Friday, August 12, 2011
what just happened?
I sat and watched people commit crimes on live TV; there they were - kids, really, just teenagers, kicking in shop windows and looting. They weren't afraid. They weren't ashamed. It wasn't as if they were avoiding CCTV - they were doing it in front of Sky News, in glorious HD. You could see their acne.
When my dog does something he shouldn't, he does it, OK, but I point at it & he cowers in shame. Not these kids; they had less moral compass than an animal.
I watched and I simply could not understand what I was seeing. Is this the country in which I live? Are these my fellow people? How did this happen? When did this happen? Why did this happen?
Where are the police? Why aren't they clipping these kids around the ear and sending them home to bed? And straightaway I know the answer to that - because if they did they'd be on the CRB list and would never work again. Simple discipline is now impossible in order to protect children - you'll be prosecuted; well, look what a good job we did, everyone. How well the kids have turned out.
And yet, the day after was both bemusing and glorious. The darkness of the night gave for the fight of the day. People bought the kind of T-shirt we normally associate with foreign tourists - the kind that we look at with disdain or irony - and wore them with pride: I ♥ London. Or Manchester. Or Wherever. They brought brushes and bags and through the power of the same social networks that had been so destructive hours earlier took minutes to clean up streets, neighbourhoods, lives. Where there had been despair, hope stormed back.
Are these my fellow people? Is this my country? When did this happen? How?
Throwing perpetrators of crimes out of their homes, locking them up for months, putting them all together to plan their next jamboree - these are stupid, knee-jerk, obvious and understandable responses. But howabout taking some (just some) of those kids and putting them with the army of decent people and showing them that real people care. Look after the person next door. Realise my action has an effect. And that doing good can bring pleasure that has only good consequences. These aren't the lessons of a moment; many we try to teach will sit in class and go away sniggering. But some will get it.
What just happened?
We saw who we are. And it wasn't a great picture; but it had glories within it. So where do you want to focus?