Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Burning

Oh what a mess. We are witnessing the underclass rebellion, and what do they want? Hoodies and big screen TVs! Things seem a bit quieter in London tonight - possibly because there are 16000 police on the streets (instead of 6000 last night), as well as groups of vigilantes, just waiting for a fight. Funny thing is, in central London, you could be almost forgiven for thinking that there was nothing going on. There are still mobs of tourists roving about, the shows are still on, nothing seems amiss. Not so true if you head out of the center just a bit. The list of areas hit in London reads pretty much like a list of London's black neighborhoods. We were evacuated from work yesterday at about 430 because hooded youth (mostly black) had already started throwing bricks at the already assembled riot cops (mostly white). The official story is that it all started with a stop and search, when the kid refused, but that's bullshit. Stores were closing up at lunchtime because everyone knew something was going to kick off, and there were already riot cops in front of Town Hall. All the little shits needed was an excuse to start throwing things. And they threw, and they looted, and they burned. I didn't go into work today, and those that did were told to leave about 12, because more trouble was expected. To Hackney's credit though, there was an army of people out this morning with brooms - mostly, and I hate to point this out, white. Anyway, there have been riots all over the city, the nearest about a mile from where we live. There were about 30 youths chased into the local train station last night, and a group of hooded, gloved (black) young men congregating outside our house late last night, off to, I would imagine, not a piano recital. It's really been quite terrifying, and we all made sure to be home and inside tonight before dark. They looted the main shopping street heading north from here last night, and there were several huge fires started overnight around the city. Most of the violence has been against businesses, but there have been a number of houses broken into, diners in restaurants attacked, cyclists attacked, pretty much anyone in the wrong area at the wrong time attacked. Tonight the worst of it seems to have shifted out of London - kind of expected, since all the cops in the country are here. Interestingly, in London, for the most part, they targeted the shopping streets in shitty areas (because they were nearby and convenient, I suppose). Tonight, in the other cities, they are targeting the city center shopping areas, with all the big department stores. The police have said they may start using rubber bullets (which they have never done in England, though it is a regular occurrence in Northern Ireland). They have, at the moment, ruled out water cannons, tear gas or the army, but those are all under discussion. What I find really shocking about this is not so much that it has happened - the UK has a mean underclass, many of whom have never worked, and families who have been on welfare for generations. What is shocking to me is how sudden and widespread it has become - but then, I suppose that is part of the power of social media. They were just waiting for an excuse, and the police shooting in Tottenham was what they wanted. I wonder why it was that one, rather than any one of a number of other police fuckups? I really wonder what is going to be the outcome of this? I suppose the US has been having all the flashmobs lately, and Paris had huge riots a number of years ago. This country doesn't have a curfew, but that is one of the options they are discussing at the moment. I do think it's going to lead to some pretty overly agressive policing in the future (Northern Ireland?), as well as really piss poor race relations for a while, and I think it's going to finally end Britain's experiment in multiculturalism (which has been fizzling lately anyway). Unlike the US or Europe or pretty much anywhere else, the UK, I suppose because it is divided up into various little internal countries that dislike each other, has never been really big on pushing what it is to be British - insisting instead on a multicultural mosaic where everything is as good as everything else. The result of that is that it's a tiny little crowded country with many groups of people that have absolutely dipshit to do with each other, and no overriding sense of cohesiveness. That and the fact that you could get lifetime welfare and a place to live simply by being able to breathe independently and pop out babies has left the country with a pretty astounding number of people who do absolutely nothing except hang out. Hackney is one of the worst places for that - I think something like 30% of the housing is owned by the council, and it ain't nice. Anyway, the vast majority of London remains here and in one piece, but OMG I've never experienced anything like what's been going on here the last few days! Our cleaner (yes, we have a cleaner), who is from Albania, said the last time she saw anything like this was in 1997 in Albania, and Der Spiegel just ran an article comparing London with Mogadishu. Fab.


chickensforeggs@gmail.com said...

Hi Doug!
I'm a friend of Katherine's (who reads your blog when ever I can... we have never met, but maybe next time you are in the country!).
Anyhow, I was listening to my morning radio show out of Sacramento (Armstrong and Getty, KSTE)...they were talking about the riots and the news reports of what is happening there. Katherine said you had blogged about it, so it was good to read! I hope you are safe, it sounds scary and idiotic that people are doing what they are doing. Is it mostly young people (under 18) doing all the damage? We can't figure out why the police have allowed people to continue with the riots, rather than reacting with some serious action (if I was one of those business owners, I would shoot who ever came into my shop). Craziness!

Jan Blawat said...

I've been trying to make sense of the news reports, and it has been impossible because of all the socially-correct pussyfooting. This is the first report that has given me even an inkling of what's going on and why. Thank you!