‘It’s like a jungle out there – sometimes I wonder how I keep from going under.’
– Grandmaster Flash
Sauntering down to the town centre on Sunday afternoon I bumped into Harry.
Not that I know Harry or anything. We actually collided on the Trafalgar Rd. when he got off the 188 bus with his head down and, without looking up, peddled the metal on his scooter straight towards me, at speed. Although I calculate his age to be around 11 or 12, Harry is a big old unit, as tall as me and with a fair amount of what used to be called ‘baby fat’ on him.
Fortunately my recent experiences on the London streets have sharpened my trouble monkey radar so I greeted him firmly, with palms outstretched, and brought him to a dead stop in front of me without suffering bruises or worse.
By now his Mother, a scrawny woman with a face for chopping wood, had followed Harry off the bus. She shouted at him: ‘Harry!’. He didn’t respond, being too busy staring at me with a puzzled expression.
I still had my hands on his chubby man boobs and was shifting my weight from one side to the other as instructed by my Tai Chi Sensei. What was puzzling Harry was that the old fellow in front of him wasn’t stepping aside to let him continue his indisputable progress. His Mother was also looking at me with puzzled features. She made no attempt to apologise for Harry’s anti-social behaviour.
Clearly they both felt I was in the wrong.
Tired of this nonsense I gave Harry a firm push to one side and walked on. ‘Don’t you push Harry’ she said as her son remounted his tiny vehicle and blazed off down the pavement as if pursued by a pack of wild dogs.
I should make it clear that Harry did not strike me as a special needs boy, or someone with an acronym condition. He was just a big confident lad, who, by virtue of his size, gets his own way at school and woe betide any teacher who dares to suggest that he stop pushing the smaller children aside as mum would be in there like a shot, claiming that his human rights were being denied.
Dutiful and responsible teachers can lose their jobs over such misunderstandings.
I had the feeling that, until that moment, no one had ever stopped him doing exactly what he wanted to do, whenever he wanted to do it, hence his confusion at my refusal to get out of his way. Mum’s unfailing son worship and lack of reproach for his anti-social behaviour will not aid the boy in later life.
When he exits the schoolyard for the last time he will discover that the smaller, nimbler-brained children will have developed social skills which will see them quickly outstrip Harry in the more complex rough and tumble of adult life. He will not be happy about it.
and helping her to
her feet he simply
called her a cunt
and walked on
Harry is an accident waiting to happen and he’s not the only one. There are versions of young Harry in all shapes and sizes, on every street corner, entitled, undisciplined and without a single thought for the welfare of others.
I read and agreed with much of Kerry Anne Mendoza’s excellent article on the potential misuses of ‘annoyance laws’ The Birth Of A Police State BUT, what do we do about the grown up Harrys in our neighbourhood when they play 4-to-the-floor dance music at ear splitting volume at 4am? Or park their cars in our driveways and urinate in our front gardens? What about when they entertain their friends by walking up to a women on her own and saying loudly ‘I wouldn’t shag that if it you paid me’?
I recently saw a man barging his way through a crowd of people on Oxford St. He knocked a young woman to the pavement. Instead of apologising and helping her to her feet he simply called her a cunt and walked on. The notion of chivalry is obviously dead
Harry’s sisters are no better. On a tube carriage I sat with a bunch of people who presumed it was the dining car. One young lady placed her salad and chip cartons on the empty seat beside her and began to munch her burger. At the next stop an elderly woman got on and inquired if she could use the only available seat. The girl reluctantly moved her cartons, making sure, as she did so, that a portion of her salad slipped onto the seat cover.
Muffled giggles all round.
Not so long ago some youths abandoned a stolen car in the middle of my suburban street and left the doors open, blocking the road to all traffic. This was about 4pm. I called the police to inform them, as did several of my neighbours. I then called again at about 6. 30 as the car was still there. With the help of some neighbours I pushed the car over to one side of the road and closed the doors so that other vehicles could squeeze past.
No police ever turned up, but at 10pm, when it was dark, a helicopter hovered overhead for a few minutes and shone a bright light on the vehicle. I went to bed at about 12 and was woken up at 1 30am by (appropriately) the sound of Garage music blasting from the street outside. When I looked out of the window I saw that a large fellow, presumably an independent contractor outsourced by the police, was attaching the abandoned vehicle to the back of his tow truck.
He had cranked the volume on his sound system to eleven and left the door of his truck wide open so that he could enjoy ‘his music’ while he worked. Perhaps he was Harry’s dad.
While ill-intentioned laws are drafted to enable governments to crack down on those they consider subversive, who is protecting us from the new enemy within? Primitive people built and maintained ritualistic power circles to protect us from demons that could infect the soul of the tribe.
declarations of sophisticated
liberalism will keep
Now that these demons have been invited inside the circle they are happily breeding pestilence and no petitions or declarations of sophisticated liberalism will keep them out. The streets are filled with coffee cartons, empty cans, fast food packaging, greasy chicken bones, cigarette stubs, dog mess and plastic bottles. Unenforceable traffic laws are a shared joke, queues are there to be jumped and irritating children are treated like mediaeval royalty, their every whim indulged.
No wonder then that most people who traverse the public thoroughfares are now playing the ‘all of this has nothing to do with me’ card and hiding behind digital tablets/headphone solitude/mobile phones.
2000 AD’s fictional Judge Dredd is as tough on litter louts as he is on killers and the law abiding citizens of Mega City One applaud his efficiency. The message is clear: if, by purposeful default, the authorities allow the streets to become a cesspit, don’t be surprised if the people secretly long for the protection of a Police State.
Photo: Carl Byron Batson