Wednesday, August 10, 2011

London, Chavs, Riots And Looting.

It seemed to start on Saturday night. You're probably fully versed on events but, just in case you're not, here's roughly what happened.

A man, Mark Duggan, was shot and killed by armed Police on Thursday. In itself it wasn't even that big a story and I suspect most people here weren't even aware of it until things kicked off later. There's an inquiry going on about the shooting. The Police, at the time, seemed to say that there was an exchange of gunfire, something that now appears to be incorrect, as reports claim that only two shots were fired, both by Police, and killing Mr Duggan.

It took place in Tottenham, an inner city area of tension at the best of times, and on Saturday night, a peaceful protest there about the killing turned violent and got out of hand.

I was at dinner with Academic Bro, Academic SIL and C and we laughed when we received a phone call from our mother, to warn of the riots (about 5 miles away from where we were and in the opposite direction from the way we'd travel home). That's Sri Lankan mothers for you we chuckled to each other, then drove home vaguely aware of a few more Police sirens on passing vehicles than normal. We had eaten fish for dinner, with gazpacho to start.

On Sunday it still didn't seem like very big news. Some riots in Tottenham, a touch of looting, a Police shooting, well that's what goes on in these parts anyhow. Chavs, drug dealers, Police, that's what they do.

By Tuesday morning the situation was different. Things had erupted big scale and no longer confined to one area, it was all over London. You know it's bad when both David Cameron and Boris Johnston think about coming back from their holidays.

It had spread as far west as Ealing, down the road from my office, and everyone I knew was worried about what might happen in their area. One girl at work who lives in Ealing told us what she had witnessed and stories she'd heard first hand from people. Stories of families fleeing their homes, running to hotels and staying there for the night. Stories of gangs of poor quality people roaming the streets and destroying anything and everything in their path.

The particularly scary thing about it was that this was Ealing, a pretty suburban and respectable area. I have a few good friends who live there and it's as middle class as can be.

Thing also erupted in Clapham, one of those areas that's a mix of posh people and poorer types. It wasn't such a shock but still took many by surprise. The posh ones hurriedly got a big Waitrose delivery in and stocked up their Smeg fridges, shut their wine cellars and double locked their expensive doors and settled in to watch their staff riot and loot.

Pockets of trouble broke out all over Greater London, a city that wasn't looking so great. Croydon in the south was hit, with buildings burnt down, shops looted and businesses destroyed. Things got personal and everyone has a story to tell now. A story of someone they know or a business they're familiar with that has been ruined.

The public, well apart from the chavs, were furious and livid. In most case the Police weren't even present and, when they were, they failed to act decisively if at all. People were calling for the use of water cannons, rubber bullets, curfews and the army. Everyday shit for you guys in Sri Lanka I know, but not here.

Boris and Dave flew back from their holidays, though I'm not sure if they came economy or business class, and faced the people.

That's roughly what happened.

Why did it take place? How did people see things? What can we do about it? What's going to happen?

Here's what I think.


Firstly, the way things are viewed by most here is that these troubles are not "protests". I've seen many from outside the UK refer to them as protests that have turned violent, that have started out as one thing and morphed into another.

Those who think that hold a view that is not shared by most people here. These are acts of riotous violent looting and thuggery carried out by gangs and mobs of idiots, nothing more, nothing less. Yes, the shooting of Mark Duggan, the following protest and unrest in his community were catalysts. But the mobs out on the streets at the moment are there because of mob mentality, because of nothing other than joining in with their mates and getting some free stuff.

I'm not trying to dismiss the reasons for this all taking place, but it does seem that the coverage from outside of the UK places far more emphasis on the protest element than we see here.

There are many underlying reasons why these kids want to do so, but I think very strongly that it's important to convey the depth of feeling here; that the "protest" element was only something that existed at the very beginning of things.

Social Media.

The roles played by Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and BBM have been large in recent days. They have been roles with positive and negative aspects. My humble O is that the positives have been far greater than the bad bits. The negatives however, have been instrumental in kicking things off in the first place.

