours and an end to all this violence. Wish there was more we could do.

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  47. Comments over here in the US say it is partly due to the high unemployment and could happen here...Do you think any of these thugs would be looking for work? Or better yet, who would employ this kind of person? Society is too concerned about "helping" the "down and out"- no rules, lots of sympathy, etc...you are right about the sense of entitlement today.It is world wide...I hope the good people prevail....

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  48. Well said. Lets hope this madness has come to an end.
    I hope you stay safe!

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  49. Just read this, Lakota. Not sure why I missed it. Actually, came over because I was thinking about you - living nr Croyden and hoping you were OK. Glad you are OK. An excellent post (as usual), I only wish I could comment as eloquently. xx

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  50. HI Lakota, just catching up after my hols an wanted to say what a brilliant post. Of course that's not classist or racist - if anything that writer was the one being classist and racist by presuming that everyone involved is from one particular demographic. Grr.

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