Tag Archives: croydon

Downfall on a Croydon tram

You know that an online meme has truly gone viral when someone does a Downfall mashup, and so it is that the recent Emma West ‘racist woman on a tram’ video can now be seen in a new version with Hitler – the source video got past 12m views in a few days before the person who uploaded it decided to delete the video. You can still see it all over YouTube though as other people uploaded copies.

It is an embarrassment to watch. West is clearly drunk, or using something you can’t buy at Boots, and making it all worse, she is carrying a young infant who seems oblivious to the foul language and threat of violence. She has now been remanded in custody to January 3rd by magistrates in Croydon – with the order to keep her behind bars apparently for her own safety.

When you take into account her accusation that someone on the tram comes from Nicaragua, though they are quite obviously not from Central America, it descends into idiocy. Just with the added foul language for good measure.

Most reactions to the video have expressed outrage. The UK is a modern, forward-thinking, liberal society that despises this casual racism. At least, this is the intelligent, educated, liberal reaction.

England is also a country where, just a few days ago, police questioned the captain of the national football team over alleged racial abuse of fellow professional footballers on the pitch.

Emma West doesn’t allow her targets to be limited by race; she appears to despise anyone who isn’t English – particularly the Polish – apparently demonstrating that cultural racism very clearly still exists in the UK.

British people know this anyway. The hard working, mostly Christian, white-skinned Poles have faced a negative reaction from the British as their numbers have increased since EU expansion in 2004. Anyone with a slightly longer memory, or appreciation of British history, would know that there were 16 Polish fighter squadrons within the RAF during World War 2, with squadron 303 at Northolt being the highest-scoring fighter squadron in the RAF. But do the ignorant worry about history?

The Irish faced a similar reaction many decades ago as they came to the UK looking for work. Landlords considered dogs and blacks to be just about as welcome as the Christian, white, Irish workers.

Racism isn’t always about the colour of your skin or the God you worship.

Within the British Isles we have often mocked each other in jokes. The drunken Irish, the stingy Scots and so on, but when a video like this achieves such notoriety in such a short period of time it would appear that something else is going on that exceeds mild stereotypes. That John Terry himself can squirm behind excuses such as ‘the context in which certain remarks were made’ shows how little the establishment really cares about true racial harmony in Britain today. Is ‘tolerance’ still the rather pathetic objective here?

The truth is that without migration the UK would never be able to boast the music of Morrissey or the Beatles. The chicken tikka masala might never have become the favourite dish of the nation – offering solace to all those who can’t manage a vindaloo. And Damien Hirst might never have started chopping up cows in the name of art.

The value migration brings is acknowledged by most, and the most recent explicitly anti-migrant political movement, the British National Party, was roundly defeated in the 2010 general election.

But the white working class fears migrants because of the perception that they steal jobs – it’s that simple. They like Irish beer and Indian (usually it’s actually Bangladeshi) food, but they don’t want foreigners coming and taking their jobs.

And jobs are where the political debate is at right now. Unemployment is soaring. The economies of Europe are collapsing and the OECD predicts that the UK will soon enter a new recession with more than 3m unemployed – that’s at least 400,000 more people without a job than right now.

If the government doesn’t grasp that this lack of employment opportunity is going to be a tinderbox that tests multicultural Britain to the limit then I suggest that ministers get on a tram and start talking to people – admittedly difficult when they are not even talking to each other because of Europe. But, don’t forget to carry a swear box.

Hitler In Hell

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Reclaim Ealing

When the Arab spring took place, earlier this year, it was because millions of ordinary people had finally grown tired of dictators plundering their national resource and ruling over their lives. It was an ideological uprising to create fairer societies across the Middle East and North Africa.

When the Greek people took to the streets this year, it was over a sense of outrage at the mismanagement of their national economy – the government forcing austerity measures on working people that resulted in enormous job losses and pay cuts for public workers.

When the Metropolitan police shot Mark Duggan dead last week without him being in a position to attack them with a firearm (all the facts are still to come out in the inquiry, but it appears he posed no threat), they made a grave error. It led to protests from the family and then the local community – ending up in the localised rioting in Tottenham.

