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The London riots: when it all started

Whilst serving customers at the restaurant where I work at 6.30 one Monday evening a few months ago, the door suddenly burst open and a police officer, gasping for breath, told us that the London rioters were moving towards our location in Mile End. We quickly packed away the drinks behind the bar and anything of value and our manager told us to go home then and there. This was during the London riots, a distant memory for some but a critical issue that will continue to rear its ugly head for many years to come. But this got me thinking. Why do people riot? Can riots ever bring about positive change? And what transforms an isolated feeling of resentment or anger into full-blown unrest all across London?

Is rioting ever justified?

Whilst discussing this recently with a friend of mine, she argued that were I of the same socio-economic background as the rioters, with (at least ostensibly) no clear prospects of success in any walk of life, I may well have been roped into the violence as well. But is this really the case? If you were walking past Clarks or Topshop one evening and you saw that the shop window was smashed in, would you be tempted to grab a handbag or that nice pair of shoes from the TV ad and walk off nonchalantly?

Can we forgive the London rioters?

Personally I believe that no matter what background or opportunities for social mobility you might have, the act of rioting is appalling and deserves punishment. There is a Facebook group I saw recently entitled “I don’t riot, burn down my city and cause harm to innocent people”, and I think we must accept that the whole Mark Duggan incident cannot be used as an excuse for the criminality that ensued. A climate of fear is created that does not change anything and rioting is without a doubt the wrong way to make a difference and to make a political statement.

Conclusions on the London riots

Some people believe that the punishments for the rioters are overly harsh, but their actions are intolerable and reprehensible. Whilst I can never guarantee that, were I born into a different socio-economic background, I would not have participated in the London riots, I would like to think that some form of personal ethics comes in to it as well. The situations when rioting might be justified are very extreme, much more extreme than those that were experienced between 6 and 10 August 2011. Regardless of whether it was a rash and unthinking deed by someone who does not usually commit these sorts of crimes, rioting, in my opinion, is totally unacceptable. Do you agree?

English is one of the most difficult languages to learn, and it is made no easier by the fact that many famous brand names in the UK are terribly confusing. Let me give you some examples.

Situation #1:

Imagine yourself as a foreigner who visits England for the first time. You might know a couple of words… you might know a hundred. You might even have studied English at school and be proficient in the language. You disembark the plane, go into customs and out into the arrivals hall. And suddenly you realise, ‘O no, I have forgotten my boots!’ (It is winter, you see). You have remembered only to bring one pair of sandals and you have seen that it is raining outside. Out of the corner of your eye you spot the perfect place: ‘Boots’. You hop over, pass through the automatic doors, and what do you find? Not boots, that’s for sure. Cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoo… Any native Englishman or woman knows (seemingly by an innate intuition) that Boots is not the place to go for footwear, and yet it is easy to see how the mistake could be made. Similarly, someone going into ‘Superdrug’ could be very surprised to find that it does not sell what it says on the tin!

Situation #2:

Once again, during your trip to the nation’s capital, you feel like a trip to the zoo. You have heard that Great Britain has a great selection of wildlife parks and you want to check them out. Walking through the shopping centre one day, however, you read on the map that there must be a zoo area inside! Rushing over as quickly as possible, you can’t contain your excitement as you tell all your friends to come and see the animals! Rounding the corner you are zooming along, knocking shoppers all over the place, and you finally find it. No trace of any animals. No worries, you tell yourself, they’re probably just inside. Refusing to be down heartened, you hurry through the entrance and all you find are clothes. Is this some kind of sick joke?, you ask yourself. You find a worker and you ask her what on earth is going on.

“This is Peacocks, sir.”

Situation #3:

Let’s consider for a moment that you are a foreigner who is renting an apartment in the UK. You return from work, go into the kitchen to start the cooking, open the fridge and you discover that all of your  kitchen appliances have broken down. You go into Oxford Street thinking that somewhere on this famous street you will surely be able to find what you are looking for. Suddenly you spot it – the perfect place.

Selfridges.

And what does it sell?

Everything, literally everything, apart from fridges. Baffling.

TV Show The Apprentice

I love The BBC show ‘The Apprentice’. I am not ashamed to admit that, despite its crass, clichéd and heavily edited nature, this primetime television series is genuinely addictive. Yet there is one element of the show that I can neither reconcile nor forgive, no matter how many times its alluring mixture of professionalism and hyperbole draws me in. This is simply the fact that Lord Sugar (I preferred Sir Alan, personally) continually harps on about his preference for integrity and for those contestants who ‘say it how it is’. He often talks about ‘conciseness’ and ‘succinctness’, always using both words and sometimes more – often in their adjectival form – to mean the same thing, thus showing himself to be long-winded and contradicting himself through the very words he is using in order to emphasise the exact opposite.

The Apprentice Contestants

What’s more, he then lets the participators give their convoluted opinions on why he should keep them in the ‘process’ (their favourite word on the show, because it somehow suggests a positive and rewarding learning curve that the combative ‘contest’ or ‘competition’ does not imply). How many times do we hear the same responses? I think I was the best seller; I have shown myself to be very competent and determined; I have performed extremely well on each task… How does he not get fed up with these repetitive phrases? Does he actually glean anything of interest from these uninspiring and clichéd answers? Every episode the word ‘passionate’ crops up almost every minute, and it strikes me that the whole idea of the dramatic boardroom scenario that concludes each instalment is rather too gaudy and tedious to be considered an accurate measure of the performance of each individual.

My Opinion on The Apprentice

During this year’s ‘Junior Apprentice’, a trend was clearly evident that involved contestants continually praising their own skills that were supposedly manifest on the errands they were sent on. Regardless of the bare facts of their achievements, Lord Sugar simply likes this so-called ‘determination’ and ‘enthusiasm’, which seems altogether vacuous to me. Countless times he kept in the participant who aggrandized his or her accomplishments whilst criticising that of his or her peers. Whilst I am not against this in the slightest, and I value passion just as much as the next person (another cliché, I realise), the eventual winner (whose name escapes me) was saved one week simply because she said something like ‘I didn’t do very well on this task, but I would prefer to get involved and make mistakes than to not get involved at all’, and then proceeded to condemn the contribution of the subsequently-fired contestant. Whilst there is a certain truth in this, it seems inane once again and it becomes apparent that blindly bulldozing your way through the programme is the most profitable approach to adopt. When Lord Sugar asks the contestants to explain why he should not fire them, the responses (for those who stay in) are always the same. Next time it’s on, take a look for yourself.

The Apprentice Finale

Having said all that, I must praise the contenders who participated in this year’s ‘Junior Apprentice’. Some of their ideas, particularly for the video game and accompanying viral video, were absolutely fantastic. Moreover, I believe that were the top half of them to be entered into the adult version of the show, they would perform admirably. I am not trying to denounce the programme completely (indeed, as I have already stated, I watch it religiously); however, it becomes much too predictable at times and Lord Sugar definitely needs to give up his absurd desire for brevity in speech, made pardadoxical by the qualities he seemingly commends in the contestants.

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