• Riots and Realisations

    Even watching on the box the scenes were truly staggering; anger and frustration manifesting senselessly; incendaries of rage from the excluded. More than anything else, it's been difficult to even start to comprehend it, though all too easy now to see the warning signs in retrospect. What has been alarming was the scale of it, the often total mindlessness, the savageness unleashed to such a brutal extent. Seeing the images of a whole block going up in flames, there was no denying that something somewhere had gone totally tits up. In all probability though, for many it had been going wrong for a very long time and now we were all witnessing the outcome.

    So England shakes or has been shaken, and not in a way that anybody with any sense could have intended. A whole segment of society; derided, scorned, embittered even as their actions alienate reveals itself as septic and unloved - and that in itself is the root of the problem; avoiding any platitudes about parental care, what has society shown to this generation other than mantras to buy more stuff, to seek an apparently easy and double edged fame, to count yourself as nothing if you do not have the cars and phones and everything that marks you out as a success? Wealth for us has become irrelevant if not externalised; where are the stories in this nation of inner riches, of that which ought to bring us together and help us rise above a material condition that once was often hard but was accepted as such?

    England has been slumbering for many years, or did we simply let ourselves forget, despite the signs, that all was not well on the edges? Was society held fast by anything other than our arrogant and lazy assumptions that the social contract would always hold fast, that an overriding and implicit consideration for those around us would win out even though the wolves have been howling for years?

    So this is where we must wake up. This is where we have to stop and look at how it could have come to this. We need a fundamental realignment of that which we truly value - and not be afraid to articulate that which we consider important. We have to bear in mind just what it must be like to grow up in England today with little input to inform any kind of meaningful or vaguely reassuring view of the world other than what is pumped out on our screens - the caverns of the internet, the cult of fame on our TV's, the untold and almost neverending toll of adverts everywhere you look that spell out where you stand and what you do not have.

    The counterpoint is there in our consciousness for most of us, we just sometimes assume it must be all pervading for almost everyone else. Though I've lived in one or two pretty borderline places over the years, I don't pretend to know what it's like to live on truly rough estates in England today and can only piece together painful scraps from the news reports that have for too long made too many of us shrink away from the very real problems they speak of, as if we were holding out hope that if we ignored the increasingly evident fraying of our common social bonds long enough somehow we'd wake up one day in a better world or at least one where we'd muddle through because we ourselves were not getting harassed or stabbed or left for dead or our parents imprisoned or caught in a snare of drugs or spiraling debt or were ourselves betrayed by our wider society and with no crumbs of comfort as the ladders were pulled up in this new stark austerity and apparently nothing and no one to say that there is everything to live for still and so many reasons why our fates are not yet settled if we can only reconfigure where we're at.

    The fact that we are all currently facing some kind of economic contraction to the point where it might be the ideal time to reconsider if now is the time to try and imagine something like a steady state economy, something other than endless boom and bust, is one thing. But the fact that so much of the pain of these cuts is being metered out unfairly on the poorest and most vulnerable; this is surely a thing we can no longer afford to accept on any level - we have witnessed the rude awakening of what happens when we default on our responsibilities.

    That is not to say the violence and the recklessness of what happened last week is in itself justified, that the mounting asbo-oriented culture it was some kind of culmination of is anything other than deeply disturbing. But we cannot hope to instill a greater sense of responsibility in those whose actions are only too easy to revile until we look again at how each of us serves society at large outside the cosy spheres of existence we habitually inhabit and create.

    However much the riots may have been criminal and often savagely so, it would be madness not to acknowledge that they were at least in part - and probably to a very large degree - the result of a mounting desperation, a boiling fury that may stand to call again if those of us who share a sense of discontent, who perceive mounting injustice do not speak up for those who have not found their voice and so express themselves so pathologically in some kind of twisted mirror image of how divided we have let this country grow.

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branchlines

The posts here originally grew from a website that was set up to advertise a book that describes things a long time ago. That book was always intended to address more than any single issue, even if it encompassed that as well.

At its broadest, I hoped it could help express how things can be when anyone of us acts on behalf of the environment, of their community, of our collective future itself. It was informed by far more than simply the times it describes; it was an attempt to articulate a feeling that has carried on and grown and means more than just a narrow 'us and them'.

I'm mainly working on other writing at the moment but thought there was probably something to be said for keeping these posts online while the issues they deal with remain relevant. I hope you find something on these pages that proves of interest or use as we all rise to meet the new times.

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