There has not been any rioting in London for a long time. Sure, there were a lot of student protests recently – one resulting in a jail term for the son of a rock star – and some anti-war protests like the big march in 2003, but nothing like this. The nearest I can remember to this was the 1990 poll tax rioting and even that was concentrated around a single area rather than spreading across the whole of London, like we have seen this week.

It seems just something burst in the collective consciousness of the criminal underclass this week. Seeing the riots in Tottenham galvanised a sense of injustice – especially against the police – and soon riots were taking place all over the capital, though they were particularly nasty in Hackney, Croydon, and Ealing.

Being a resident of Ealing until recently, all I could do was sit here in São Paulo watching the BBC news live updates and following the discussion on Twitter. Watching Ealing go up in flames without being there to actively do something was a very strange – and emotional – experience.

Of course, there is not much I could personally have done if I was there – what does anyone do if thugs are rampaging down the street setting cars on fire? But, I could see people I know from the local community – including many councillors and the council leader – getting messages online, warning of trouble, calling the fire brigade… actively helping their neighbours.

The tragic thing about this violence is that it has no objective, it’s just the violent outrage of frustration. If these kids really wanted to change the way companies like McDonald’s operate then getting the staff into a union or campaigning for fair wages and conditions would lead to a better outcome for everyone – rather than just bashing in the window of every branch they see.

And by looting, any sense of outrage or protest has been destroyed. London has been taken over by thugs who don’t even have a political message. Some are claiming it’s because of youth club cuts and youth unemployment. Nonsense – it’s just the criminal destruction of property by those who don’t even understand what they want or why.

At least the class warriors of the left, who used to cause trouble for business owners, had some form of objective – even if it was as simply stated as ‘smashing capitalism’ (even though the smashers were often educated property-owners).

The threat of Irish nationalist terrorism that only ceased recently, and also caused chaos in Ealing in the past decade, was also more understandable. There was a political debate to be had, even if it was always impossible to debate issues when one side used bombs.

But these riots are meaningless. They have no objective or planned outcome. And perhaps this is the most dangerous thing of all for a government that is now implementing possibly the largest ever cut-back in public sector jobs. If the disaffected youth think they have it bad right now, then just wait for another year… our trading partners in Europe are struggling and hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs are about to vanish.

I am visiting Ealing soon – later this month. And I had arranged a large local community event that will be on September 1st. I hope many more local residents come along to it now than were going to before these terrible riots – there will be many of those local councillors who were doing such a great job at the event, and at least one of the local MPs.

The tweetup may in some ways just be about having a pint and listening to some great live music, but since I started arranging these nights in early 2009, I met many local people and found new friends in my local community.

Ealing needs the local community right now and if social media is going to take some of the blame for helping rioters to focus on new targets then it should also be used to bring the community closer together.

Click here to register for the Ealing Tweetup…

Red Lion Ealing

Lunatic House

The British immigration office in Croydon, just outside London, is called Lunar House, but anyone who has had to deal with them knows the place better as Lunatic House.

But even the machinations of the British Home Office look slick and efficient when compared to the federal police, who handle immigration in Brazil.

I have spent hours at the police office in Lapa, São Paulo, arranging my permanent resident visa. It’s annoying, but it is just one of those things that has to be done.

Given the amount of time and effort that I have expended so far on them, I was excited to find that my visa application had been approved. On the website it said I just need to arrive at the police office within 30 days to collect my visa.

I turned up there today with my passport, having paid the processing fee in advance, and expected to be collecting the visa. I was told that I should have booked an appointment in advance for collection. I showed them the website on my phone – there was nowhere stating that I had to book an appointment, just a request to come within 30 days of approval.

They said I should have called to check.

When I suggested that I was there, I had my papers ready, why can’t we just process it now, they said it was impossible without the booking form, and if I had a problem I would have to complain to the people in Brasilia.

Sometimes this bureaucracy is positively Kafkaesque. I know that immigration requires a fair amount of bureaucracy, but I just wasted hours today because they don’t put the required information on their website – and then they cast me aside when I complain, suggesting that it was my own fault for not calling them to check.

Thankfully my visa is approved. I just need to collect it. I’ll book an appointment and fetch it soon, but I made sure that I got a receipt for my taxi today. When I return to the police office, I am going to file a complaint and ask them to cover my expenses… let’s see how far that goes.

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