A riot of explanations

One feature of last week's rioting that must be obvious by now is that nobody knows why it took place (indeed many of the rioters appeared not to know why they had taken part, except the perception, wrong in many cases, that they would not get caught)!

Another feature of the analysis is that it appears strangely 'unhistorical' as if people rioting should come as a surprise. As Morris Berman, the American cultural commentator, reminded me in one of his comments - British political culture has historically carried a burden of violence, and that violence if perpetrated by a perceived underclass is always seen in the words of Mr Cameron as 'criminality pure and simple'.

Crime is neither pure nor simple - except in the aftermath of events that have embarrassed the political class and they are in need of a 'response': anything will do as long as it can jerk into action quickly and be apparently doing something!

When John Paul II called for a decade of evangelism in the lead up to the millennium, I could not help thinking that a decade (or even an initial year) of silence would be a good idea - of listening to one's self, to pondering in our hearts our reality, before we proclaimed anything, and that any proclamation we did make would be grounded in real, living experience of the mystery.

The same might apply here that before we begin pronouncing (and acting), we remain silent, and listen to all the strands of evidence, and only begin to formulate enterprises after the truth, when we begin to see what has actually taken place (rather than apparently). Obviously there must be the immediate response of reasserting control, of a semblance of order, and of reconstruction but before we respond to underlying causes, lest us have the humility to come to ground and listen.

In that let us all not imagine we are immune from responsibility for what emerges. The irony of an MP pontificating in urgency on moral decline and feral youth who had claimed for an £8000 television set on his parliamentary expenses (precisely how is this different from looting other people's property would make a fine essay in moral vision) was not lost on me (as it appeared to be on him)!


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