Many recent discussions I have, have usually referenced the madness that we are seeing and reading from the news. Front and centre of the discourse is the daily London body count of gun and knife crime in the capital, that has been framed at the door of the black community, particularly young black men. London itself is quickly reaching the look and feel of dystopia ala a modern Dickensien saga. As the London landscape changes, the pace of development of new buildings with a new skyline over Nine Elms, including the controversial, U.S. Embassy, in Battersea where I grew up and The City, almost represents an equally accelerated diminishing memory of what London felt like 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. In this Trump era, with Brexit looming, and most of the World transfixed to their smartphones immersed in some form of gaming or social media; the sense of chaos feels as though we are transitioning to a dystopian reality. Where celebrity, or being powerful and rich seems to be the only game in town; we have all been seduced into playing that game.
Maybe it has always been that way, but some of us have been too slow on the uptake. Coming from the wrong side of the tracks, growing up in Battersea of Jamaican heritage, I think back to Denis Waterman’s in “Up the Junction” which gave the juxtaposition of wealthy background of Suzy Kendall’s character flirting with the common people, while Denis Waterman played the working class lad trying to impress his posh girlfriend. Growing as the son of Jamaican migrants from the council estates south of Battersea Park Rd, there were not too many references in film we could relate to that reflected our experiences living a generation in post war Britain, where we were the beneficiaries of empty promises that continued to be meted out to us daily in our interaction with society, which implied the UK was the most sophisticated land with the highest of values and decency.
Forgive me, as a I try to provide a critical analysis that might not fit your picture or reflection of things. But my thought patterns are definitely shaped by my environment and experience of growing up in the North Battersea community that I did in the 1970’s, when things whilst a whole lot different to what we experience today have some striking similarities to what we are seeing.
The celebrated Steve McQueen, film director of “12 years a slave” whose film “Widows” soon to premiere, when asked about what he is seeing, suggests what we are seeing is as a result of desperation, London is the playground of the rich. Interviewed by BBC’s Andrew Marr, the subtext I read from Marr’s questions is look at you.. a Black Man who has come from humble beginnings who has made good.. what’s your take?, suggesting a subtext that the UK is now a meritocracy. But good old Steve, bluntly, says do you think people actually want to go around killing each other. People are desperate.