I don’t know.
I hate that I can hear sirens on Coldharbour Lane at the end of my road – but then again, I can hear sirens on Coldharbour Lane any night of any week. I just have a more clear idea of what these ones might be doing tonight.
I hate that ‘my’ Brixton, which has been doing so well, and making such great strides with fantastic local businesses stepping up (especially in Brixton Village) is going to suffer harsh setbacks after all this has died down. There’s no money though, so the money to refit and refurb won’t be coming anytime soon that I can see, not with the global markets crashing around our ears.
I hate that the news is reporting “London on fire” – it’s not. Not all of it. Not even most of it. Small pockets. And yes, those pockets are ghastly, terrifying, nonsensical (Croydon? Really – Croydon?! why??), but it’s still not the whole city and it isn’t anarchy and no, we do NOT need troops on the streets, or water cannon, or any of those other extreme far-right tactics that have worked so well in Libya and Syria this year.
I hate that Twitter and Facebook seem to have a ghoulish excitement for the worst of the news and I suspect that rolling news only makes the stupids looting out there think that what they’re doing is newsworthy.
As I write this there have been no mentions of any fatalities from the rioting, but I’m scared that can’t last.
I hate that the rioters are mostly spoken of as young black youths, when the pictures clearly show other races and young women as well. I hate that we have so demonised young black men that they are the first image people seem to conjure when they hear of riots.
I hate that our Met Police were so effective at kettling and rounding up school children and university students demonstrating against education cuts some months ago and yet seem absurdly powerless to do anything about a bunch of kids with large sticks attacking Bodyshop in the high street.
I hate that they’re attacking their own back yards. Young people smashing in and stealing from and closing the shops where they themselves work, eat, shop.
I hate the consumerism of the rioters. I wish they were chanting slogans, I wish they were carrying placards, I wish there was a clear political point to what they’re doing. I wish they didn’t seem to be so clearly shopping.
I do think that any riot is political, even without a clear political point, but I wish the people taking part in this one were channelling that energy into something constructive.
I hate that Woolwich has had fires set. Woolwich, which is already such a poor relation to its neighbouring Greenwich, which is trying – and then it gets slapped down again. Anyone would think there was a vested interest in keeping the poor and disaffected in their place. (Hush now, conspiracy theorists.)
This certainly isn’t the first time London has had to deal with looters, and even that “Blitz spirit” wasn’t always all it was cracked up to be – my Mum had stories of her bombed-out home in Kennington being looted during WW2.
I think it’s laughable – and utterly typical – that our PM and London Mayor have both only just agreed to come back from holiday to deal with this mess, that they had to be shamed into coming home because neither of them could be bothered doing so sooner.
And I do find it scary, but I find the fear engendered by rolling news and over-eager reporting and ghoulish fascination even more frightening. That fear is easily turned against us.
I hate that really normal parts of London are being set on fire while all the big fancy places stay aloof and safe – and no, OF COURSE I don’t want them attacked too – but I do hate that it’s always the poor that suffer, always the poor that end up attacking the poor (either in the armies of the rich or, as now, at home).
Because, more than anything, this feels like it’s about class. It may have been sparked by the shooting of a black man, but it’s shops that are being targeted, ownership, property. And that feels like a class target, not a race target.
And finally, I hate, really really hate, that the EDL and the BNP and any other extreme right body (and sometimes not that extreme) will use this as a reason to decry immigration, non-white British, to attack anyone they see as not-English.
And here’s what I love :
I love the woman who tweeted that a group of 9 youths escorted her home from Camberwell to East Dulwich because she’s a woman. I love that they did.
I love the number of people on twitter who are offering to get out tomorrow morning and clean up Brixton and Croydon and Hackney and Liverpool and Birmingham and anywhere that needs it.
I love that London has seen this all before and will no doubt see it again.
I love that woman that everyone’s been posting, telling off the kids for stealing and looting. This woman.
