Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Safe Heaven

with 5 comments

In our home we have a safe haven. A secure area we can retreat to in the event of danger. Before we arrived, somebody had tried to sort through our large collection of keys to label them, and so we found the keys for our “safe heaven.”

It made me smile, because in so many ways, where we live is like paradise. The weather is glorious, the people friendly, the country amazingly beautiful, but with all the conveniences we’re used to. I can’t believe how fortunate we are to call this place home for the next three years. It surely is heaven.

Apart from one thing: the crime. It is hard to match up this glorious land of sunshine and smiles with the frightening statistics. Car-jackings, personal invasions (armed robbery of private residences), smash and grabs, muggings are all alarmingly commonplace here. It is the rape capital of the world. Living in the Northern suburbs, our affluence is a stark contrast to the poverty of the townships. There are parts of this city I will never visit. Even here I will always be on alert.

I’ve never lived anywhere like this before, and I can’t believe how much I took for granted that feeling of peace of mind.

When friends asked how I liked South Africa when we first arrived, I responded that it was like England, but with better weather and worse crime.

Then England rioted.

Seemingly out of nowhere, first London, then other parts of England came under siege. I struggled to believe it, this is England. This is my safe haven, where I would always return with the children if things got too crazy elsewhere. Suddenly it seems safer here than over there.  Severe cuts to the police force left them instantly overwhelmed.

Of course, this looting and violence didn’t suddenly spring up. It seems that the motivations for the riots are different in different parts of the country. Just as there are multiple causes: a cocktail of political, racial, cultural, and economic reasons, so will the ultimate solution be difficult and complex. I don’t have any answers here.

Yet the reasons people are putting forward to explain this senseless shift to chaos are intriguing. A generation of children and young adults who are alienated from the rest of society, who are so disengaged that they feel no empathy for the pain and destruction they are causing to others. Young adults who feel their futures are so hopeless that they opt for instant gratification regardless of the consequences. Entire sections of community at odds with one another, and a pervasive mistrust of authority.

Alienated, disengaged, lacking empathy, hopeless- these are the words I’ve read recently to describe the people of my homeland. The neurotypicals of my homeland at that. It is interesting to me that the same words which are often used (incorrectly) to describe adults and children with autism are being applied to entire sections of community. I would love to understand what is happening in England, but the causes are mysterious and complicated.

I’m ashamed at the violence directed against innocents.  A teenager even tried to mug my friend as she walked with her baby in her neighbourhood in broad daylight.  I’m proud of the way others rallied together to clean up the mess.

The Prime Minister described society as “sick”, but he failed to offer a cure. We are invited to see the rioters as different to us.  And while I can’t imagine tearing up my homeland, neither can I imagine feeling alienated, hopeless and disengaged.

As the police regained control and the courts are dealing with the fall-out, we are learning that those involved in the riots appear to come from all sections of society: a number of students, a teaching assistant and an 11 year-old girl are among those facing charges. For a while, the rules were gone, chaos reigned, and the thrill of the mob was too appealing for many. England was in meltdown. If these people have taken part in destroying their communities, we have to ask ourselves why, even if the answers are mysterious and complicated. Even if a solution is hard to find.

It pains me to think of my home country being torn apart, to see places I’ve lived and visited being destroyed. Just as it pains me to think of the crime in this beautiful country where I now live. Just a few miles from the townships, I can close my gates, lock my doors, and enjoy a relatively safe heaven. But I can’t help but feel sad that I have experienced a different England and South Africa to many.

And that my haven will only feel safe under lock and key, away from the alienated, disengaged, and hopeless.  Peace of mind is increasingly a slice of heaven that few of us can experience, no matter where we live.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 12, 2011 at 1:29 am

5 Responses

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  1. I can’t imagine one day turning on the news to see my hometown under siege like that…. it has to hurt you right in the heart! I think that the protest over there was hijacked by a bunch of people who were looking out for themselves, not really looking to make a political statement. However, it is becoming increasingly hard for all of our young people out there (everywhere!) to find there place in society. The economy, lack of assistance and the lack of the presence of “community” is really taking its toll. I pray for all of them! I am glad you have your safe haven – and hopefully, once all is calm in London, you will have another back. Stay safe in your beautiful new home and enjoy!!


    August 12, 2011 at 7:22 am

    • Almost the worst thing for me is not having been able to watch the news (we only got TV here on Wedensday evening) so I’ve been getting snippets from news online and social media with a sporadic internet connection. Hopefully things are returning back to “normal”, whatever that is. 🙂

      Spectrummy Mummy

      August 12, 2011 at 7:56 am

  2. Thankyou for your article. Ilive in Scotland now, which wa untouched by the riots. I lived i South Africa and worked in the “Townships” in KZN on community projects in the later 80’s and early 90’s. I have lived in England for the past 11 years, so I have seen enough tragedy in society to empathase with you. The riots in England do have some roots in social depravation and the lack of community which has been replaced by a private world. But we need to take note that teenagers from well-off families were also involved. It is clear that the difference betwwen England and Scotland is the total disregard for others. Such are the consequences of no interactive community where care and respect for neighbours is rare..
    The young people have been treated as though they are an endangered species by the authorities. There simply are no consequences to face. Teachers and parents have their hand tied and the younger generation have been steeped in a rights culture. These factors have led to self-centredness beyond belief.


    August 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    • Thanks Chris. Indeed, all kinds of people got involved in the riots. The Scottish police were very wise not to reveal which of their forces were being sent to London, nor how many officers!

      Spectrummy Mummy

      August 29, 2011 at 5:05 am

  3. […] the Journey here, and the destination here.  I found that our new community was something of a safe heaven for all of […]

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