There have been lots of clean-ups and things seem almost back to normal. Politicians are bickering about who caused this… Thatcher with her community smash-and-grabs, Labour with their reign of throwing money at problems, Police who were ‘too timid’… everyone else is to blame.
However, as I saw yesterday, a reminder of a little something:
“They steal from the every day person on the street. They do so and excuse their behaviour as if theft is acceptable. They steal because ‘everyone else does’. They try to say it’s poverty that’s made them steal. They moralise and say there’s nothing wrong with what they’ve done. They seriously don’t expect to go to prison. They outraged every single person in Middle England. Their values seem so far adrift from ours that it’s almost ludicrous. They seem like another species whose moral values about theft are so far removed from real Middle England life that it’s almost shocking to wonder how it got this way. They take advantage. They use every excuse in the book. They don’t own up.”
Politicians, that is.
How ironic the expenses scandal came first. We see their behaviour modelling something endemic in British life. Now, I’m in no way excusing what has happened as if Johnny Hoodie on the street smashed Currys windows because David Chaytor had provided a terrible example. But it’s endemic. It’s systemic. I’ll just remind you that Chaytor stole £13,000 from the English public – that we know about – and some of these muppets on trial for theft have stolen things as trivial as a £7.99 bottle of wine. Hazel Blears, oh she of the ‘failure to pay Capital Gains Tax’ – paid over £13,000 back. Because it’s acceptable our politicians should say ‘Can I pay it back then?’ having got away with theft for a long time. It’s not acceptable that Johnny Hoodie should be able to say ‘Can I get off if I give back what I stole?’
Not that this is a moral argument about theft. We all do it. Whether it’s surfing the net on work time, it’s taking a roll of sellotape for your child’s art project, it’s robbing two million from your bosses or it’s robbing the public. Theft is something we do. Nobody is honest nowadays. And that includes me.
Really, what we need to do – and what some people have said that we are doing – is change our ways. We need it to bring communities back together. We’ve seen the photos of the clean-up. We’ve seen Sikhs protecting their temple, the mosque, the church. We’ve seen white people going out to stop EDL movements. We’ve seen Muslim men fill the streets. If anything, this had the potential to make all those ‘immigrants’ we’ve seen as troublesome feel part of the community. Polish girls jumping from burning buildings, Malaysian students robbed in broad daylight, Muslim men killed as they protect their community. If anything, these riots proved it wasn’t about race any more. I saw a white ‘mum’ in Salford (and I use the term incredibly loosely in that she’d squeezed out her progeny in the same way even crocodiles are capable of doing) saying she was doing it because of Mark Duggan’s shooting.
Just to put white Salford women in perspective for you… a few years ago, I had a delightful Sri Lankan student. He was 5 years into the asylum process. His father had been killed by Tamil activists because his father was a politician. His mother was a lawyer, but she wasn’t allowed to practise over here. He had seen more violence than you or I will ever witness. Just after they were granted asylum, they were then moved from the pleasant-ish house they’d been in into a council house in the shadow of Salford Shopping City.
I drove to see him a couple of days after his move. The street was filled with people sitting outside. It did look like a scene from The Wire. They were drinking cheap lager at 3 in the afternoon, smoking weed in the street. I walked up and banged on the door – fearing that my car would be vandalised or robbed within the hour. The 5 young white men (again, I use the term loosely – I want to say rats, but even rats aren’t so small-minded) who were in the garden next door smoking huge joints – obviously on benefits, obviously not working, obviously dealing drugs as well as smoking them, were interested in my arrival.
“Who are you?”
“I’m a teacher.”
“I thought you was a solicitor.”
“No. Just a teacher.”
“What do you want with that immigrant scum?”
“I teach the boy.”
“Do they pay you?”
“Fuckin’ bunch of immigrant nigger scum. As soon as they got here, we smashed their back window. Teach them immigrants to come here.”
“Oh, I bet that scared them…”
“Yeah… you don’t see them now, do you?”
“Just so you know… that young boy’s dad… he was shot in front of the boy. He was 11. He’s seen more guns and violence than you could ever show him. When someone kills your dad in front of you, a bunch of thick shit white niggers from Salford aren’t going to scare you. Dickheads!”
I walked off, quickly.
By the time I’d got to the bottom of the street and got in my car, they’d roused themselves out of incredulity and were coming to see me off. I found out my student and his family had gone to stay with family elsewhere. This wasn’t asylum, it was torture.
Anyway, that’s a small, atypical bit of Salford for you. And when you see Waynetta Slob defending a black guy shot in London, then you know maybe this isn’t about race so much any more.
The riots could have done many wonderful things; but I suspect people will just go back to the same ways. The people who came out on the streets to clean up will soon forget about their community and what it means to them. The scars are very superficial. Some commentators have said it’ll bring out a Blitz mentality which will unite us. It won’t. World War II was 6 years. The Blitz itself was months upon months of nightly terror. The riots are too insignificant to bring about the lasting sense of community that’s emerged in the last two or three days. It was nice to see Muslim standing next to African-Caribbean standing next to Sikh standing next to white. This is how England should be. But it won’t be long before we all go back to watching the news, blaming immigration and each other because the one thing we need can only be inspired when we’re under siege. Pride in community should be so strong, yet it only comes out at times of trial – that’s a shame.
Individuals make up communities. Communities make a nation. And that’s how we make England strong.
Just in case you haven’t seen the wonderful ‘mum’ in question, she’s here, along with another great Salford man blaming the Polish. I suspect the Polish have taken his job because he can’t read too well. But that, of course, is not his fault. That’s your fault. Somehow. Yours and the Polish people’s fault.
Whilst this video embarrasses me a great deal, I think it shows a lot about how far people’s moral compass is out of kilter. I also wonder if the BBC didn’t have a hidden agenda, since so many of the BBC workers are reluctant to move to Media City – i.e. Salford. Well, if you were a well-to-do media luvvie from London, would you want to move to live next door to people like this??