Tuesday 9 August 2011

Shopping with Violence

This I a slightly amended version of an article I wrote for Broowaha.

I want to say a word or two about the riots in London, my city, my home. My view is that - as with the Norwegian massacre - it is best to stand back from such events before forming a definite judgement, simply to allow the facts to settle. But judgements are already being formed which have nothing whatsoever to do with facts and everything to do with politics. The suggestion is that these events, which have disgraced my country and its capital in the eyes of the world, are somehow to do with cutbacks. This is no more than a supposition, based not on evidence but wishful thinking.

The opportunity has also been taken to attack the police, that somehow they do not respect the 'right to peaceful protest,' an assertion that again is utterly at variance with the facts. No it's more; it's an outright lie, one that is clearly intended to give a completely wrong impression to people who know little of the Metropolitan Police, who know little of London and little of this country. If anything the police have gone too far in the opposite direction, a softly softly approach that sometimes makes the force look fumbling and weak, an approach that saw them lose control at the weekend

To try to play politics at time like this really is appalling. The present government of David Cameron has been in power for just over a year, inheriting a massive and unsupportable debt from the previous administration. There was no alternative to serious fiscal retrenchment, but the cuts, such as they are, have not yet had an impact. No, people are not starving in the streets while capitalist fat cats sit back complacently smoking Havana cigars. I would simply ask you to see this Marxist fantasy for the risible nonsense it truly is.

Simply put these riots are anarchy for the sake of anarchy, not for politics, disorder as an end in itself. Who are the targets? The bastions of capitalism, perhaps, the banks and the stock exchange? No, ordinary traders, little shopkeepers, who have seen their stores looted and their livelihoods destroyed. Workers of the world unite; you have DVDs and a couple of video games to gain, to say nothing of shoes and sofas.

So what is the truth? Rarely pure and never simple, perhaps? Pure and simple for some, that much is obvious. The reality is we are dealing with a hijack here. What started as a peaceful vigil over the shooting of a man called Mark Duggan (leader of a drug gang, incidentally) in the district of Tottenham was quickly taken over by those who had never heard of him and had no interest at all in making a political point. A great many involved in this Twitter riot (yes, that's the medium) are teenagers. One, a fifteen year old, was caught on camera, saying that it was 'fun.' Commenting on this Richard Evans, who edits an online news forum, said;

Make no mistake, they're not crusaders on some just cause, most of them don't even have a point to make, these are morons acting like morons — nothing more, nothing less. It must actually be insulting to Mark Duggan's family and friends — who have spoken out against the riots — that people are doing this in his name, using his death as an excuse to steal some crappy trainers from a JJB Sports.

Morons, well, that's certainly one way of putting it; I'm not quite sure what other term could be used for those who were filmed helping an injured and bleeding teenager to his feet, only to start rifling through his backpack to take anything of value. Was he a capitalist, a supporter of the cutbacks who just happened to have lost his way, perhaps having mislaid his merc? Well, that's one possible spin, I suppose.

Then there is the woman who was stabbed in a fight over...over what exactly?, over some principle of the revolution? No it was over a looted cut-price sofa. Incidentally, as the mob smashed its way into this furniture store a member of staff (a capitalist lackey) had his jaw broken while paramedics stood in fear of their lives. Elsewhere, in front of a smashed store window, a woman can be seen trying on a pair of shoes. As one report says, this wasn’t a spontaneous uprising of dissent from the downtrodden masses, it was shopping with violence.

Most people not from this country have probably never heard of Tottenham, Hackney and Brixton, the districts at the heart of the disorders, For the benefit of Americans, the closest parallel that comes to mind is Watts in Los Angeles. Yes, these areas of high social deprivation, much of it inherited, ghettos of state dependency. There have been riots here in the past. What was the result; more oppression, more deprivation? No millions and millions of pounds were poured into community reclamation schemes which have clearly reclaimed nothing.

There is racism here, something else an audience beyond England may not be aware of, but it's not as you may suppose. Black mobs were seen attacking white people but that's really only one dimension. The racism is multi-faceted. Think of the movie Crash, set in California, then you may begin to understand something of the complexity. The hostility is one of ethnic fragmentation, rather than skin colour, black Nigerians hating black Jamaicans, both hating people from the Middle East. Anybody who has managed to rise above the common herd, anybody who has made a success, no matter how modest, has turned into a potential target. One Tweet in this Twitter riot reads "F**k the electronics, them Turkish jewellers needed to get robbed." Yes, the needed to get robbed, as lots of others needed to get robbed.

