I watched London burning on the BBC news last night.
To me London isn\’t just a place I have read about in books or seen on television or in movies. London is a city I feel homesick for though I have never truly lived there. I loved visiting London. I spent weeks venturing out every day from our small tent to forage through bookstores for used (or remaindered) treasures. I spent weeks walking each day from our tiny room at the B&B to the tube station and heading off museums, art galleries and, of course, bookstores. I have sat for hours in London\’s parks reading books and feeding pigeons.
I know London well enough that I could follow the reports of riots, fires and looting and think, \”now they are near that lovely little shop,\” \”I remember walking along that road,\” and \”oh, no they are near where [a friend] lives.\”
The experience of watching London burn was not only coloured by the fact that I knew the city well enough to worry about, to mourn for and to empathize with the people who lived there. Watching disasters in \”real time\” is quite different from hearing about them even a few minutes after the fact. Once something is over you can be sorry, you can try to understand and you can feel angry. Watching something unfold before you on the television or computer screen is much more like watching a tragedy unfold outside your front window. You may not be personally in danger but you do feel that you should do something. You feel that if you don\’t you are either condoning it–or you are a coward.
So I watched London burning and I felt impelled to do something and yet there was nothing I could do except meditate on the exact nature of the social contract that kept every city, town and village from burning along with London.
One thought on “Is London burning?”
This triggers many pleasant memories of London. Thank you. The 1981 Brixton riots:- occurred in areas of high unemployment and poor living and working conditions- were caused by bad feelings between the residents in the area and the police- were triggered when racially-motivated arson leading to the death of several black youths was shrugged off by the police- Conservative Margaret Thatcher's was PM(- is remembered in the song Guns of Brixton by The Clash written by bassist Paul Simonon who grew up in Brixton)The recent 2011 riots in Brixton, and other places in south London:- occurred in areas of high unemployment and poor living and working conditions- were caused by bad feelings between the residents in the area and the police- were triggered when the police killed Mark Duggan, – Conservative David Cameron was PMBUT the more I read about the recent riots, the more I listen to residents and eyewitnesses, the more I hear from youth workers and law enforcement people operating in the riot areas for years the more I realize that the causes are many, more diverse and more complex than they might appear. What is certain is that the recent riots put innocent people in jeopardy and that is extremely difficult to justify.