exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

why? because why the hell not?

by Jen at 7:16 am on 9.08.2011 | 5 Comments
filed under: londonlife, rant and rage

so i’ve found some words, after a sleepless night of sirens and smoke, obsessively monitoring the happenings further down my street. i’m not sure they’re the right ones, but in the light of day, this is what it looks like to me.

here’s why the riots last night happened: because why the hell not?

the riots are the product of an extensive underclass that is completely and wholly disengaged. who feel no respect for other people, because no one respects them. they’re a population of (mostly) young people who’ve been all wound up and let go, but not given any direction.

what have they got to lose? nothing, that’s what.

what they see day in day out, is people taking what they want without consequence. from the local thugs in the hood, to the bankers on telly. people do it to them, and they learn in turn to do it to others. it’s as much a part of the cycle as the poverty that disenfranchises huge proportions of the city, as much a part of the cycle as the ever- changing parade of politicians who promise much and deliver little.

this is what they see: nothing ever changes, nothing ever improves and no on is ever held accountable.

and the police? they act with the same kind of impunity. they stop-and-search on a whim, they expend their power against the most powerless. they kill and are exonerated, always. they pick, pick, pick at the scab that covers the old wounds of rampant distrust.

against that bleak backdrop, what’s a few store windows, a few nicked mobile phones? the likelihood of any repercussions to themselves is almost nil, but then again society has pretty much already written them off anyway. at least they get some new kicks out of the deal – and in a world where trainers/sneakers are a stand in for actual power and status, that’s not insignificant.

there is no excuse for engaging in crime, no free pass that entitles you to abdicate personal responsibility for your choices. no one believes anyone is “sticking it to tha man” by ransacking the Tescos Express. burning down people’s livelihoods and homes is a grotesque and unconscionable act. but if you don’t think that a “fuck you, i’m gonna get mine” attitude is the direct product of a culture where feelings of entitlement, detachment, and disillusionment are evident in abundance in daily life? well then you’re probably just as deliberately obtuse as the politicians who stuck their heads in the (holiday beach) sand for three days, hoping it would go away.

the police were outnumbered, but that hardly mattered – they’re only powerful in known, discrete, controlled situations. turns out they’re great a cracking down on protesters who get permits and stay tidily in groups, but what the last few highly publicised/televised demonstrations have shown is that they can do almost nothing against small mobile flexible clusters that swarm and spread then re-swarm.

even had they been more numerous, they were at a distinct disadvantage – because while properties and businesses were being smashed and torched all over the country, all they could continue to do was hope-against-hope that the rampaging mobs didn’t decide to turn against people, and the only way in which to de-escalate most of the situations, was to defer.

so instead, we sat in our houses in fear, watching our beloved city in flames, hoping it wouldn’t come to our doorstep. and i’m sure that like myself. people all around the country were praying that no one would get killed. because frankly, i shudder to think about the ways in which it could have spiralled even further out of control. i, like so many, was glued to the television and twitter til nearly daybreak, getting accounts of the violence happening less than a mile away from me in several directions. unnerved doesn’t begin to describe it.

and in the cold, sad light of a sunny morning of what should be a glorious day, but is instead a day of both national and city-wide tragedy and mourning, no amount of understanding gives any comfort. none of the words matter. because it is simply heartbreaking beyond all comprehension.

9 people like this post.


  • 1

    Comment by I.

    9.08.2011 @ 15:28 pm

    At a loss for words….all I can say is I am thinking of you (and all of you there and the collective us everywhere, actually), Jen.

  • 2

    Comment by Jen

    9.08.2011 @ 16:37 pm

    thanks. it’s much needed. not sure how much calm there will be tonight but everyone is on edge.

  • 3

    Comment by Mworia

    10.08.2011 @ 16:45 pm

    sad for you but here’s a chance to cross no. 19 from your 101 bucketlist…

  • 4

    Comment by Jen

    11.08.2011 @ 11:06 am

    ha! unfortunately here getting arrested gets you on the DNA database, even if not convicted of any crime. to this point, the UK continues to hold that dna indefinitely – this is something which has been deemed illegal by the european court of human rights, but is still being done in practice.

    so that item will have to wait for north america – not interested in getting arrested here.

  • 5

    Comment by daddio

    12.08.2011 @ 05:25 am

    another well written piece. your descriptions seem to mesh with what i am seeing here. should send in to one of the london papers to see if they print it. hope things start to feel safer soon. be careful.

    with regards to you prior piece on london…vancover is certainly not london. most people develop true affiliation to a place through the kind of work they do in the place they live, be it on the farm or in the bustling city. i hope you continue to really start following your professional dream. the rest will all work itself out. love ya. be safe.

RSS feed for comments on this post