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Bang to rights


London riots 2011, Camden

Like everybody else I’ve been watching London then other cities in England being attacked by hordes of criminals.  Seeing the lunatics not only apparently taking over the asylum but also being allowed to get away with it, again like everybody else I’ve been racking my brain for reasons. I am not qualified to make an informed analysis, besides it is too soon. Although it should now be obvious that the proposed cuts to the police force must not go ahead. Potentially, these spell ‘suicide’ for our country, especially for the law-abiding majority, many of whom have seen their lives changed forever by shock, fear or loss due to wanton destruction.
And two further observations may be made. Firstly, the damage done to England’s reputation abroad, notably among investors (otherwise known as job-creators or employers), cannot be over-estimated given that it is liable to add further damage to an already weakened economy. What price the 2012 Olympics now, not to mention the vitally important tourism industry?  As for local/regional economic damage, it is already far in excess of burned cars and buildings: confidence at home and abroad is all – in any market, as it is in any individual life. Secondly, what has been happening has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, religious affiliation or even class. It is about criminality, based on moral vacuity, opportunism and a society that has succeeded only in teaching its younger members that you are what you have. And what you want, you must grab – by any means. Nothing and – crucially – nobody else matters.

Liverpool riots 2011

Such an attitude was well-entrenched throughout  the social strata all over the place long before I left my native land: you are what you have materially, and that is all you are, is almost axiomatic. Fine, it’s a free country: if you want to think like that (ie if you’re enough of a blinkered berk to do so), then, er, do so. But be aware that, if you do, then this insidiously powerful prejudice will filter down from you (in your elevated position) and, like Chinese Whispers, be perverted, twisted and – irony of ironies – probably used against you. Crudely speaking, as far as rampant consumerism goes beware of what you wish for – if you get it, others will surely want to take it from you. This may even include your life.
My heart goes out to the families and friends of Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir.  Tariq Jahan‘s dignity and nobility, his sentiments shared by the group of Sikh and Muslim mourners in Birmingham, are unforgettable. England cannot afford to lose such people; it is the government’s duty to protect them. My sympathies are also with those who’ve lost homes and/or livelihoods. I know what that’s like. And I also know what it is like to lose these things due to other people’s ignorance and greed. Such things do violence to us all. So I also know what it is like to feel angry, powerless, frustrated – years devoted

London riots 2011, Tottenham

to fruitless job-hunting? Yup, been there. But channelling this despair into robbery, assault and battery? No. Never. Not even in my wildest dreams or nightmares would it even occur to me – any more than it would to most people in England.
The answers? I wish I knew (I’m a UK taxpayer). More authority? More people obviously need to understand that respect has to be earned, keeping it demands constant effort – and that rights entail responsibilities. Police powers, especially in London, have been reduced – notably since the creepily Newspeak-style change in nomenclature from ‘the Force’ to ‘the Service’. Services only protect people if they’re armed (which might explain partially why I feel more secure in France than I did in England: les forces de l’ordre here are armed to the teeth and those who don’t, er, respect them certainly fear ’em. Aside from a higher police:members of the public ratio than in the UK, we also have more than 13,000 CRS* plus 17,300 of les jaunes** to deal with riots). England and Wales are further handicapped by a soggy criminal justice system and what must be, judging by the results, some of the slackest parenting in the world.  All of these combine with near-powerless frontline policing to produce what the world has now witnessed. Some have viewed it all with horror, others with grim satisfaction; more with either hand-wringing or anger – each of the latter sub-groups being quick to blame the other.

Looters in Walworth Road, Elephant and Castle, London

But if any of the knee-jerk sneerers, jeerers and blamers out there would care to engage their brains with the real challenges facing us, then they can do no better than to check out a pair of blogs.  They’re both written by people who try to tackle both root causes and results. One is a police officer – and published author – who is a former soldier. The other is a youth worker and winner of last year’s Orwell Prize.
I thank them, I applaud them, and I wish all those in frontline services well – and, above all, safe. And my thoughts and prayers are with anybody in my country who has suffered due to the vicious stupidity of the few. Now, for a taste of what the majority of English people are like, here are alternative views of how they behave in a crisis.
These people deserve better.  So the government must demonstrate beyond doubt they are on the side of of the law-abiding people of England, whose right to quietly live and work in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities has been so shamefully ignored, and for so long. They are the real victims in this, and that must never be forgotten.

Stop press: 15/08/’11 – I took a special interest in what happened in Ealing last week. I lived there before coming to France, and very quickly grew to love it thanks to the variety and charm of people and place. I was horrified to see it under attack, and outraged by the senseless murder of Richard Mannington Bowes.  Eugénie has just kindly sent me this heartening report. The level of positive response doesn’t surprise me one bit.

* Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, anti-riot (principally; they have other functions) brigades of la Police Nationale     ** = slang term for la Gendarmerie Mobile, anti-riot division of  the Gendarmerie (itself a military organisation)

Pix sourced from Commons Wiki.

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  1. 12/08/2011 12:08

    Brilliant post, Mynne. I feel such bewilderment.

    • Minnie permalink
      12/08/2011 12:37

      Vanessa: croeso, my lovely! Thank you.

      I’m afraid i don’t feel bewildered at all. Sadly.

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