Friday, 23 September 2011

A few photos from my neighbourhood in North London.

Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal Football Club.

Cannons outside Arsenal's Stadium
A cat outside Whittington Park
Former Public Baths, now the site of luxury flats for the rich.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

London Riots: The Aftermath of the Killing of A Black Gunman

The French have a saying: "Gouverner c'est prévoir" (To govern is to foresee).
I was reminded of this early last week, long after London and its suburbs had descended into an orgy of burning and looting.
This spontaneous outburst of  anti-social behaviour had been triggered by the extra-judicial execution of a Black gunman,Mark Duggan.He was in a cab when he had been followed by armed members of Operation Trident, an armed branch of the Police whose job is to combat the recent spate of Black-on-Black shootings.The details are not clear, but it seems as if they shot him on the floor of the cab without him firing at them.One officer received a bullet in his radio....According to a report in the "Guardian" newspaper, the bullet was a police-issue one.A loaded gun was found in the dead man's sock.
Two nights later--Saturday---after the news spread, the family and friends of the dead man held a vigil outside the local Police Station, Tottenham.After four hours, no senior officer had agreed to meet them to discuss the state of investigations, no attempt was made to mollify or assuage.
Pain turned to anger, and a 16- year -old girl in the group is alleged to have thrown a brick at one of the policemen.She was then said to have been rewarded by a baton strike across the face.All hell broke loose.
The news spread like wildfire.Buses, police cars, were overturned, burnt to a cinder.Residents had a feeling of deja-vu.A couple of decades previously, rioting had occured in the area as a result of another extra-judicial killing of a Black person---a Black mother of a suspect.The community began to fear a repetition of the dark nights which then ensued.Then, a policeman had been murdered by a large crowd....
The rioting soon spread, riots were sprouting up everywhere.Brixton, in the South, Enfield, a few miles up the road, Haringey, Stoke Newington, Walthamstow, all nearby, were now up in smoke.Croydon, 15 miles away, had staged its own copycat riot.It later emerged that youths had been using Blackberry's Messenger Service to inform each other of the next venue for mayhem.
The rioters/looters were by no means all Black---what is noticeable was the variety of people involved---White, Black, and all shades in-between.Most of the areas put to the torch were disadvantaged suburbs, blighted by unemployment, devoid of hope.
With each hourly news broadcast, the list grew----Islington,Haringey, Woolwich, Lewisham, in London, Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool, and Gloucester, Bristol outside, miles away.
The Tory hierarchy had (almost) all gone away--at the same time!The Prime Minister, David Cameron, the Liberal-Democrat, Nick Clegg(his deputy), Home Secretary, Theresa May, as well as the Billy Bunteresque Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, were all on holiday.None signalled any intention of cutting short their holiday....until it became impossible to resist the clamour for firm leadership.
The mob had got the upper hand, their use of Blackberries had outfoxed the overstretched Police.It was common to see them standing by----spectators to mayhem.All this happened against a background of doctrine-inspired public-spending cuts---including  in the size of the police force!
Those on the political Right would not countenance any linking of deprivation with the destruction which took place.Indeed, for some on the Far-Right, it was a great time for Black-bashing.Black people were responsible for all the ills of society.It takes an effort of wilful stupidity to watch young people of all races---in some areas outside London, the gangs were majority White---and conclude that we were seeing a Race War.
Anomie, breakdown of norms, yes.These were certainly not Race riots.It emerged that the gunman, infamously pictured with his fingers shaped into a pistol in that dreadful hip-hop way, was of mixed-race.His White uncle, or so it has been claimed, is a big-time gang boss in Manchester.This, even if true, is no excuse for what seems like an extra-judicial killing.An enquiry is taking place, but I don't think anyone is holding his breath for justice.Policemen who kill Blacks are never punished.History tells us that a whitewash is not far away.
Fresh off the plane  from sunnier climes, the Prime Minister and his colleagues began to talk tough.Thousands more police would be drafted into London.Water, cannon, tear gas, the whole of the police's box of tricks was to be made available.Overwhelming force was deployed, the looters went home to try on their newly-acquired trainers, and to watch their new flat-screen plasma TVs.
Courts, meanwhile, have had to sit twenty-four hours a day in some parts.Those looters who were too fat to run, or too stupid in thinking they were invincible, are being serviced by overworked magistrates.Stiff sentences await.
Politicians have begun to bicker publicly with senior Police.The Tory hierarchy---those who couldn't be bothered to leave their sunloungers in Tuscany until the clamour for their return became overwhelming---are now tripping over themselves to portray the Police as weak, vacillating.No discussion of the effects of their policies is allowed.Anyone who wants to ask "why" is deemed to be on the side of Anarchy.Plans are being drawn up to curtail similar  future  events by closing down Facebook, twitter, etc.Meanwhile, the Police have been informed that the proposed cuts to their budget will go ahead anyway.
Whisper it, but there were times when I actually felt sorry for the Police last week.

