I live in North London, a 10 minute bus ride from Wood Green in one direction and 15 minutes from Enfield in the other. If I was to believe what I saw on the television news or read on Twitter or Facebook, then my neighbourhood would have been on fire on Saturday and Sunday nights. But I have seen nothing, smelt nothing and heard nothing. Life in my immediate locality has carried on unchanged and yet just up the road something deeply shocking has happened.
Yesterday evening I spent some time reading comments on Twitter and watching the news and then felt disgusted as I allowed myself to be swept up into the story and the belief that the whole city is on fire or falling into anarchy. The hysterical tweeting and retweeting of rumour, whispering, misinformation and general ignorance and fear, political grandstanding and bigotry was too much to bear.
I was particularly repelled to see the postings of one of my ‘friends’ on facebook lambasting one of the north London Labour MPs who had condemned the lawlessness; instead, to avoid accusations that he is a capitalist lackey, he should have been scoring political points and blaming the government and the police, apparently.
I have really been examining my relationship to social media. I know the point is to hear a variety of opinions, and I would hate to talk or listen only to people who share my views, but there are some things that I’d really sooner not have dumped on me.
I longed for some measured, proper reporting; but there seemed no-where to get it. Politicians are returning from holiday promising the return of law and order, guaranteeing punishment for the perpetrators. I suppose it will only be later that there will be time to ask ourselves what it is that has happened.
It all seems so pointless; and frightening. So far, the best comment I have read is by Camila Batmanghelidjh in ‘The Independent’ where she suggests that the reason these mobs are able to destroy their own locality is that they feel so disassociated from what you or I may regard as community that they simply don’t care. And it is the absence of caring, that lack of respect for anyone else, that makes the threat so alarming; after all we rely on the feeling that we all have an investment in our own environment to create our society, not the police and not the threat of the law.
In the meantime, for anyone tempted to write off north London, I had a picnic in the local park at lunchtime today: rug on the grass, freshly baked bread, cheese and grapes, sun shining, children running around playing ball and collecting acorns. Normality continues too, for the moment.