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Have A Go

November 9, 2009

Our Mayor, Boris Johnson, went up in many people’s estimation last week as he stepped in to save a woman from being attacked by a group of teenage girls. The woman in question was a documentary maker and green activist called Fanny Armstrong. The girls confronted her as she made her way home in Camden. Boris just happened to be cycling past and on seeing this incident play out, chased the girls away. He then insisted on walking Fanny home.

It doesn’t surprise me that he did this. I have the feeling that underneath the idiot persona he puts out, he’s actually made of stern stuff. Indeed, a couple of years ago, he made a clarion call for the public to step in and help out wherever there’s trouble. I guess in this particular case his action matched his words, a rare thing for a politician. There’s also the case of a BBC reporter in Manchester who finally fought back after enduring the attacks and taunts of a couple of drunken yobs (yes, them again) for 30 minutes. Paresh Patel was trying to do his job, but these guys just wouldn’t leave it alone. It wasn’t a Friday night out by the way, this happened in daylight. Just like the tools in Swansea who found themselves at the business end of cross-dressing cage fighters, these guys were unlucky enough to find themselves feeling the (restrained) force of a karate black belt when he finally snapped. Have a look at the CCTV footage here.

Although the sentence these lads eventually received was laughable, at least Mr Patel wasn’t up before the court for defending himself, which often seems to be the case these days.

Unfortunately, for every Boris Johnson and Paresh Patel story that warms the cockles of our desperate hearts, there seem to be at least two stories of how defending yourself or trying to help another ends badly, which sinks our hearts to the floor. The most recent one is Ben Gardner’s attempt at defending his girlfriend in the face of a man taking her Halloween witches hat and spitting in it. For doing what anyone would in the face of provocation, he paid with his life. And of course we mustn’t forget the story of Richard Whelan who also died as he confronted the man who was throwing chips at his girlfriend on the top deck of a bus a couple of years ago.

So what are we supposed to do? It’s clear that the stories of those who die because they stand up for themselves and others make us more fearful of doing the same in case we end up in a box. This enables those who intend to cause trouble to continue unencumbered. On the other hand, the few stories we get of those who successfully fight back give us a little cheer. Maybe I’m optimistic, but I think we may be starting to see a turn of the wheel. It may take a while before we see and feel this, but it’s coming. The more people stand up, the quicker the change. I really hope so.

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