We had hoped for a peaceful night in North London and yes, it was quieter than the previous night of chaos. But just as we were going to sleep after midnight, we heard loud booms — explosions — and then a wave of sirens.
Checking the online news this morning, I discovered that what we had heard was the local council depot being broken into and the fuel tanks on site that are meant to fuel the council’s trucks were set alight. The sound of those exploding fuel tanks echoed throughout the area and sent a plume of black smoke into the air.
London may have had fewer episodes of violence and vandalism in contrast to the previous nights and yes, the introduction of an extra 10,000 police personnel made an obvious difference. But people are exhausted, edgy, frightened, and uncertain about where the next random event will pop up. This is no way to live and it is taking an obvious toll.
The unfortunate result of sending police from outside of London into the capital meant that those areas who sent the police were left with inadequate police protection for their own communities. And didn’t the mobs of looters and vandals seize that opportunity! Cities like Manchester, Salford, Gloucestershire, and Birmingham were set ablaze and looted as the violence spread outside of London.
The morning news coverage is filled with a discussion of how broken the society is here in Great Britain, that the values and standards of days gone by have vanished, that people taking responsibility for their lives and their actions has been wiped away by decades of people feeling that they were ‘entitled’ and that their ‘human rights’ were more important than the good of society as a whole. This is an astonishing potential turnaround for me to personally witness. I have been dismayed since returning to Great Britain about how very different it is now to the generally law abiding place that I lived in during the 1990s.
This is a healthy dialogue amongst ordinary, law-abiding citizens that is long overdue and the heads of government seem to be finally listening to how completely fed up the people are by the lawlessness and lack of common respect for one another that they are witnessing on a daily basis. But balanced with that anger about the rampant criminal behaviour is a thread of understanding that many young people in current society feel that they have nothing to lose by acting like mini-gangsters since they are essentially uneducated and unemployable and the government has made such severe cuts to educational grants for low income students, job creation programs, and even local neighbourhood clubs for the underprivileged that there was bound to be a backlash at some point.
No one is condoning the violence — no one. Far too many homes and businesses have been lost for people to feel that immediate forgiveness or accepting excuses for thuggish behaviour is appropriate. The government revealed this morning that they may have to resort to using water cannons and plastic bullets to regain control of the mobs. And there are an increasing number of angry citizens who feel that ‘citizen action’ in the form of vigilantism is a controversial but potential solution. The police have warned against this approach on the morning news. Balance is required and none of these solutions will be easy or fast.
It certainly is an interesting time to have returned to Great Britain. I am watchful and hopeful that this vibrant and resilient country can find a middle ground that solves at least some of the dilemmas that have surfaced this week.
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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