8/10/11: riots

Can’t help thinking about the riots in London and points north. Not much complex commentary on NPR or BBC. Of course, it’s disconcerting, what everyone wants is for the mayhem to stop and things to return to normal. But also, of course, when things calm down and return to so-called “normal” no one (meaning, I guess, the press) will need to think about what it means that young people have taken to the streets. It brings me back to the sixties in the US, the wave after wave of riots after the assassination of ML King and then Bobby Kennedy. Many cities in the US have experienced rioting after police killings, similar to what touched off the current situation.

I’ve been thinking of these riots as a metaphor, or perhaps a sort of allegory, for the misuse of power. Unemployed, disenfranchised,  disillusioned, pissed-off youth are readily swept up into such a situation, and possibly can’t even articulate well what the meaning is. All I could think of in 1968, when I was 18 and Washington DC was “burning” was that I wanted to be down there where the action was.

But what I see now is that these events represent an enactment (sometimes called “acting out”) of the way power works, how people in power use violence to protect their interests and ruthlessly take what they want, and to hell with everyone else? Isn’t that exactly what is going on in the world?

Instead of simply condemning the youth who are swept up in this far-reaching drama, shouldn’t we at least try to understand why this is happening and what the implications are for all of us?

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3 Responses to 8/10/11: riots

  1. Musing on the same things.

  2. Jean says:

    This rings very true to me (in London, just up the road from the nearest riot). I wish more people, both here in the UK and around the world, were as thoughtful and honest.

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