I love that this surely must signal the end of Dave as PM.
I love that the firefighters must now be safe from further proposed government cuts. (Oh shut up, conspiracy theorists).
I love that people still went to glorious Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park tonight (and said the roses smelled great too) and the South Bank was gorgeous yesterday afternoon, and Brockwell Lido was cool and welcoming this morning, and people went to work and did work and came home and maybe they were scared and maybe they didn’t find it easy but they did it.
I feel guilty that Christchurch and Japan had earthquakes and didn’t turn to looting (at least as far as I know) and people here have seemingly done so as their reason to be out on the street.
I feel very sorry that other uprisings in Syria and Egypt and Libya are being ignored by our press as they focus on this.
I know this will pass. And we’ll get on, but getting on in a recession is harder than getting on in boom time and places like Woolwich and Brixton, which have worked really hard to pick themselves up, to attract new investment, are going to have an even harder time. All over again.
I don’t think it’s playing Pollyanna to keep reminding myself and others that it’s NOT the whole of London, or Birmingham, or Liverpool; that it’s NOT every young person; that we’re not – quite – going to hell in a handcart. (and anyway, I’d always rather play Pollyanna than Cassandra, the latter is so damn smug when things go wrong.) I’m especially keen that those making rolling news and sending out twitter hoaxes get a good night’s sleep. I do think the passion of the news reporting and the tweeting and all the rest of it does something to stoke the fires. I’d like the kids to get a good night’s sleep. Because the really sad thing is, even with suggestions (some seemingly very likely) that many of those disturbances are gang-related and well organised, some of them aren’t, and some of them involve 14 year olds out on the street.
I’ve just done a Skype interview for TV3 in NZ, for Campbell Live. I was trying to make sense of it for people who are so very far away. I’m not sure I can make sense of it from here.
I’m going to bed. Like most of us I’ve been watching the news all night, most of today. I don’t think it helps. See you in the morning. Tomorrow is another day. (er, today.)
Nearly all of this is fine, excellent indeed. But you want the news reporting to stop?
Small groups of youngish people *appear* to be setting fire to major buildings in London, not breaking windows, setting huge fires and you’re suggesting reporting this is the problem? And you conflate it with Twitter hoaxes?
I genuinely don’t understand this. This isn’t happening because of the news…
I didn’t say it is happening because of the news. But I think some of the reporting is exaggerated, some of it is inciting, and some of it makes those making the news feel ‘special’. And rolling news keeps repeating the same images over and over. Which feels ghoulish to me, voyeuristic. And that disturbs me.
Great piece. Thanks.
During the Queensland floods earlier this year much of the media was reporting that 90% of Queensland was under water. They had misunderstood press releases that said 90% of Queensland was affected by the floods.
That 90% figure was government regions in Queensland had rivers that flooded. It only took two minutes on NASA’s site to look at their current satellite images to see how little of the land mass was actually under water. I’d guess that in reality it was less than 1%, basically land adjacent to rivers, but 1% doesn’t sound very dramatic.
Well yeah, we certainly needed more cool-headed reporting, but the sheer brazen impunity of the rioters was extraordinary. And yes it did seem that kids in L’pool, Bristol , Brum etc saw what others were doing in London and thought they’d have a go.
So if you like the news was helping to spread it, but the real issue is why we have young people whose first thought when they see rioting is “I’ll have some of that”. And a lot of that is structural, and how we bring up our children, and what we tell them is valuable and what opportunities they have to share in that value.
I’m hoping we can prevent this all going on again tonight. But undoing the long-term damage we’ve done to our society over the last 40 years is going to take a lot longer and be much more difficult.
Perhaps things could be cooled off IF the media was to stay home OR if they shot off photos that would help the Police identify the ” Culprits ” !
Fact is there are people out there in the last days thinking they can have ” SOME FUN ” , of course they are counting on not getting caught !
