The surroundings and the people in them have less and less connection in any real organic sense. English is just one of many languages spoken; it's possible to go for periods without hearing it at all. In the Borough of Greenwich, in which Woolwich is situated, 35 per cent of schoolchildren have English as an "additional" language.
When David Cameron spoke recently of the way in which mass immigration into Britain had created "discomfort and disjointedness" in some areas, he could easily have been talking about Woolwich. People might walk down the same streets, but that does not mean that they are necessarily mixing. Nor does it mean they have the slightest sense that this place is theirs. In such circumstances, it is far easier for riots to take place, whoever is doing the rioting.
The mantra of London as a vibrant, diverse, dynamic city has been rammed home in the past decade with the relentless force of an Orwellian Big Brother, and woe betide anybody who questions it. But in many ways the riots gave the lie to the cliché, by exposing the extent of fragmentation in the capital, and indeed the country.
The media coverage tended to portray the different communities, readying themselves to protect life and limb, as evidence of people coming together, and this narrative is now firmly in place. But the picture one was ultimately left with after the smoke cleared and the smashed glass was replaced was of separate blocs of people operating above a low buzz of tension.
Sikhs locked arms to protect their temple and community (one man, when interviewed by the BBC, talked about protecting their "territories" — a chilling use of word, even if unconscious). The Turks of Dalston won praise for seeing off the looters. The broom-wielding cleaners-up were largely white. The groups of mostly working-class white men who came out in force in Enfield and Eltham immediately got up the noses of the liberal media, who cannot see a white crowd together without suspecting incipient fascism. And the whole episode threatened to take on an overtly racial dimension when three young Asian men in Birmingham were run over and killed by a car.
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