Monday 8th August 2011 – London Still Burns

Saturday 6th saw the first night of unrest. Tottenham burned throughout the night. Participants said it was a protest, residents said it was a free-for-all, both politically and judicially. Sunday 7th it spread to Brixton, Enfield, and somewhere else…

Monday was the most interesting night, for want of a better word. It was going to keep spreading, and the coppers – there to keep law, order and protect all us ‘good, decent’ citizens – didn’t appear to be able to help ‘us’, from that (those) that we fear most.

Poverty has always scared those not afflicted by it. The desperate need not to be part of it. To keep our lives as safe and as protected and as risk-free as humanly possible, so we can live safely and calmly and without fear for as long as humanly possible. And always at the expense of those that cannot afford it.

Monday the 8th shook that ideal and security till its bones rattled. The riots hadn’t stopped, and the police still weren’t there to protect ‘us’, and we didn’t know how bad it was going to get. A man in Tesco Metro hurried back to Balham as a place of refuge. He had just rescued someone from Croydon – a bus had been set alight. Croydon was a no-go area. There was talk of gangs masking-up waiting for darkness. Little did us shoppers know that Balham High Road was being looted as we queued for our brioche and oak smoked mackerel.

I looked for that bus on the news the next day and found no evidence. Searching through national and even local newspapers, eventually I presumed it wasn’t true, until I found this: Makes you wonder what else got ignored – my guess is anything on a street that didn’t have a Debenhams.

The night went on and sirens went back and forth, deafening and headless. There was talk of martial law being brought to the streets, by those that had watched a lot of telly. A friend of mine said he hoped the police “kicked the shit out of all rioters, looters” – amazing how fear can turn good natured people in to terrified cowards.

There is of course that philosophy; that the police should go in with plastic bullets, water canons, what the hell, real guns. Yeah that’ll fix it (till the next riot). People should take responsibility for their actions – shouldn’t they? Most of these criminals just want a pair of Nike, after all.

A lady in a Clapham hair salon heard looters shouting “Look she’s scared” with big smiles on their faces, as they smashed their way into her property. Fear. The need to inflict fear on others rarely comes from anyone that hasn’t themselves been exposed to similar torment.

I guess the question is, at what point is the world that’s been shown to us responsible for the actions it produces? If all you’ve ever been taught from day one is to be better than those that sit next to you; if all you’ve ever seen are pictures of things you can’t afford in the hands of those that can; how long do we expect the have-nots to entertain the safety and comfort of the haves?

How much do the haves really care? I’m a have. I care. But how much do I care? Enough to sacrifice my own safety and security for the greater good of a people, rather than my individual self? Doesn’t look like it. Which could make me as much to blame as a child in a hood, kicking in Currys.

It’s easy to say people are evil, demons, criminals. It’s easy to sit back in the comfort of our own cosy living and hail from the sofa for the blood of those that scare us the most. But as long as we sit back in excess while someone else struggles to feed their children, surely we’d be naïve not to expect consequences. If only it was as simple as good and bad; the heroes and the villains, our judgements would be easy. What am I going to do about it? Nothing. Maybe it’s time we all take responsibility for our actions.

Daniel Marsh

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