This is "Onbekommerd"!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

All quiet in London

As I warned a while ago, when there is not a lot to report, the blog will be a bit quiet, so here for the first time in two weeks a bit of an update.
We have had some questions about how we are, questions obviously connected to the rioting. Well, Sean and I are both fine, Lyn is still in Cape Town, she comes back tomorrow.
As far as the riots are concerned, of course this is and was bad news. To have the worst unrest here in 30+ years is quite someting and theTV pictures that were sent all over the world show it all. Having said that, one of course needs to understand that this is not the picture of London as it typically was over the last week. There are a few major differences between what has been happening here and similar behavior we see in South Africa, especially in the 'strike season'. Firstly, an enormous amount of people (over 1000) have been caught, arrested and already have been appeared in court and have been sentenced. With CCTV cameras everywhere in London, it is relatively simple to identify people and police are still going into homes and picking up people that were involved, even if they were not actually arrested on the day in question. Sentences as much as 6 months jail have already been handed down for looting shops. In South Africa, I am sure the nett effect would be that only people who actually killed someone would maybe be picked up (and probably never sentenced as the file would have been lost). Secondly, the day after the riots, the communities themselves started to clear things up, including inside looted shops etc. No waiting until the council comes and removes the broken glass, no moaning that 'they' are not doing anything, just get to work and make it right again. These people are proud of their areas, however humble the may be!  Also, individual shopkeepers are being assisted by their customers and communities: An 85 year old (!) barber whose shop was destroyed was given 20000 Pounds because his customers put an appeal on a website. He in turn says that that is way more than he needs and will use it to help others in the street who have also been hit.
Of course the fact remains that there were serious riots and that's bad. It is interesting to see the difference in opinion on what the cause was, and also interesting that very few people think it was politically motivated (i.e. not caused by unhappiness about the spending cuts that have been announced by government). The most popular opinion is that it is pure greed and criminality. That is supported by the fact that most of the shops looted were cellphone, TV etc and expensive sports gear shops. No food and drink, so it was not out of NEED, just out of WANT. The reason for that is more difficult to explain, but it will most likely have someting to do with the ever increasing entitlement culture that has been started with 'free everything'. Thats as far as I'll go.
Of couse the police response was very inadeqate, probably partially caused by an incident last March (I think), where during the G20 protests a demonstartor was pushed by a policeman, fell and died. I have seen the footage of that (remember the CCTV everywhere) and the push was (in my view) definitely not 'over the top' but the policeman is now being taken to court, which has made his collegues a lot more careful in how they handle protests. The Prime Minister has now told the police that he will support more robust policing and has also not ruled our the use of water cannon and suchlike so it would appear that there will be more effective policing in future.
In the meantime, all is quiet now. Sean and I walked through Streatham in South London (an area where there were no riots as such but a few shops were broken in) and came via the Brixton tube station,next to which a (phone) shop was looted and set alight last week and we did not feel unsafe at all. There was a bit more police presence than usual but not all that much either.

On a lighter note, I see that I am now so famous (dont ask me why) that they have started calling streets after me. See this picture!

Last week was Sean's birthday and we had a pub lunch at the river here in Richmond. I did not take a camera, so unfortunately there are no pictures but it was very nice. He is going to work in a suit (but no longer a tie) every day and really looks the part.

Lyn is back tomorrow, after 16 day away. I dont think we have been apart for that long since we married, so I cant wait for her to be here again!

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