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My Take On The England Riots

150-year-old furniture store on fire in London. Photo source: BBC News (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14526432)

The rioting in England was appalling.

I watched the video of the young man, who had had his jaw broken, being pulled from the ground by helpful youths – only to calmly unzip his backpack and help themselves to the contents. I saw the furniture shop that had stood through two World Wars burn to the ground. And I heard the young people who spoke about looting as if it was a game – no thought given to the consequences of their actions. Although deeply disturbing, it was compelling viewing and listening.

As if people losing their homes, their possessions, their memories and their livelihoods were not enough, people – innocent people – died. Tragic. And unnecessary. A French colleague shook my hand, looked at me in empathy, and said “sorry for what’s happening in England”. I felt deeply ashamed.

What was almost as distasteful was the media pulling all sorts of ‘experts’ out of the wilderness to tell us why it had happened. One psychologist on Canadian radio seemed to suggest that the riots were the result of the excess of one parent families without father figures. Other, more direct reasoning included anger over government cuts, police incompetence, the shooting of a teenager by authorities, the economy, etc. etc.

The fact is, it was a few bad apples leading an army of brain-dead and easily manipulated kids into committing awful crime. It has nothing to do with any of the above. Neither does it have anything to do with these kids being poor – they were running around in Adidas hoodies and Nike shoes while texting on iPhones and Blackberry’s. The poor youth of England have never been so wealthy.

I was once a disaffected youth myself. Many of the family and friends I grew up with too. My parents (one a part-time domestic help… that’s a cleaner to you and me, and one on disability after working for over 40 years in a manual job) could not afford to buy me designer labels. I never went abroad; in fact we rarely took a vacation. When we did, it was bed and breakfast in Blackpool for a few days. Neither I, nor any of the friends that surrounded me ever left our council houses to embark upon a riotous frenzy that would terrorize our neighbours and local hard working people. Number of windows broken, zero; number of shops looted, zero; number of buildings burned down, zero; number of people killed, zero. Instead I grew my hair into a god-awful mess, and wore ripped jeans – my rebellion.

I don’t say this to take the ‘holier than thou’ high ground, or to paint the nostalgic picture of a better past. In fact, I grew up in an era of football violence. That had as much to do with football as these latest riots had to do with poverty, politics, the economy, a shooting, or any of the other excuses offered… including the abundance of one parent families. These were mindless kids being led by thugs for their own entertainment and gain.

I now hear that some in the UK are saying that the sentences handed down to these thugs are too harsh. Nonesense. The amount of damage these imbeciles have caused to property, to people, to the country and it’s perception abroad, will affect for years to come. Throw the book at them. And, if they’re under 16, throw the book at their parents too. (I can imagine that if I had ever been involved in criminality of this kind as a young man, the only thought that would have scared me more than prison would have been my mom finding out).

In stark contrast I read that virtually no-one has been charged two months after the Vancouver riots. I’ll take the British approach to dealing with rioters, please.

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The Last Day Walk

February 18, 2011 6 comments

Skyscraper view from Place du Canada

Yesterday was my last day at my current place of work. For the last 10 months or so I have traveled to my office in the heart of downtown Montreal every day.

The thing I will miss most (apart from the extremely rewarding work and wonderful people, obviously), is the walk I take to and from the train station. The train journey itself is nothing special, and I have many gripes about the train service that I’m sure will become evident in future posts. But, after half an hour on the train, I have a 10-15 minute walk to the office. Days of -30 C with wind chill excepted, I have loved that walk.

When I get off the train at Lucien-L’Allier, I am immediately thrust into an area adjacent to the Bell Centre that celebrates the centenary of the Montreal Canadiens (in 2009). In the morning, I join hundreds of others as we jostle into the city through this area, which is adorned with statues, plaques, and engraved paving bricks.

The view from the corner of Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montreal and Rue Peel. Place du Canada is in the foreground, the Sun Life building to the left, and Place Ville-Marie juts out from behind the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde.

Then I turn right and pass the beautiful Windsor Station building. I know nothing about architecture, but it looks gothic in its style, to me. The St George’s Anglican Church comes up next on the left, and beyond it Place du Canada. From here, at the corner of  Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montreal and Rue Peel, I can see the tall buildings of the Marriott Château Champlain and 1000 de La Gauchetière to the right, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel pokes out from behind the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde in front of me. And the Sun Life Building is to the left. Other skyscrapers, including  Place Ville-Marie jut out from behind this sky scape. It is one of my favourite views in Montreal.

In the evenings, as I take the return journey, I get a front-on view of the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, dressed in strategic lighting. And, as I pass all the aforementioned buildings in reverse, they too are lit to good effect.

I have rarely taken this route without appreciating its beauty. But, just to make sure I don’t forget, I was compelled to take a camera with me on my last day of work.

The Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde. 1000 de La Gauchetière is peaking out behind.

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