Friday, 12 August 2011

Are lawlessness and lack of respect modern day phenomena?

People are looking over the past week and commenting on the lawlessness and lack of respect exhibited by people today. They speak, naturally I suppose naturally, in terms of modern society lacking the moral direction of days and eras past; the halcyon days of their, or their parents, youth when summers were hot and untroubled; when kids and youths knew their place in the pecking order, and so life trundled on...

Looters ransacking a London shop earlier this week

A friend of mine, who sadly passed away recently at the grand old age of 89, told me a few stories about the London Blitz that puts a different complexion on what I learned at school. In history lessons I was told that Londoner's pulled together during the Blitz, neighbour looking after neighbour, stranger helping out stranger. It was a community spirit that got people through that dark and deadly period of history; people pulled together and helped one and other out.

What Jack, my friend, told me somewhat changed the complexion painted at school. Before volunteering for the regular army Jack did a stint either as an Air Raid Warden or in the Local Defence Volunteers, can't remember which. His job was to assist with the putting out of fires and helping people injured and made homeless from the, by now nightly, bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe.

These were hard times. Jack himself came off duty one morning and arrived in his street in Walworth to see his home now a pile of smoking rubble, a grave for his mum and sisters - he'd lost his entire family in one night.

Sure, people did help one and other out; Londoner's spirits, on the whole, were lifted and kept warm by their common experiences of tragedy and the assistance they offered one and other.

However, the dark side of the Blitz, the death and destruction aside, was the callous looting of damaged property, and the robbing of the dead that was quite extensive. Jack smashed the myth that I'd accepted of Londoners acting as one, resolute in the face of Nazi aggression. Jack didn't relate these incidents to me joyfully; no, he said while the majority of Londoners looked out for those less fortunate than themselves a selfish few made profit from the misery of others.  

As Londoners sought out the safety of the London Underground in 1940 less scrupulous people were above ground stealing from their houses! 
Like myself Jack was a Socialist, a man who'd lost a great deal through violence; a man that fought the Nazis in North Africa and up through Italy (yes, laughingly Jack admitted he was a D-Day Dodger) would have viewed the looting and violence of the past few days with sadness; but, I feel he'd not have sat in judgement of today's London or its people, because he'd seen and knew of worse.

1941 - 2011, what's changed?

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