There are no politics other than the political irresponsibility of the left, singing a hymn that bears no relationship to reality. This includes various Labour MPs, whose administration had over thirteen years to be tough on crime and the causes of crime and did absolutely nothing, other than to pour in endless doles. There are notable exceptions, including Diane Abbott, a black Labour MP, a former leadership contender and a leading left-winger, a person with whom I have virtually nothing in common, politically or ideologically. But she has taken the bold step, distancing herself from those who have irresponsibly blamed the illusory cuts, adding to the Twitter conflagration - "Cuts don’t turn you into a thief. What we saw was people thieving for hours...the violence in London was totally opportunistic and utterly unacceptable."

I would only add brutal and ugly. The victims will all turn out to be other members of the community, not bankers and speculators. The victim is also London, a city I both hate and love in equal measure, a city that is in my blood. I try to be measured but I have no respect at all for those who have abused the city, who have traduced and cheapened it in the eyes of the world and, above all, those who are attempting to twist the facts for their own ideological ends. If you think these dreadful events are about injustice, inequality and deprivation I would urge you to think again. It's no more than hooliganism, based on forms of avarice that would shame even the greediest banker.


  1. Planet of the Apes! Britain = Monkey Island!

  2. Good title, good analysis.

    Rioting for fun & profit has a long, ignoble tradition. I can think of examples from many periods of English history, from Irish history, French history, and US history with no effort at all.

    In a few places, such as Detroit, civil unrest for gain became endemic, and finally ate the heart from the city. Philadelphia had its ups and downs until the Mayor dropped a bomb on one particularly recalcitrant set of irritants and destroyed a whole city block. Things mellowed out for quite a while in Phillie after that, though I read there is a curfew there right now.

    The US has an advantage that the cities are so large and diffuse, destruction can be total in one neighbourhood without being noticed elsewhere - except as TV entertainment.

  3. Hi Ana,

    This is the first clear explanation of what's been happening in London. Now I have a brighter picture of it.
    I hope that you are okay, and things will be back to normal very soon.


  4. Many sorrow will occurs from this way of mind.
    70 years ago, to maintain the order, the Police or army opened fire against robbers. But what they can do now? To observe?
    Courage, the "New World Order" is coming...Thanks a lot for immigration!

  5. today world run according to the politician,and majority is as you know the dirty ones who used such people for their personal benefits,

    people still exist who believe in peaceful protest but dirty politics is always succeed to create such sad situations.

  6. Thoughtful piece, Ana - bring it across to the chariot, please?

  7. I feel sure you will get lots of comments and suggestions reeking of common sense. But it is hopeless, because the GRC who rule us don't do common sense. The Daily Telegraph editorial today says that these criminals shame our nation. No they don't - they are not part of my nation.

    On a lighter note Anastasia, you have looked at my blog before; take a look today at some ancient history on being in a riot squad

  8. Are you and your family a safe distance from the unrest?

  9. Ana - well said as always.

    It says something when I got an e-mail from my agent in Bangkok this morning asking if we were all OK today after he'd seen the riots on TV :-)

    I agree the police have been impotent. They should have been issued with rubber bullets and/or water cannon on the first evening. That would have nipped it all in the bud.

    Instead things were left to get out of hand and now half of Croydon is burnt down.

    I saw a senior Met officer interviewed last night and he said he thought the residents of London wouldn't be happy for them to use rubber bullets. I think some of the small shopkeepers may beg to differ....


  10. Coll,I am. Thank you very much. x :-)

  11. Anthony, some apes,yes. Yes, it's nowhere near where I stay I'm glad to say. Tottenham,Hackney and so on are areas of high immigrant density. Thanks for asking. :-)

  12. Calvin, thanks. Do you know what I was reminded of? Well, if you have ever read Charles Dickens’ novel Barnaby Rudge I feel sure you will remember the section dealing with the Gordon Riots of 1780, specifically a character named Hugh. It’s the return of the mob, the Hughs of this life, violent for the sake of violence, no matter the cause.

