The riots in London and which also sporadically erupted around the country we now know had little if anything to do with politics or poverty. They were pre-Christmas smash-and-grab raids.
Wondering into Lewisham shopping centre yesterday to offer our services towards the clean-up campaign we were surprised however to discover little in the way of the apocalyptic damage that was transmitted around the world over the previous evening’s news. The images that were recorded of Lewisham, usually from helicopters overhead, offered a zoom-lens view of the ‘riots’ as they happened - and a distorted one if ever.
In what were actually endless loop shots of the same events--buildings in flames, cars, and streets, ablaze-- this was (apparently) “Lewisham Burning“, and with it the end of life as we knew it.
Presented by this distant media the whole fabric of society had come apart like the seams on a badly fitting tuxedo. An apt description, the mobs seemed intent on bagging either a new pair of trainers, a tracksuit, or a mobile phone - and only the tuxedos were left on the racks. People were rightly cowering in fear... And the future Sarah Connor was set.
Be that as it may…
Remember that scene in Die Hard 4.0 where Bruce Willis is watching television in the streets showing the destruction of the Capitol building - only later to discover that it is really still standing? So too was Lewisham town centre…
We wandered the shopping area intent on searching out the 'aftermath' - and found very little sign of it. Blackheath Furniture & Electrical, Game, McDonalds, and a few more businesses with broken windows were the 'few' that greeted us. Other shops had been boarded up, but if this was due to the ’riot’ or to protect them from further damage is anyone's guess.
One thing was apparent… the mob had been somewhat selective...
The buildings chosen were not always 'establishment chains’ - as in the case of Blackheath Furniture - but the common factor was that they did sell electronic goods. Only McDonalds and Boots stood out as oddities. Perhaps the pre-and-teenage mob (the P&Ts) was hungry after its shopping spree and in need of medication to continue to the next beleaguered town centre and so could not finish its work. Perhaps it was due to police intervention.
According to online forum and neighbourhood blog Brockley Central, (brockleycentral.blogspot.com) the lack of devastation was due to the council and its teams working through the night to turn the damage visited by this zombie tribe away from Lewisham town centre and towards others, a policy apparently commenced by the police service itself which stood shoulder-to-shoulder to defend the walls of the citadel.
But on closer examination are things quite as they seem?
It was the aftermath of what was essentially a pre-Christmas shopping spree by a generation of feral youths. the ages of the perpetrators for the most part are said to reach from the nines into the teens. Is it any wonder that it is this age group that has very little to fear from the strong arm of the law that 'failed' to defend the streets?
This zombie army is usually (and has been for some time now, say two generations) untouched by the law and the regulatory parenting on which much of society is thankfully formed. Instead, revealing a liberal view on parenting gone awry, shops, nurseries, water sports centres (Southwark), libraries - everything but the mosques and Turkish restaurants--were closed down. This action followed the advice of a police service handcuffed and harangued by the present government on many levels and largely employed to ensure that honest citizens may go about their day-to-day business 'freely'. It was not to be.
In fact, ironically, the only persons making 'honest' money that day were the police - and an overtime bill that will pay off many police mortgages was due to (unstoppable) crime. And on 9/8 - a day that will go down in infamy.
The uncivil liberties taken by the few outweigh those of the many. Now, a few feral children, who should have been 'cuffed' a long time ago if not that night, have awoken our society - and for the better. But for the honest men and women who were so bowed by these events that they reacted by shutting up shop and bolting themselves into homes and buildings that had been turned into their prisons it would be mistaken for a sick joke.
But: close up shop at 1pm - why, we hear you ask.
UK Plc is in enough trouble and nearly on its knees. Apparently it seems to have been the residents in Eltham who stood alongside each other in white T-shirts seeing off the braying babes and thereby displaying the might of the Big Society. That's the right to bare your arms in the streets, Prime Minister.
Back in Lewisham most of the shops had followed police “advice” and at 1pm exactly had closed up and boarded their windows against the oncoming ‘zombie yoof’.
