Thursday 11 August 2011

London's Burning

In a huge surprise there was almost no trouble in the capital last night. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, all the disaffected school teachers and Blackberry-wielding pre-pubescent children now have that new pair of Nike trainers they always wanted, and are busy playing games on their newly acquired Sony Playstations (and flat-screen TVs if they were quick enough). Secondly, there are now about a million Police Officers in London, no doubt to the detriment of the rest of the country, and so going out on the rob is now somewhat riskier. News that over 1000 people have been arrested, and that there is room for ALL of them within the prison system, will perhaps have made a few people more circumspect, especially when they realise that CCTV is alive and well, and that bragging about it on youtube is not the act of genius that they may have thought it was. And thirdly, and most importantly, it was a bit cold last night. It is much nicer to riot and loot on a pleasant summer evening, a warm breeze gently fanning you as you run down the street clutching an armful of stolen goods. It appears that our petty criminals are wusses; a bit chilly, a bit windy, and they're not interested.

The genteel boudaries of Wanstead have not been breached. Persons unknown did manage to set fire to a small part of the SSSI yesterday lunchtime, but that is an almost annual event, and in any event is just in time for Redstarts, so I have no real complaints. The soundscape of sirens and helicopters has been quite impressive though, at points yesterday afternoon it was an almost constant backdrop. I guess we are on the way to more exciting places. Despite the two million Police Officers now in London, we have only seen two, standing guard at that little snicket where I got mugged, and where the thieving so-and-sos abandoned Mrs L's bike a few weeks ago. It has been identified as a crime hotspot, and clearly the Met are taking no chances. For my part, and as if I were not paranoid enough already, Chateau L is now at DefCon 2. This new state of readiness includes having one of my hard drive backups in my pocket and ready to go, which Mrs L thinks is absurd. She will apparently be grabbing the children first. Depending on what happens in the next few days, we may be able to relax slightly, but I'll tell you what, those new Lions I bought after the bike incident are looking pretty mean.

What is most worrying is how quickly things boiled over, how little it takes for mob-culture to take-over, and for seemingly responsible people to embrace lawlessness. I am not out to be a social commentator, but surely this is a sign of deep malaise? Times are indeed tough, everything costs a fortune and prices are moving in only one direction. Heaps of people are out of work, with little prospect of getting work, especially now that their photos are in the Daily Mirror. My supplies of Burgundy have been sufficient to see me through redundancy and subsequent unemployment, so perhaps I am ill-equipped to identify with the problems being faced by many people, but even if I were a fiver away from total destitution, I would not stick on a balaclava and head for the Argos in Leytonstone town centre. It is a simple difference between what is right and what is wrong. Those imbeciles who were interviewed by the BBC and claimed that their looting was a way to get back at the Government are deluded.

I blame the parents. If you can't teach your children basic morality, and instead reinforce in them that their situation is entirely somebody else's fault, what do you expect? In the same way that we have driving tests to judge whether or not you are competent to drive a car, perhaps we should also have parenting tests, to make sure you are not an utter fuckwit who is going to raise children totally lacking in values and respect? Before you accuse me of being more right-wing than Hitler, and Margaret Thatcher's rightful heir, this is of course not a serious suggestion, but when eleven year-olds with Blackberries head off to their local shops for a spot of looting and arson, you have to think that it isn't really their fault and that their home-life is basically screwed. And why on earth have their parents given them Blackberries? My kids are never going to have phones nicer than mine, and given that I am likely to always have a cruddy one, they can kiss their flash-riot ambitions goodbye.

Post-apocalyptic birding


  1. I think as birders we have a unique view on the riots that gives us a perspective ordinary mortals don't have.

    Camila Batmanghelidjh wrote in The Independent "many of us have been concerned about large groups of young adults creating their own parallel antisocial communities with different rules. The individual is responsible for their own survival because the established community is perceived to provide nothing. Acquisition of goods through violence is justified in neighbourhoods where the notion of dog eat dog pervades and the top dog survives the best."

    It's like watching prides of Lions circling herds of fat Wildebeest. No prizes for working out who the gangs are and who we are.

    As birders, we watch this being played out every day

  2. It was never going to last... three nights looting was a bit too close to having a job for comfort.