This week saw the most frightening, tragic chapter in London’s history since the Blitz of WW2.
Mass disorder, looting and riots shook London, then England (as these riots gathered momentum in other cities) to her core. Cities were pillaged by a horde of hoodies; the flipside of the student protests, this was more for trainers and a new tv, than for any of the deeper reasons they might have had, such as the initial reason: the death of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. For anyone who read my article a few months ago for Volt Cafe: http://www.voltcafe.com/home/?p=6880, you’ll know I am not entirely surprised.
Last time London saw such violent destruction, we were at war, there was a common enemy. Who now can we blame when such wanton violence lies in the hands, the psyche of our own youth, using not doodlebugs but Twitter and bbm to create fireballs of conflict and carnage?
We were returning from a Cornish holiday driving with our 3 month old baby, disbelieving what we heard on the radio, or my Twitter news updates and when a friend advised me to stay away from my home as cars were being burnt out a few streets away, I honestly thought, well you can imagine what I thought: to say it gives it power and who wants to name their fear. And yes, stay away we did, becoming a parent is a codeword for taking extra care.
Others will philosophise better perhaps than I about they whys and what went wrongs. Certainly Britain has an ever-growing disproportionate wealth, welfare and prospects imbalance, which is escalating and can only mean the cult of consumerism, whichever way it falls is creating a world where greed and obsessive desires are in constant feed of more, more, more. Be it politicians needing a moat for their second home, media tycoons bribing police for information to sell more newspapers, a footballer hiding improprieties behind a super injunction so they can keep their sponsorship deals, a nouveau-riche Russian hogging off-shore ports with their super yacht, or 10 year olds thinking stealing a watch from Debenhams in Clapham is acceptable: at the root of all lies a flagrantly selfish, aggressively consumerist narcissism. But to watch my beautiful city burning, to see images and hear stories from people I know and love, as well as people I don’t, of terrifying abuse and systematically instigated mass muggings, knife attacks, on an epic scale and utter violence to total strangers, completely beggars belief and any hope of redemption for society. Especially scary as so many seem to have been as young as 10 or 11, ie our next generation, our pension plan…
Where we saw hope were in the rumblings of social activism initiated on Twitter to clean up the riot mess: http://www.riotcleanup.co.uk/. Our latter-day Blitz spirit if you like; brooms sold out across the country as people turned out to patch up and clear away the damage from the night before.
I hope that politicians don’t carry on trying to score points with platitudes, at the cost of our futures anymore than they already have; I hope that we can fix this as a society, forget Cameron’s bogus Big Society, in a real way, though I fear that sadly they will.
For a really insightful op-ed please do read:- http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/camila-batmanghelidjh-caring-costs-ndash-but-so-do-riots-2333991.html
And if you care about making magic in the midst of drudge, of creating gardens of hope where once there were weeds, then might I suggest: http://www.guerrillagardening.org/onguerrillagardening.html, as perhaps now more than ever, it is time to get together with some neighbours or friends, bringing a broom, some seeds and Blitz-style optimism and this might be a way through the mess…