The fishmonger in Lewisham was very annoyed. He was going to lose most of the day’s trade. He confided that he could not take many knocks like that in the current economic climate. However, police job done, it must be said, the oxygen of the economy had been cut off from the infected Zombie Yoof and it returned to its dark pit awaiting the full shelves of another day rather than a new moon under which to croon.
As we wondered home to the leafy conservation area of Brockley, towing a bag of fish and muscles for the evening meal and for which we paid plenty, it was not a sign of devastation that greeted us that day: but total capitulation.
Londoners, having fought off the air raids of a Nazi enemy some seventy years earlier--on the advice of what was once a mighty police ‘force’-- had given in to a marauding and rabid bunch of foetuses. Forget a virus insidiously turning ordinary folk into raving lunatics, the virus is amongst us and we are already infected. It's called government; and it has turned the streets over to the hooded zombies. But it should be noted that this capitulation of our streets and shops was not itself a total eclipse.
At Brockley Cross a few die-hards, those who felt they were beyond approach (or threat perhaps?) stayed open; Tickle Me Take-away; Nats Bake, the Brockley Barge pub, Costcutter, and, thankfully--in our case at least--the Orchard Bar & Kitchen in Harefield Road.
The latter had a surreal air about it as we sauntered past later with the dog. It was as if it was one of few buildings left standing (open) in post apocalyptic Lewisham. Almost like the last chance saloon, people sat inside-and-out oblivious to the police sirens, which are quite usual for an area with the largest police station in Europe, and the helicopters, which are not. The patrons, Guardianistas perhaps, were sipping beers and wines and seemingly enjoying themselves as they tucked into the cuisine - without a care in the world.
It was of course both a welcome and illusory sight...
This was after all Lewisham post 9/8. The Night of the Foetuses was their Dunkirk and the patrons we understand were meeting this young anarchic enemy at the beer pump, if not the beaches.
Police warning aside, this courageous stand was much to do with the owner Edmund. ”Ed“ who obviously listened to police advice, promptly ignored it. It was after all only the “opinion“ of a police service that was once a "force" and would itself earn quite a crust that day, whilst keeping its long arms quietly folded. An action for which Ed and many a taxpayer will surely meet the cost. And yet Ed, with a remarkable resemblance to Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds, made his stand that day; together with a few other stalwarts. This is a courage that will be recognised long after the little enemy has retired to its cot nappy sopping wet after a day at the windows. Where were you they may one day ask each other.
This “scum”, as they were repeatedly labelled on southeast London online forum Brockley Central, would eventually get its just 'rewards'. Most of the BC participants, a few them regulars, had little doubt what should be done with the feral perpetrators. One Lou Baker said., “Let the dogs on these pathetic little chavs.” Whilst Anonymous one of many) said, “Scum of thee (sic) earth!” Ken said, “Lewisham High street is a complete no go area - AVOID AT ALL COSTS - cars are on fire and the place looks like a zombie apocalypse.” More to the point, Elsa said, “The youth of the Middle East rose up for democracy. The youth of London rise up for Nike trainers, flat screen TVs and mobile phones.”
Lou Baker, who apparently lives on a nearby mount displayed an apparent and customary lack of diplomacy and added later: “These chavs must be stopped. Let's shoot them.” It was not meant as a joke. The “chavs” and “scum”, captured in the stocks of a southeast London online forum, will, when captured, be summarily executed. [Founded by Nick Barron of Edelman, Brockley Central claimed 16,000 hits that day, some from overseas parents concerned about their children at Goldsmiths College.]
Only… in the civilised world this will not happen and the process of asking what went wrong will take place. The past of course will be dug up and previous governments will be blamed. However, the warning signs have long been buried… and in classrooms around the nation old canes might just be taken out of teachers’ closets, dusted down, and make a familiar swishing sound known only to a few.
"Shame," we hear someone in nearby Telegraph Hill say, “Just shoot them!” But that’s just one of a growing band of Lous out there.