Cameron needs to have these ” Miscreants ” rounded up and shipped to the Outer Hebrides to work on ” Work Gangs ” behind barbed wire and sleeping in prefab huts as a first measure and then send the really bad ones to the Falkland Islands for the winter !
When these ” feral rats ” know what is on offer they will stop thinking about the ” Cosy Holiday in British Prisons ” that are so full already !
Jane must have seen your blog and phoned Ann and I to alert us – I phoned Ann and Denise – so cool seeing our cousin of tele! well done, I can see that there is certainly a genetic link in respect of loquacious activiity, you did not draw breath and spoke so well, all off the cuff. We are proud of you!!!
Ah thank you. Special not-drawing-breath technique stops them cutting what you say too absurdly. Given we talked for about 15 mins. I thought they edited it pretty well.
Glad you all got to see. X x
Thanks for the insightful piece. reminds me a little of how most folk felt after the Stanley cup riots in Vancouver.I hope you will recover soon and show the world that most people are good and decent and not prepared to put up with this kind of behaviour. Sending love to England from Canada. I grew up in Belfast so am not unused to rioting!. Marilyn McKinnon
thank you Marilyn.
I totally agree about Woolwich i work for Greenwich libraries and i know that Woolwich is a very poor area wich the local council has been recently ungrading and it looks terrible now. I also agree about the frightening rumours on the social net work sites – someone posted a comment saying that charlton house was on fire monday etc. Yesterday Plumstead where i work was in a state of tension fuelled by hoax rumours.
p.s i look forward to your talk at Greenbelt
re /Greenwich libraries, you might like my short story in Glasshouse Book’s 33 East, which mentions Woolwich Library (fondly!).
I will do that thanks, the Library has been re-build and moved opposite the Town Hall and it shares the building with other council frontline services. The Library is on one level and is 4 times larger than the old building. Rioters burnt out the weatherspoons pub on the corner but lukily the Library was untouched as it has been open for only a month
best wishes x
great it wasn’t damaged – but oh no! that gorgeous staircase in the old library? was so happy a year or so ago to see it was still there, remembering it from when I was about 4 yrs old!
I know it was beautiful but the building has been sadly left to decay by t the local council and it was cheaper to sell if council buildings and get sponsorship to built a new all purpose building otherwise they will shut libraries like in lewisham but there is talk that Greenwich libraries will become a trust
Thanks for a good thoughtful view point… I agree with you – media does not help such a situation most of the time..
There was looting in Christchurch, so no need to feel bad on that note*
Wow a great, thought provoking piece. It is always those that don’t deserve this that suffer the most, businesses destroyed, livelihoods ruined, homes destroyed but more than that I worry about the children of some of those involved. If the government plans to evict the perpetrators and possibly stop their benefits what happens to their children? The poverty trap continues for them, there are still strong communities who support and protect each other, who don’t behave in this way lets not forget to protect them and help them to remain strong.
Yes, the collective punishment ideas suggested by current government, and apparently endorsed by Wandsworth Council already, will do no good at all. Making the already-disaffected homeless is an absurd ‘solution’.
I totally agree these things will only make matters worst the government are totally out of touch with the real world and the rioting did not stop because Cameron decided to cut short his holiday
Well yes, there was looting in Christchurch, but no more than you would expect – it was just the local burglars getting back to “business as usual”. Done in ones and twos, not large rampaging gangs.
C4 news claimed tonight that 86% of those so far arrested in London have something of a criminal record already, so maybe there’s an element of ‘burglars’ business as usual’ here too, but when it all happens at once it sweeps up others who would never normally be persuaded, like a criminal tornado. Great that we’re now seeing young people speaking up now who want to be constructive and want to see their peers gaining a sense of HOPE.
I’ve been wondering how much of a difference it makes that we’re in August when so much of media/society/support workers in poor areas are talking about fun and holidays, and for those who are too poor for a nice holiday, it feels like a very different world.