Today’s post was supposed to be an ironic take on suntanning and the fact that MAD tends to go a bit George Hamilton/David Dickinson in the sun. But writing a funny (hopefully!) holiday post seems a bit wrong today, since we spent a lot of yesterday glued to the internet and Twitter horrified at what was going on in London.
I live in Hackney and despite the fact that we are in Stoke Newington (which is considered by some Hackney dwellers as very middle class) have lived in the area for 22 years and have seen big changes over that time, it is still inner city London. It’s a lively, diverse community, that inspires me on a daily basis and somewhere I hope to live for another 22 years. I romanticise the area as only someone from a position of relative privilege can, but having seen two children through state education and having been involved in the local community, I also try to see it for what it is.
It is also one of the most deprived areas of Britain with almost half of the children living in poverty and can be a very tough place to grow up. It is not an inspiring, creative place to live if you have no money, parental guidance or hope for the future.
Most kids of the children and teenagers my kids go to school with, are decent, well brought up and law abiding (often despite their circumstances) but there are a small minority who cause chaos in school and in the community. We have many a dinner table conversation about some of the kids my teens encounter on a daily basis. I try to offer a perspective and understanding about what their lives might be like and why they mug people, cause chaos in school, join gangs etc etc, but my liberal, middle class take on it, is often met with anger. ‘Ok mum, they may have terrible home lives and no money, but isn’t it still wrong to carry a knife and mug people.’ I can’t really argue with that, but have to console myself with the fact, that something must have gone terribly wrong in families and society for these boys (and often girls) to be be so disassociated from normal life. Is it violent computer games, lack of parental input, gang and drug culture, a material society etc etc, that makes them think they are above the law?
I am not sure the majority of Londoners ever encounter these kids, except perhaps on public transport if they are being disruptive, or maybe on a street corner where they may look threatening. It is all to easy and understandable, to dismiss them as low life and choose to ignore the bad behaviour. After all who wants to get involved, they carry weapons – don’t they?
These kids rule the streets, sure in the knowledge that no-one is going to fight back or challenge them. As parents we tell our children to just give up their phones without a fight as it’s not worth it, and as adults we shrug it off as nothing to do with us. These kids have power and they know it!
My kids are always telling me off for getting involved and say one day I’m going to get hurt. I break up fights in the park, tell people off for dropping litter and have chased boys down our street (and then got in the car looking for them) when they threw a bottle through our window. I might be liberal, but I know whats right and wrong! I may only be getting involved in a small way, but surely the more people that do, the more power we have.
Perhaps it’s time we all started sticking up for what’s right and stop letting these kids get away with it. This isn’t just Hackney, Brixton, or Tottenham’s problem, it’s suddenly everyone’s problem. The sight of the Turkish community standing on Kingsland Road, defending their businesses, was both worrying and inspiring. They were standing up for what up for what they believe in and protecting their community. Isn’t it time we all started to do this? But perhaps not with metal bars!