  13. Harry, thank you. So do I. It's a pleasure to see you as always.

  14. Ortho, and it's a particular pleasure to see you! Immigration, yes,that's something else I intend to write about soon. I know the problems you have had here, remembering the scenes from Paris a few years ago.

  15. Michael,yes, they are not part of my nation, or my city,either. Indeed I have. I'll pay you another visit shortly.

  16. Glen, I absolutely agree. We need to be far tougher,the government needs to be far tougher altogether. I saw to today a report saying that some of the small businesses will never recover. These people are sub-human pigs, too low even to be described as oiks. There, I've said it.

  17. Zyklon B is a proven remedy.

  18. What's wrong with looting? If the government is going to take from the rich and give to the poor, why not cut out the middleman and let the poor take their stuff straight from the rich people? This form of looting would be much more efficient than putting the government in charge of the looting.

    Michael E. Newton
    Written with a tinge of sarcasm.

  19. Ana I agree with everything you say and would like to add the reason these undesirables have flocked to England is because in their own country they would have had their heads cracked, I suggest we bring the military in if this doesn't calm down, that is the only way they stopped the LA riots. I am not saying that is is only one section of our society causing this but look at the footage, it is vital that every ring leader, every coward, is hurt so that he or she remembers that hurt, that is prevention. I am appalled by what is happening in the city I was born in. Strip them of their benefits, make them clean up the mess, film them while they replace windows and restore money to shops and small businesses, make them show the necessary documenatation to prove they have a right to stay here and if they don't send them back.

  20. For the first time I thought the Prime Minister's delivery in that first message was dismal (though he made up for it in the parliamentary debate). He was on holiday, but where was Clegg? It happened (or was allowed to) because most of these kids know they'll never be caught and if they are they won't really be prosecuted, nor their parents fined (if they're lucky enough to have any). If by any chance of luck they are imprisoned the prisons in England are far more comfortable than their own homes. The fish and chip shop I frequent was attacked, for what? I've been going to it ever since I was a toddler. It has definitely gone down in quality but they give me an extra fish now and then because I'm such a regular.

    The Westbury Arms, a pub that was torched had been built in 1899. It closed in 2001 and had been boarded up since. What a way to go! It can be found on one of my favourite websites with a bit of trivial info:

    Sally Harlow writes: "I used to work there as a part time barmaid in the mid 80s and have some fond memories of the place. There used to be a disco every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, Mark the DJ was a bus conductor on the number 15 route by day. The pub was run by an East End-made-good Mother and Daughter (Pat and Lynn) who I was frankly terrified of. We used to put roast potatoes and other seafood on the bar every Sunday lunchtime, an East End tradition that seems to be dying out."

    (Derelict London).

    Sadly the rioters didn't think the bookshops were worth looting. That says a lot about our society. I doubt many of them could read. And on the hoodie question it's not the dress that is the problem. The hoodie debate is the same as the palaver about the Purdah. It is the twisted idiealogies that need taming and educating. The wearing or not wearing of a dress makes no difference. I leave you with this video and a note written by a friend over on Facebook.

  21. Michael, that could save on some bureaucratic costs. :-)

  22. Richard, yes, we have to come down on the canaille really hard. I make no apology for using that expression.

  23. Rehan, where is Clegg? That’s a valid question, one I ask myself continually. I’m going to post again this evening on these events. I’m finding it hard to get it out of my system. Thanks for those links.

  24. Hi Ana,

    Surely one reason for the criminality on the streets was not just opportunistic but the failure of the Police to act. I witnessed many reports on Sky tv which showed gangs of youths in London wantingly commiting arson without any sign of the Police or the Fire service. This went on for many hours. Why?

    My belief is that the Police have been neutered by human rights lawyers and were afraid that any arrests made would be subject to the usual screams of racism and Police brutality. Even a sixteen year old knows his or her rights today but whether they know of their responsibilities is another matter entirely.

    It would make a change if politicians listened to the people who elected them and delivered a manifesto pledge: A Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Then we could make our own laws and have confience in a Police Force which is not afraid to do its job.

  25. Nobby, I've just submitted an article to Broowaha, an online newspaper, which touches on some of the points you make here. I've called in Let the Bloods Sweat Blood. It will be published under the Letters from Ana rubric.