BBM and Twitter have been vital tools for the mobs in organising where and when they're going to meet. Everyone has heard things that people have gleaned from these networks along the lines of "there's something going on in Kingston tonight" or "I heard people are meeting at the horse statue in Ealing Broadway at 6".

There was talk of the government getting these networks shut down temporarily. It hasn't happened, I'm not sure if it could be done, either legally or logistically, but I'm sure that the respective companies wouldn't want their names associated with being a tool of the mobs.

But on the positive side, there have been, in my eyes, far more tweets and Facebook statuses condemning the riots and people and expressing upset and dismay. There have been people organising cleanup groups and galvanising each other to do good things, much of that Great British gung ho spirit that makes me feel quite proud.

Youtube has been full of terrible videos of acts committed by the thugs. One video shows a poor teenager who's obviously been attacked in some way being "helped" by some others, who then proceed to nick his stuff when he's already injured. It looks to me as if the first black kid genuinely tries to help him, then doesn't have the guts to stand up to the white kid who opens the bag. I might be wrong, either way it makes me sick.

Other videos and pictures show similar. This one, whilst incredibly funny, I think also shows that this is mostly opportunistic and mob mentality at its worst.

I saw some negative and frankly stupid comments, statuses and tweets, specifically from people in Sri Lanka, which surprised and disappointed me. Sittingnut's idiotic retweet was one, as well as some Facebook bits and pieces that were unpleasantly anti British. I was amused to see a couple that were then deleted some hours later, presumably because the writers felt bad, more likely stupid.

Many a true word is spoken in jest they say. This comment from the legendary DB made me LOL. Out loud.

"I think the Snuts and other nutjobs probably are happy about it and are telling themselves that everyone is as well, but that's largely a load of bullshit.

But I say largely. 'Cos you know, imagine you're having some family problems, your daughter's on drugs and has a boyfriend who steals cars, and you're not sure what to do. But you've got this holier-than-thou neighbour who keeps telling you what a fucked up parent you are. Then your neighbour's daughter runs away with a drug dealer who gets her pregnant. How would you feel? You're not happy about it, and it doesn't solve your own probs, but perhaps it'll shut that neighbour up for awhile. know what I mean?"

Though I must say, I've been hit by a deluge of kind emails, messages and comments here on my blog from many true friends in Sri Lanka, all expressing concern for me and my loved ones, and that's heartwarming. Thank you.

Lots of people have become very hard on Facebook too, which has made me laugh. All sorts have made public what they think they'll do if they see a group of people down their road up to no good.

"I won't hesitate to wade in" blah blah blah. It's all well and good to say and some of them may well be telling the truth. But I, faced with an angry mob of kids with no respect for anything except MTV and The Beckhams, will grab my loved ones, a couple of snare drums, my top ten or perhaps twenty Superdry T shirts and get the hell out. Only then will I come back and beat the shit out of them, like I've seen Chuck Norris do so many times.


So far in Kingston, where I live, things have been relatively calm and quiet. Last night (Tuesday) there were Police all over the place, which felt reassuring and, as far as I know, there was little trouble. There were rumours of gangs meeting but I don't think anything happened.

There have been pockets of trouble flaring up in many places. Shopkeepers have now come out to protect their property in anticipation of trouble and most people are wary. Last night was quieter in London but lots happened in Manchester and Birmingham as well as some other Northern parts of the country that no one really cares about anyhow.

I'd be lying or overdramatising if I painted a picture of me living through some sort of inner city hell, with Martin Luther King making speeches and Stevie Wonder doing free gigs in the local park. Currently it's calm for me, just in a tense, anything can happen at any time and place sort of way.

Strangely enough the only time I can recall in which I felt similar was in July '83, the big difference being that this time people aren't actually being targeted, more getting caught in the crossfire.


The death of Mark Duggan was merely the flashpoint in this. The people who are guilty of the actual looting and rioting have been like a pile of very dry combustible material waiting to catch fire. All the pile needed was one spark to flare up and become a huge fire, which is what happened.

We've got problems in the UK, everyone knows that. An economy that's fucked, a generation, perhaps two, who are materialistic in ways that previous ones never were and an I want it now attitude.

