Middleagedmum.com: liberal me?

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!


  • I live in south London, between Peckham and Brixton, so this was going on just down the road from me too, as well as on telly and Twitter. I am truly saddened by what’s been happening over the last few days. I love this city, and can’t believe that kids can destroy their own communities like this. Send that woman over to south London – we need her!

  • Marv says:

    I am always being told off (by partner) for shouting at people driving the wrong way up our street, but it has to be done. I know it sounds stupid but it’s a little thing and people (even the scary looking ones) do generally say ‘oh, sorry’ and turn round. Same with people dropping litter – they may moan and say ‘what’s it got to do with you’ but 9 times out of 10 they’ll pick it up.

    We do need to be more ‘out there’. Watched them riot down Mare St yesterday (from safety of bathroom roof!) – kids on bikes, the lot of them. Contentious statement here – the looters were 90% black kids, mainly lads, but there were bigger gangs of white kids (boys and girls) following them and egging them on.

  • Marv says:

    ps – love the lady’s rant!

  • Amanda says:

    I totally get political protest, i get racial and community unrest and I get that protest is routed in anger, but I’m struggling to understand what looting and burning achieves for these kids other than new trainers and tellies. I am deeply sad but I’m also confused as to what the route cause is. A

  • Jude says:

    Great piece Jane – that women certainly gave them what for! There’s certainly a lot of anger against these looting, rioting thugs, let’s just hope it doesn’t serve to drive a wedge between different communities. The Turkish stand-off in Kingsland Rd was terrific, it shows how effective individuals can be when they come together in numbers like that – and yes, I agree we should all get involved and not turn the other cheek when we see something amiss.

  • Jane G says:

    Brilliant point well made. I’m not in London but we have the same problems here in Liverpool and I agree we need to take back the initiative instead of running scared. What worries me is that the recent events feel to me like Society is imploding. We have reached a point of greed and moral laxity in our society and this is the result. To point the finger of blame at just one issue such as computer games or social networking is ridiculous, we are all culpable to a lesser or greater degree. Is now the time for everyone of us to reassess our lives and start putting the we and not the I first?

  • Jane says:

    The last couple of days have certainly been interesting watching the politicians trying to find reasons and pointing the finger at each. In the end I agree with Jane G, we all have to take joint responsibility. I just hope that some good can come out of these terrible events and it makes the conservatives reassess their youth service, police and education cuts!
    J x

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