I am actually speechless. London’s seemingly burning and being looted around us. We’re in Tulse Hill and right now there are apparently riots happening on all sides of our area. It’s surreal. Between twitter and BBC rolling news footage the tension and fear is continuous. I came back into town yesterday and was only vaguely aware of riots having happened over the weekend, I just had no idea of the extent to which it had already spread and developed. Parts of Brixton which are ten minutes from our flat were trashed and burnt to the ground while I was getting a cab home.
Today shit hit the proverbial fan. A quick glance at 24h news or the internet will reveal all. And amid all this, after hours of watching news and reading tweets feeling incredulous the one thing I can’t keep off my mind is just how similar this situation feels to the first night I spent in Tokyo after the March 11 earthquake. A real sense of helplessness has been creeping on me all day, alongside incredulity and depression. And then there’s the fear creeping in thanks to the news coverage. We’ll probably be ok, but who knows right now.
The video above I think sums up a lot of people’s feelings right now. And this woman’s post about ‘understanding them’ also sums up a lot of what I’ve heard today from friends who work with young people and who have lived here for longer than me. Ultimately the cause of all this is being ignored, and the rioting only feeds the ease with which it can be ignored by the mainstream media and politicians as it gives them an excuse to deal with ‘troublemakers’. It’s true that a degree of understanding isn’t impossible, especially when you witnessed the levels of oppression, despair and anger that have boiled under in London for years. It does not condone, but as she says understanding is important. We are here because it’s easier to not understand and it’s easier to couch things in terms that box people and their problems away from us.
It’s strange. My helplessness and fear while in Japan was due to a natural disaster, something truly out of the hands of most people. Today’s helplessness though is different. Different because the one thing I can’t wrap my head around is why communities have not come out stronger to stop this. There are reports that Turkish shopkeepers in Dalston have bounded together to defend their shops and livelihoods from rioters. That’s what I’d expect every community to do, but the fear and apathy are seemingly winning over. Understandably in some situations, when people have lived in fear for years anyway. Would I stand for my community? I don’t know right now but tonight I might find out. How else can this madness end. We’ll see I guess, for now I’ll keep an eye on the road and hope things don’t get much more out of hand.
The building burned down in Tottenham dated back to the 30s apparently. And the one burnt down in West Croydon tonight had been trading for 140 years. The history of this city is being burnt down. It’s sad. But there’s always hope on the other side. There has to be.
EDIT: Just read this on Guardian comment is free, and it’s well worth a read. I was saying to my friend earlier today that context was key, and so many people are seemingly unaware of it and how far it runs down. I’ve only lived here for 13 years and year after year I’ve seen this city get worse, especially at a social level. London is great for many reasons, but it’s also terrible for possibly as many. Too often the great makes it easy to ignore the terrible. It’s never affected me enough to incite a real reaction or force me to leave I guess. Until today maybe.
EDIT 2: Where do you go from this? If this is a call for attention from a group of people who have been ignored for so long – as all the signs indicate – then how do you respond? Are we going to jail everyone? As Dan Hancox put it earlier, quoting La Haine, ‘how you fall doesn’t matter, it’s how you land’. No one is putting forward solutions, just endless fear.