Reclaiming The Streets

By now anyone and everyone has heard about the bouts of civic disorder which have struck all over England in recent times.  There has been a rash of commentaries on all forms of social media ranging from messages of support to messages declaring the rioters as the rotten dregs of our society.  What has been lacking in all of these critiques is basic impartiality.  What used to be one of the cornerstones of good journalism is now often replaced with fiery rhetoric.  Despite all the media’s claims of a broken divided society what are they doing to help mend it?  Rather than trying to bridge gaps they are trying to widen the cracks even further.  And that doesn’t help anyone.

The spark which fueled the flames was the death of an alleged drug dealer in Tottenham.  The initial protest was an example of people exercising their democratic rights.  For whatever reasons the protest turned violent and the rest they say is history.  The most important fact to remember is that at the beginning it was not a crime  wave.  It was not droves of young gangs on a robbery rampage.  It was a perfectly legal protest which somehow went wrong.

Over the course of a few days the trouble spread to Ponders End, Hackney,Enfield, Croydon and many other areas of London.  It also spread to Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Leeds.  The likelihood that Mark Duggan was held in such high esteem in so many of these cities is massively unlikely.  It is more likely that the initial protests were either hijacked or acted as an inspiration to youths up and down the country.  I have a hard time believing that there was a Faganesque character running up and down the country ordering his new aged Oliver Twists to go and steal him twenty-six new pairs of hush puppies from Top Man.  In all honesty it sounds absolutely preposterous.  Fucking ridiculous even.

If there wasn’t a conductor.  If these riots weren’t hijacked.  Then what could be the cause?  The first thing to consider is whether there are any common denominators between these people.  If you look at the news footage it looks as if every rioter was a teenager.  However how easy is it to identify someones age when they are wearing a cap, with a hoodie and a scarf covering the bottom half of their faces.  Do only young people wear sports clothes?  Of course not.  The rioters are of mixed age, of mixed races, of mixed intelligence.   They are a sample of us.  They are representative of our society.  They are what we have created.

The common factors between these places are absolutely clear.  They all contain exceptionally more neighborhood’s where prospects are bleak.  Where there isn’t an abundance of work but there is a high rate of crime.  Most people in this areas will never have the opportunity to go to university.  Many of their parents living in a credit hole in a mere effort to survive.  Many of them will end up in prison.  Or dead.  And all the while they never see the significance of their choices.  We are one of the only nations in the world where unemployed people stroll around with iPhones and Nike trainers.  We give precedence to helping people from other nations before our own.  We sponsor people to have babies and not work when our island is overcrowded as it is.  We have a generation who have grown up knowing that they do not need to work to gain.  And this is where our society fails.

Our country has failed several generations and we are now witnessing its legacy.  The scenes we are witnessing should serve as a wake up call.  I am not supporting the rioters.  Nor am I trying to make excuses.  The destruction caused by these mindless groups is an absolute abomination.  All I am trying to do is highlight the fact that our liberalism is our downfall.  When the flames go out and only the ashes remain, be mindful of the fact that the ashes will always remain as a reminder of what once was.

Deeper Meanings

With the third draft put to bed I am now engaged in what I hope will be the final draft.  In the meantime I am starting to research agents and publishers and beginning to sketch and outline for a plan of action.  Soon I shall have to write a synopsis.  The idea of trying to summarise 81,000 words with 350-450 words feels me with fear.  Can I do this?  I really don’t know.

The fear inside me is overwhelming.  At the very beginning writing is an intimate process.  It’s just you going on a journey with your imagination.  The moment you decide to try and get your work published is the moment the illusion of privacy dissolves.  The function of your writing changes from being something personal, like a hidden aspect of your personality to some kind of curiosity at an auction.  By sending your work out you are asking people to assess it, put a value on it almost.  This can lead to you dying by the sword.

Anyone with artistic aspirations has their own, personal ambitions.  It is incredibly important to be aware of your goals.  This is something I fail at as my goals are ever changing.  I feel like writing is an addiction to be.  Initially finishing my first draft was satisfaction in my head.  For a short time I felt like a writer as I had written something.  Eventually that was no longer enough.  Now I feel as if I need validation via publishing, despite the fact that the odds are stacked against me.  If I fail I will feel like a failure.

I have no idea whether this is a common phenomenon.  When I was young, I felt different, estranged from humanity.  The reason was that I wanted to write.  The longer the feeling stayed with me the weirder I felt.  It was never something I could tell to people, even after I had got to know them quite well.  In the beginning I couldn’t understand why I treated it like an illness, or a dirty secret.  As a thirty year old man I still find it awkward to admit.  Like an Alcoholic at an AA meeting I tend to just blurt it out and then feel scared.  The fear itself is caused by the fear of judgement.  I am afraid that people will think I am mad, eccentric or just plain stupid.

By pushing on and trying to publish my work I am confronting that fear head on.  There is no escaping it.  To be an artist of any form you must open yourself to judgement.  I am trying to embrace it.  If I am to fail, I would rather die at the tip of a sword than wither away with only fear and ignorance for company.

A Novel Lesson

When I embarked on the mission of writing a novel I never realised that I would end up changing as person because of it.  Since I was young I have always dreamed of one day writing a novel and last year with my thirtieth birthday looming on the horizon and an idea rattling around inside my brain I finally sat down and did it.  Four months on I had finished the first draft of my novel and had no idea what to do next.

That brings me to the next 10 months.  In that time I have picked it up and put it down umpteen times.  I have crossed out full stops and later reinstated them.  I have changed words once, twice and more.  All the while in the back of mind the words ‘it’s impossible to polish shit’ have lingered.

Now I am full of doubts and self loathing.  Today I wrote what is essentially the last new scene.  The creative element is officially complete.  There will be no more new scenes, or paragraphs or anything else for that matter.  I feel a mixture of sadness tinged with fear.  The fear that I have wasted a great deal of time over the last year.

I told myself at the beginning of this process that I would complete it before I am 30.  I will be 31 in just under half a year.  I also promised myself that once I complete this I will join the adult world and stop living in my imagination.  I am not entirely sure what that entails or how exactly one goes about doing something as brave and reckless as that but I am sure there is a self help book I can purchase on the Internet.  A little voice in my head keeps asking me whether that is why I have stretched out and stalled this process for as long as possible.  That it is merely an extension of my immaturity.  Maybe it’s right.  Maybe I have.

What I do know is that come rain or shine I do not regret my attempt to write a novel.  I have learnt many things about myself.  The most important being a sense of pride in the fact that I have stuck at something and now the end is in sight.  Shame it took me thirty years and eighty thousand words to learn it.