On top of that we've got a Police force that is rapidly losing its respect from its customers, because of things like the News International saga, the shootings of people like John Charles Menezes and Mark Duggan.

All of those were the fuel that had already been poured on the pile, just waiting for the spark. At the bottom of the pile were loads of metaphors and similes, like the dryest and most combustible material you can think of.

As a society we need to redress our values. We need to look less at teaching our kids to look after number one and teach them about looking after others.

We complain about the kids not having respect.

Well we need to earn that respect from them too. It might take years or decades but only then will we move on.

In the meantime things are likely to flare up at any time.

That's what I think.

UPDATE - Thoughts from The Auf are here.


sittingnut said...

(blogger here censors me after
referring to me in post! lol)

i posted text below '-' twice and got censored in your other post referring to my tweet before but since you add further remarks here and refer to blackyboy's suck up comment, here, i post it here too for record purposes.

btw cowardly liar blackyboy would never have dared to comment like that if he did not know i would be censored as usual here.

you are free to attack me and censor my responses as usual (and protect blacky too since he cannot defend himself alone)

this censorship is typical behavior from a person who took part in flag waving demonstrations that supported murderous tamil tigers killing our children and opposed their defeat.

now you denigrate these bristh scum but you were not so free with your words with regard to ltte murderers were you?

show me where you called for their defeat if you disagree ?

typical of a paid slave who lived off british welfare checks.

[censored comments below]

why no link or post screenshot of my tweets. afraid of ppl seeing my other tweets?
only your censored version of what happened allowed here huh? lol

(later added after db comment)
this typical dishonest censorship allows army deserter david blacky son of homophobe anglican clergyman to attack me through silly speculations.


Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Sittingnut - I bet you've got spit all over your monitor now!

sittingnut said...

you are free to speculate about my spit ( i do get angry with supporters of child killers but spit i prefer save and direct at mugs of such ppl than monitors)

after all you have no choice but to run from facts. huh?

so speculate away! lol

Scrumps said...

To be fair - it's not just kids. According to one BBC report I have read, the first man to plead guilty to looting is a 31 year old teacher!

It's about having boundaries. Teaching people what is right and wrong. And to get rid of a mob mentality.

How do you propose that we earn respect from them? I have no respect for anybody that committed the looting. I think they behaved like savages. That is down majority to upbringing. And the nanny state that we are worryingly becoming. If discipline is not administered at home, it should be at schools but nowadays teachers are fearful to reprimand kinds for fear of the backlash they might receive.

The mentality needs to change amongst those that committed these riots that this is not acceptable behaviour and as such will receive punishment.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Scrumps - The footage I've seen, the things I've heard seem to show most of the perpetrators to be teenagers and people in their 20s, though I'm sure there's a few older people there too. Besides a 31 year old is a kid to me anyhow!

I agree with you about teaching boundaries, though I'm not sure the mob mentality will ever go, as it's one of those things we all possess. The important thing is to instill boundaries and the sense of basic right and wrong wherever possible.

Like you I have little respect for these people. I think one of the ways we would earn more respect is by stricter and better punishment as you suggest.

But the whole nanny state thing is a complicated issue and I'm no expert. It does seem that things like all the ambulance chasing insurance co ads you and I see on TV just about every few minutes are aiding the nanny state, making everyone scared of the consequences of trying to do what we think is right.

As parents we need to do more and take more responsibility for the behaviour of our kids. We need to stop blaming teachers, Police and everyone else and look at ourselves.

Sorry for the rant, but that's what I think!

aufidius said...

Only just saw this post. Excellent analysis and description of events. This looter was absolutely sickening! -

Not to be a blog whore, but in essence I guess that's what this can make me, but here are my thoughts on the issue. A very different take though with a lot in common -

Patta Pal said...

Your view on the happenings in London are very interesting and incredibly I see so many parallels in Sri Lanka, where I interact with many young people who are disillusioned with their lives and will grab at anything that remotely sounds exciting to them, whether it is illegal or destructive.

I am trying to find ways to direct their lives in meaningful ways, and finding it hard to convince them that there is a way forward with justice, equality, and effort will be rewarded, under the present system of governance.