Thursday, August 11, 2011

London's Burning!

So I'm back in the arsehole of France, aka Val, and am distracting myself from the horrors of the barren landscape outside by organizing my life. Have managed so far to:
a) Put my clothes in my wardrobe properly and hand wash some stuff
b) File all papers, throw out the massive amount of old newspapers and enveloppes that have been serving me as a bedroom rug for the past 6 months, and
c) Get the deedpoll and birth cert sent off to be translated
Have also bought a foot file and anti gum disease mouthwash. Now that I'm single, it's time to take care of the actual health problems, and stop with superficial niceties like, you know, leg shaving.

Vatti (our name for our dear old father) and I decided that he will take me to Strasbourg after all. He's flying in to Brussels on the 28th, and we'll head down on the 29th, and he'll go back home on the 31st. All I can say is - thank fuck for that, Vatti. Thank fuck for that, and for you. Because I mean, I've done the whole backpack and binbags on trains sooo many times before, and the effort of it is awful but manageable. The real sadness of it is the masses amount of stuff you have to leave behind. Bedding, big heavy books, kitchen stuff. I thought S might be able to take the train down and help me, but I checked ticket prices and she'd have to spend around 150e for the train and hostel - a bit much to ask of somebody. So - this is great news. Happy face. Plus, I'm sure Vatti will just LOVE the Alsace cuisine. Bad for the cholesterol, good for the soul.

So anyway, got back yesterday as I was saying. Mutti (aka Mum) was flying to Leeds at the same time, so we thought we could grab a coffee at the airport together, but we were flying from different terminals. When I got to Brussels, I met a woman from Alabama on the train, whose husband is with the Dutch army, and who lives in some small village somewhere in Holland. Her suitcase was pretty bloody heavy, so she needed my help getting it on and off trains - always happy to oblige, plus my train to the deserted border town between Belgium and France comes pretty regularly. Had a grand old chat with this woman, who managed to tell me a huge amount of anecdotal info concerning her life and emotional state, in a suprisingly short amount of time ("Ah jus' lurve 24 hour shoppin', what is wrong with Europe? In the States, ah go shoppin' at Walmart at 4AM!", and "Ah made sure my husband got me saddelite TV and ah have an AHCE-MAKER on mah FRIDGE"). She was really nice, I felt a bit bad for her, doing this journey on her own, and getting back to a village all on her own (husband is back in the States, she doesn't speak Dutch). It must be very lonely. We had a chat about Ireland ("Hey! AH'M Ahrish!") and she decided she might try and take the car up to Dublin. Fair enough, and fair play!

Spoke to the ex today, after being bullied and bitched at to call him ''comme promis'', ''pour en discuter''. Took some light abuse: ''you are capricieuse, you are moody'', gave him answers to his 'why?'s: you are actually from the fifties and are spoiled. I feel a little sad about it, not for myself, but more for the fact that I have been on the receiving end of break-ups before, and I remember how painful it is, especially when you feel like it's come out of nowhere. Anyway, that page is now firmly turned.

So let's talk about the London stuff that's going down. The first thing that's a shame, is as my friend R points out, the fact that:
"It seems that if you're an ignorant racist knob-hole, you can blame it all on immigrants (aka the Sarkozy approach), if you're an old person you can blame it on the Youth of Today and their Lack of Respect, and if you are a Labour politician you can blame it on the government."

Why do we have to choose camps here? Why do we have to be either 100% 'this is awful, these people are despicable, gun them down', or 'let's really understand where they're coming from here, let's feel sorry for them'? I have personally changed my mind over this a few times in the past few weeks, and obviously no-one has an answer to what's going on - maybe the situation doesn't even require one. Here are a few things I'm thinking in regards to the situation:
  • I do feel sorry for the family, and I don't understand why the lad who apparently started the whole thing off was shot to be killed (the bullet went to the chest), but my sympathy is not total, because I just keep coming back to: what the FUCK were you doing walking the streets with a gun in the first place? Had he not be in possession of an illegal firearm, the whole situation would not have occured (the shooting, not the riots). I also believe that the matter should be looked into, but at the end of the day, let's just remember that police are human. Think of how many times you fuck up at work on a weekly basis. This doesn't excuse the killing of a human being, but I think it should be remembered all the same. Perhaps if you were put in a uniform and came face-to-face with a person wielding a gun, you might panic. I also want to know why communities go ape-shit when someone is shot by the police, and yet remain silent in the face of gang shootings, that occur more frequently and with more casualties.
  • There is no blatantly political message behind these riots. As far as I can understand, it's the reaction of certain communities (no, let's get it out in the open, a certain CLASS) in the face of blatant wealth and 'stuff'. In other words, kids who have grown up with nothing, living with a future full of nothing, thinking "fuck it, why should we go without?" and taking. And I can understand that. Their message isn't outright political, because how to voice/express their experiences to people who don't want to hear it? Maybe our government should start stepping up to the plate.
  • It doesn't make sense, as has been pointed out, to attack their own communities. Why burn your own street down? Why break your own toys? Maybe if your toy is shit, you don't care. "But it will take so much money and time to rebuild what they've destroyed, in their own communities!" Well, yeah. But if you're broke, no education, no job, no real future, let's be honest, who gives a fuck whether you lose your local Footlocker, or your local community centre? Maybe your commuity centre was crap. If you don't have anything to lose, you don't mind losing it.
  • The most ridiculous thing in the world has just been brought to my attention, an e-petition put out by the government. When you click on that link, you get this message:
The e-petition entitled “Convicted London rioters should loose all benefits” has now passed the threshold of 100,000 signatures and has been passed to the Backbench Business Committee to consider for debate. It will continue to be available for signature once the site is re-opened.

Are you a MENTALIST? If rioters lost their benefits, they would riot 1000 times harder, and more of them would join - this time, they'd probably move it OUT of their neighbourhoods into wealthier suburbs, and they'd be hitting up the supermarkets and more ''essential'' shops whilst they were at it. I'm disgusted at this reaction, and particularly the reaction of a certain type of wealthy young person who thinks 'these people' are 'horrendous', and should just be able to claw their way out of generations of poverty, generations of abuse, absent families, lack of education. It's alright for you love - you were brought up on poached salmon and trips to St Moritz. Naturally you just 'fell' into a university degree and a smooth life - your parents made that possible for you, whether that be through finance, encouragement, or simply 'you WILL go to university'. What if you hadn't had that pressure or support? Maybe you would be sitting on the dole right now, because let's face it, you're neither especially bright or innovative as it is, and that's with the £100,000 private secondary school. *breath* Sorry, I sort of lost it for a minute there. I just think it's unfair to say 'some people escape their background', because yes, some people do. Just like some middle class kids grow up and turn themselves into millionaires. Most don't. Most just stay middle class. Why? Why don't they become millionaires? They must not be working hard enough.
I DO think the rioters are wrong, I DO think it's a stupid, violent and criminal reaction to life's injustices, but maybe slating them, fining them, imprisoning them is the wrong response. Maybe the very fabric of our society should be reconstructed. Maybe, just as the French were required to take a hard look at the level of sexism that exists in their culture following the DSK scandal, Britain needs to look at its inflexible, condemning class system. 

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