Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kings of the dung hill.

I'm a bit of a periodic blogger, and find I don't really get the time to write as much as I'd like to. That said, I saw something yesterday which inspired me to put pen to paper.

I was watching the news as Mark Duggan's family traipsed out of the Royal Court of Justice on the Strand. Duggan was the alleged drug dealer whose shooting set off the riots in London.

The police officer giving evidence yesterday was the one who shot him. While Duggan didn't have a gun on him immediately after he was shot, the police officer insisted he'd seen one in his hand and was in fear for his life. A gun was found on the other side of the railings behind Duggan after he was shot. In the absence of a gun tree, it is not unreasonable to assume that it ended up there after flying out of Duggan's hand. 'Liar' was the unanimous chant from assembled family and friends.

All that is, however, beside the point. What interested me was the 'solidarity' shown to the Duggan family by relatives and friends, and the similarity between that and two recent deaths local to me.

In both of the cases I'm thinking of, the 'victims' - neither of whom were killed by the police - were the sort of low-grade drug dealer which inhabits far too many otherwise quiet streets. With their claimed traveller backgrounds, extended families and proud history of unemployment and housing benefit they were the sort of dealers beloved of those slightly higher up the chain.

Both acted one way or the other as enforcers for larger dealers. Neither had a pot to piss in. They gained their council houses by intimidation of council staff, and proceeded to make everybody else's life a misery in their street. Everybody else was too frightened to speak out, and the local police were too frightened to act. They inhabited a world where 'family' was important, but they had a horde of kids they never saw. A world where trivial insults between a stranger and a distant relative were an excuse for a blood feud and perpetual bad feeling. A world where there was no problem which could not be solved by violence and intimidation.

And yet, following their deaths, you'd have thought from a casual glance at Facebook that they were saints, not sinners. People's profile pictures changed to those of the 'victims'. Messages of condolence. Outpourings of sadness. The most common sentiment in both cases was 'I can't believe you've gone'.

Well, I can. I'm only amazed it took so long.

I'm sure both of them started off thinking they'd make it big, but lacked the intelligence, drive or ability to make it in anything but dealing and violence. Both were big men physically. I'm sure they were attracted to the idea of large guns, flash cars and wads of cash. The reality was rather more sordid. Like so many dealers, it was life on a diet of fast food, catching the bus because they couldn't afford a car, and beating hapless stoners half to death because they owed the local dealer a tenner.

So what made such useless plastic pikeys local cultural icons?

Firstly, they left behind a large family composed of people remarkably similar to them. Woe betide anyone who dared to suggest that they'd got what they deserved, or indeed any of their assorted hangers on or 'wanna-be' minions who didn't profess shock, surprise and grief.

Secondly, and more widely, there is a whole world out there populated by the sort of people the middle classes only see on Jeremy Kyle. A world nearly devoid of positive male role models, and where the ideals of self-restraint, moderation and consideration only apply to others, never to oneself. A world where the food is put on the table by the state benefits system, and luxuries are provided by whatever scams are going on the side to earn a little extra cash. Petty pilfering, small scale dealing, fencing of stolen goods and the flogging of smuggled Eastern European cigarettes and tobacco. The two local 'victims' were the cocks of this dung-heap, strutting their stuff and puffing up their chests, unable to tell the difference between friendship and fear, and leaving behind them a legacy of the same.

What is the answer? I'm not sure that there is one. In the world they inhabited, people have learnt that morals will do them few favours. The moral strength to say 'no' to such people earns no plaudits, only a kicking and further intimidation. A standard police response - "It's your word against theirs: there's nothing we can do". A world where the moral outrage of a streetful of residents is less important than the 'human rights' of people such as these, because nowhere: not the schools, not the Councils, not the police - is there the moral will to draw a line in the sand and say 'no more'. Until we find a way of re-instilling such moral strength in our communities, little will change.