I’m not one of those deluded souls who believe human beings are fundamentally ‘good’, but even so, I had my beliefs about society shaken today. Sometimes, evidence forces me to conclude it’s just not worth being one of the good guys. (I won’t say it’s a British problem, since this part of London is as multicultural as it gets.) When you see someone being attacked, isn’t stepping in just the right thing to do? Decide for yourself:
The scene: a Streatham supermarket, 3pm today. An angry young man – possibly drink or drug influenced; I’m not sure – is terrorising the place, stomping over to shoppers and staff and screaming obscenities. Several times, he approaches the lone security guard, and it starts to turn violent.
Anyway, it’s at this point I drop my stuff (I’m in the checkout queue) and walk over. This takes more courage than I thought it would. (In my ‘year out’ the only sport I did was skydiving, and I’m only just starting a gym schedule again; I doubt I’m much physically superior to an average guy right now.) But I stand by the lonely security guard’s side and occasionally in front, as the scene evolves, ready to do – something – should it escalate. We’re bobbing and weaving like aging boxers, but no actual blows are exchanged. The only other guy ‘helping’ is a cashier, a little chubby Indian guy, but standing his ground albeit a few metres back.
The manager is hanging back on the phone to the police… and it’s obvious he’s having real problems persuading them to make a visit. I’m not a fan of today’s ultra-politicised Met, but surely even they have enough decency left to actually send a car round to an assault in progress? (Maybe I should tell the manager to say there’s a motorist blocking the road, or a middle-class mother overstaying her meter. They’d come much faster to an easy win like that.)
The scene continues, dancing and flailing around this unpleasant young man; no actual punching, but he’s slapping and spitting.
Here’s the rub: NO ONE ELSE – despite the many males in the supermarket – does a damn thing. I’m thinking: is this what society’s come to? So stultified by over-regulation, political correctness, and health-and-safetied to death that nobody’s prepared to just ‘do the right thing’?
The guard is obviously having real problems, shaking and on the verge of tears, but even though he’s earning a pittance and is experiencing great fear, he’s doing his job. This supermarket doesn’t deserve men like him. I guess from face and accent he’s a fairly recent immigrant from Nigeria. (Don’t be influenced by that country’s venal and violent image: Nigerians are overwhelmingly peaceful and gentle people.)
The violent guy steps towards me for a moment, I step back reflexively, but he steps back too. Coward: he’s sticking to what he regards as the easier target. Bob and weave, bob and weave… I try to meet his gaze, but he’s blanking me.
Some time later he stomps off out of the store, and the cops deign to make an appearance, in full stab-vest regalia. Turns out they’re actually answering a different call: from another shop from which he’s lifted a bottle. It was drink causing it, then.
I go back to the queue, pay… not even a word of thanks from the manager and staff standing around. I was prepared to try and save their sorry asses from a violent attack – and they treat me as a blasted inconvenience? Couldn’t they have offered, I dunno, an extra 100 Clubcard points or something? smile Well, you’ve gotta laugh, haven’t you.
Three cops are ‘talking’ to the guy outside, and he appears to have chilled big-time. Doubtless he’ll have been let go, without even a caution, for violent abuse, physical assault, and creating fear in over 30 people. The manager and staff are trembling and finding it hard to speak to each other. But do they realise – I was feeling the same way? Two hours later I’m still a bit shaky.
Hey, I’m not magnanimous; I’ll leave the modest ‘Just doing my job, Ma’am’ stuff for Superman. A word of thanks would really be nice. None are forthcoming. Ungrateful tossers.
And it’s attitudes like this that hurt. Just how long will it be, before the few who are prepared to ‘do the right thing’ finally give up on the gutless 99.9% of society? To just let the violent and the abusive do whatever they want, and just look out for themselves because they realise nobody will ever help THEM in a pinch?
Britain remains a fairly safe country: in seven years as a Londoner, I’ve been involved in very few violent incidents. But with feral children roaming at will, the streets running red with the blood of knife crime victims, and a growing sense that those who play by the rules will be penalised, I’m thinking the war has already been lost.
Anyway, I’m going to make a cup of tea.