It's a little strange being away at a very jolly festival while back home the city I live in is in complete turmoil. We have no internet in our flat and no television which means it's quite difficult to keep up with everything that's going on and read all the blogs from youth workers and people who understand the real underlying causes behind the riots.
Yesterday I got in touch with my house-mate to find out what was going on in our area (I live in a fairly unpleasant area of South East London) and she replied saying "They're looting the Argos and the Curry's" (both about 100 yards from my front door) "We've brought the recycle bins in."
I'll be honest, I laughed... my amusement was at such a middle class reaction to serious rioting and arson - of course, it's a perfectly sensible course of action and I'd have done the same. But, it gets you thinking that we're thankfully so unused to things like this happening that we have no real idea how to react. Bringing the recycling bin in so that it can't be thrown through your living room window feels a little bit like the height of our powers.
We're not a nation of people who would really know how to start defending ourselves. We've gotten very used to living in a peaceful society and letting the people above us take care of all the nasty bits we're not strong or brave enough to deal with. So, what happens when we question our faith in the police? How do you voice a serious complaint in the law enforcers that will get heard but still sits within the law we want to protect? Do you need to break the law in order to evaluate how well it's being upheld?
Being at a festival surrounded by comedians there's a real mix of left-wing outrage and a desperate scrabble to tweet the funniest joke about it all first. No one seems to know whether we're going to band together on this and say we're all in it together, or pick sides and blame the rioters/police depending on which Chinese whisper we've heard about what. Lots of the more politically active comedians up here are wondering what parts of their shows to redraft... hopefully it'll be the part that they take home and perform for free in the now unfunded youth clubs.
Personally, I'm really glad I'm not there. It seems desperately embarrassing and shameful to me that a large portion of our country's youth has so little identity with the brilliance associated in living here that they can destroy it without even recognising their possession of it.
I'm 24 and have grown up in an incredibly safe Britain in my opinion; I can't recall any civil unrest that's been devastating enough to really alarm me. It's scary though that in the latest year there's suddenly been a spike in the amount of public demonstration and it seems to be escalating... I truly worry this is only the beginning. This is only the announcement of cuts to vital public money, this isn't the evidence of what the cuts will do over the next 5 years when we have yet another generation of people living in communities too poor to include them. I have no answer for the economic situation, but perhaps we should be looking around rather than up for help?
If there's no money around for public services and community support youth clubs then perhaps we should stop trying to purchase convenient solutions to sections of society that have been labelled 'undesirable'. Perhaps now's the time to form community groups because we want to and because we want societies. A community isn't an elite; it's everyone. This just seems to be something we've forgotten in wealthier years when there've been convenient places to sweep people and give them volunteers to motivate them.
Now, if all this seems a little terrifying just remember people aren't born bad. So, make friends with babies.