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Friday, 29 July 2011

Amy Winehouse,the "Queen of Camden", and other untimely deaths.

The news, when it came, was a shock---but it was not a surprise.Like the death of Michael Jackson, news of Amy Winehouse's untimely demise was something I had been expecting to hear for quite a long time.The mad pace of her rock - star lifestyle had long made it obvious that this person was not meant to last long on this earth.

I arrived home late from an afternoon and evening spent in Brighton, Londoners' main  coastal hangout.After dinner in a fish restaurant, followed by a few drinks in a bar, my old school friends and I went our separate ways.
Earlier in the day, on my way to the coast, I had heard snippets of a news item from Norway involving an explosion in the capital.I had been in too much of a rush to pay much attention, excited as I was to meet up with old friends.
As usual, I only heard the full details once I got in bed, and switched on Dotun Adebayo's show on Radio5.
So, that was it.The hard-drinking female Keith Richard figure was gone.The details did not really matter.We all knew that in the end, whatever the post-mortem was to say, it was her lifestyle which did for her.We had been reading about her in the tabloids on a weekly basis---Amy coming out of the" Hawley Arms" and punching a young man, Amy photographed with blood over her shoes after injecting heroin in her toes, Amy this, Amy that.....the stories became more sordid, more outrageous.
A talented girl from a working-class Jewish family, she had achieved world-wide fame in a very short time.Her White-Soul voice had brought her much acclaim----there was enough money to buy a multimillion -pound house in Camden Square----only five minutes' walk from our office.
By the following day her beatification had begun.Police had to be drafted in to Camden Square as hundreds of fans  descended on her house.They set up a shrine in front of her house with offerings of vodka, poems, paintings. I walked past the house on Wednesday morning----it is a route which I take home a lot of the time.The house, as well as a couple of adjoining houses, had been cordoned off.A security guard stood at the gate.
Tragic though her passing was, at least there was a kind of logic to it---we could, if we wanted to, pin the blame somewhere. We knew the angst-laden lyrics of failed love affairs, we knew the self-loathing , the striving for an impossible idea of perfection, we knew how headstrong she was.After all, was she not the one who boasted about saying :"No, No, No" when advised to seek help for her drink and drug habits?Death was a logical step in her career, as it had been for Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and so many other fallen heroes.
What logic though, can explain the slaughter by the vainglorious headcase  of an inadequate man , a false prophet who had sworn jihad against the whole of Mankind....? After years of meticulous planning,  the self-styled "Christian", Anders Breivik set off a bomb in the centre of the capital, and then went to an island where young members of the ruling Centre-Left Labour Party were meeting.This White-Supremacist, ostensibly angered by the "Islamisation " of Europe, set out to put the world to rights-----by killing as many of those young people as police tardiness in apprehending him would allow.His way of showing his hatred of all non-Whites(even though his only school friend was a Pakistani boy) was to massacre as many of the Labour Party's youth as he possibly could.
Like the Holy Warriors of Beslan who lay waste to those Russian schoolkids who were cowering in their gym several Septembers ago, he was too cowardly to carry out his deeds sober.He has confessed to having taken some sort of drug before starting his killing spree.
The two stories shared the front pages of all the newspapers for many days, but, I suspect most people had mixed feelings about one of them.
At least, with Amy Winehouse, the "Queen of Camden Town", as one mourner described her, one could find excuses for her behaviour. She, for all her bad-girl rock 'n roll lifestyle, had not set out to hurt anyone but herself. That dreadful Fascist, that puny excuse for a man, had the audacity to claim to be a Christian---a person who lives by the teachings of Christ. He was, in fact, a follower of Satan.Having cut short 78 or so innocent lives, he will have many years behind bars to ponder.God may forgive him, but I guess that the majority of us are not Christian enough to let bygones be bygones.
We may well forgive the brilliant songbird, Amy Winehouse, her shortcomings.Her songs may well live forever.
Death, in the end, cuts short all our vanity, whatever path we adopt in this life.