Sorry for the misleading name but you will find some posts that are specifically about walking in London. The rest is the other stuff I get up to.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Is it safe to walk in London again yet...

Of course it is.

For anyone going about their business in London everything is normal. I'm sure there are places in Tottenham and Croydon and elsewhere where damage is evident - and I really feel for those people who have lost homes and personal items, for those who have lived in fear for the last few nights and businesses that have lost profits.

But London is not a war zone.

For the vast majority of people who live and/or work here, everything is normal. Except the undercurrent of fear and anger at the rioters. Everyone has an opinion - call in the Army, call in the water cannons, shoot them with rubber bullets, or even real ones. Some are quick to blame one race or another, either for the rioting or for causing the conditions that led to it.

I’ve followed the rioting at a safe distance through Twitter and TV reports, watching as the brave reported on what was actually happening in the streets, and as the misguided spread fear about non-existent problems in their community. The worst things I've read were filled with hatred and bile; I’ve also seen it said that for those involved the rioting has a carnival atmosphere - "a party with fires and free gifts". You can't shame these people by telling them that those affected have been left with nothing - most of them had nothing to start with.

So yes - we need to get control of the streets; repair the damage, we need to find those that broke the law and punish them appropriately.

But then what? Surely a part of the answer is education, both for the disaffected kids and parents that so obviously don’t have control. And finding some way to help those suffering the worst poverty. Not that real poverty was the cause of this any more than the police shooting an armed suspect. The looters were not taking things they need - food and basic clothing - but things they want - mobile phones, booze, trainers, designer labels.

But if you're reading this for the answer then I'm sorry to disappoint; I don't have it. What I've seen over the last few days has saddened and angered me - but not actually affected me. If the riots had been in my community I think I'd be there in the clean-up crew, but I doubt I've really got much to add beyond that. I've read articles that talk of volunteering to help the illiterate read, or of taking the role of appropriate adult. These are the type of things that really have the power to change things for the better - but like the majority of people, I don't have the time or the inclination to get involved myself.