What does it mean to be from London?

On 9 August 2011 I was supposed to attend the Ghana vs. Nigeria West Africa Derby at Vicarage Road Watford. I was ready to support my team and laugh at Nigerians in the process after beating them yet again. But young rioters, mostly born and raised in London, of all genders and races decided to set about destructing their own city.

When my selfish rage relating to the postponement of the match passed, I started thinking about why they did it? How could people delight in destroying their city, their communities and the shops in which they buy their basic amenities? There has been much analysis as to why these riots happened; some commentary has been measured and eloquent such as that from comedian Nabil Abdul Rashid (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tacNkKjxPA) who responded to the outright buffoonery from someone I previously admired, David Starkey. In contrast to this, others are attempting the profit politically from the mess without offering any solutions.

Anyone for a riot

The default position adopted by most of my friends is that the rioters were selfish, opportunistic thieves looking for a quick score. Although this is a fair viewpoint, I felt that there was something more which caused the malaise. To be blunt, these youngsters just don’t give a shit – but why? It could be that I give a shit because I was lucky enough to go to a decent school and have parents who taught me values, but notwithstanding this, I just cannot imagine wantonly destructing the place in which I live. I think the majority of those young people who rioted feel that they do not have a voice, nobody cares about what they have to say and they struggle to find a position in modern society. Most riots stem from perceived or actual injustice and the perceived or actual victims feel that they are left with no option but to take to the streets and destroy. I believe this is what happened in the UK on August 2011, even subconsciously, for most of the rioters. This is not me attempting to justify the riots, but we all need to understand the source of the discontent.

Obviously, in certain situations, if a poor kid walks past a looted Curry’s or Footlocker he is going to take what he can so as to enhance his standing in this increasingly material society in which we live. It seems that material wealth is the measure of success in the UK and London in particular. However, he or she doesn’t think: “wait a second; my unemployed cousin might get a job here so that he can pay his rent – I gotta allow looting this store”. Most of the time he or she thinks: “Fuck it; I’m getting me a new IPhone and a pair of Airforce One’s so that I got fresh kicks!” You must have all noted that not ONE book shop was looted – which I confess disappointed me, mainly because wisdom and knowledge, indicators of true value and success are not even recognised by a lot of young people. In fact, it is not uncommon to see a “geek” being beaten up at school because he or she has large amounts of knowledge and only cares about learning.

Overall, I am immensely proud to be born and raised in London – in fact more so than being born in England. I have a sense of pride when I walk through the streets and see people who work hard prospering. I love how people from all corners of the globe can live and work together harmoniously. I love that for most of the time I feel safe. I also know that if I work hard most doors are open to me. Yes I do get annoyed when I go through Kensington after Chelsea games and see some spoiled, clearly undeserving brat driving a new Land Rover while pitifully attempting a parallel park, scratching up the modest Nissan Micra already parked (most probably belonging to a hard working employee). But my overriding thought is “yeah that guy is a prick…. and he better leave his insurance details……but you know what, although I might have to work harder than him, I too could get his level of material success. This overriding thought although understandable is what the problem is. It embarrasses me that I measure my own success largely by my salary and the nice things I can afford. I am slowly working towards solely appreciating what is truly important in this life: health, family, friendship, wisdom and love and I hope that those I care about follow.

I am not even going to pretend to know how to solve this problem, but I think the responsibility of all true Londoners is to find out what is really important to them and include those marginalised from our society into it. Before long we should see a difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *