I returned to London one Sunday evening
To find ambling groups of summer tourists,
Tube lines closed for renovation,
Police sirens screaming through standard traffic
And Tottenham up in flames.
So I checked out the web grapevine
To see what happened there this time.
There, I found bold opinions nailed to posts,
Condemnations sprayed onto message boards,
Rumour pinned over counter-rumour
And brief impressions of culprits
Pasted onto walls,
In front of burning cop cars
News reporters and spokesmen
Gave serious voice-overs
The guardians of a hidden truth.
But about what exactly had happened
I couldn’t exactly be sure.
Well, one thing we do know
Is that police bullets kill
And police spokesmen lie,
Is not very I,
And if they won’t come out to
Explain what they’ve done
It makes some sense to smoke them out
And find that smoking gun.
But no smoke without fire,
And sparks tend to fly,
Plenty places catch alight
And politicians will tell you why:
A mindless criminal element intent on thuggery
No excuse for battering at our doors
With this appalling disregard
For the sanctity of private property.
It’s ve fam’lies wot must take the blame
– The Tories wheeled out their working-class spokesman for that one –
The welfare state has made ‘em fink they can take somefin for nuffink.
But I learned the ‘ard way, I never looted nuffin.
On yer bike, son.
More police on the streets
More powers to crush these pretenders to the throne
Long live the contaminated nuclear family,
Long live the locked doors of private property.
But you can’t sit there in your comfortable castle,
Hoping people are content in the dirt at your gates,
And nod like happy puppy dogs
To the beats of your policemen mates.
We’ve said for a while that things will get rough,
I’ve said so for years, I’ve filled notebooks with the stuff:
If you go on like this, this is where we’ll end up.
I’ve consulted doctors
And heard their diagnosis
I went half-mad when I saw the sickness
So I had to learn about its progress.
One doctor told me you can’t
sustain growth on the foundations of debt and futures.
It will come crashing down, he said,
And what he said came true,
And he told me who would pay for it, too.
Another, who studied closely
The history of this disease,
Explained how (to counter the threat of popular illegality),
Trespass and stealing on the manor lands,
And bands of church recusants,
And collective tax refusal
Were diverted quite successfully to delinquent criminality,
So highwayman and muggers
And mafia and postcode fights
Were glorified in literature and the manufactured arts;
And when, in the cold blood of rioting the sound of crashing glass
Played out to slogans of ‘fuck the law’
And people took back a little of the wealth they’d been denied before,
It was mostly robbers in hoods,
Not Robin Hoods
And mainly men made merry
Seeking little more
Than what could come to hand in the closest local store.
And I’ve read another doctor
Who was a doctor of the mind,
And explained the kind
Of feelings that you generally tend to find
At the wrong end of the truncheon
And the stop and search forms
And so when I heard a churchman on the radio
Bless police violence to protect the innocent herd,
I knew it was another call
For inter-tribal, civil war.
And so now we hear the same old calls
For more police and stronger chains to hold us all
And divided groups will go masked up
And not forget that for one week in august
Crime paid well-enough.
And I.P.C.C will take their time
And finally throw a little meat
For the pack outside their walls
And truth will be a casualty as it’s always been before.
But perhaps we’ve seen another chink
Another crack, another hint,
That they’re not as strong as we can be
And unless they treat us properly
And let us have our dignity
And give up some authority
They’ll always be another wave that crashes through their dam
The tide will turn, Cnut with drown and
Good morning Vietnam.
Sam Berkson, August 2011.