Typical. Nothing happens for weeks (apart from phone hacking, Met Police corruption (alleged), financial crisis in Europe and the USA, Steven Gerrard’s groin strain infection, etc.) and then, the day I leave the country to go on a much-needed holiday, riots break out in London.
I realise there is no causal link between these two events. But, if I was a government minister rather than a bishop, I would probably think it was a conspiracy. If we want good government from good politicians working at their intellectual and mental best, then we must ensure they live healthily, get a good work-life balance, and get proper breaks. Or, at least, allow them to.
Yet – and maybe this is the jaundiced view from afar – we seem to want them to work at their best without recognition of basic human need. We don’t decide well when we are exhausted.
So, Boris Johnson might have to return from holiday. Theresa May already has done. The Prime Minister hasn’t yet, but the Chancellor might be about to. Quite right, too, given what’s going on in the financial world, the political world and the London world; but, when will we insist they compensate for the lack of holiday now? I just wonder how many of their critics in politics and the media will be ditching their holidays this year?
From a distance the riots pose an interesting challenge. For starters, they sound like an orchestrated criminal jamboree rather than a spontaneous outburst of frustration with the lack of something noble. It doesn’t sound quite like 1981 revisited. The challenge, however, is in reportage and interpretation.
Riots and demonstrations in Egypt or Syria (for example) are to be understood as brave and virtuous demands for justice in despotic societies. A riot in London, however, is about criminality. We don’t assume the same motivating factors to the instigators of violence because we don’t do nuance. I was speaking to someone who explained the complexity of motive behind the Egyptian demonstrations: much altruism, much demand for ‘freedom’ (not clearly defined: freedom from bad stuff, but freedom for what?), but also criminality, boredom, frustration, opportunism and a chance of some ‘action’.
I guess the same might be true of London. It still smacks (from a distance) of orchestrated criminality, but the question is still pertinent. It will be interesting to see if ‘spontaneous riots born of anger or frustration’ now follow elsewhere in the country. I hope not. Anyway, I read this in an email from someone in Ethiopia:
“In the parts of Africa I know, people riot when governments steal elections, or the price of food rises to the point they can only afford to eat once a day. In the UK, people seem to riot when their benefits are cut, they are bored or don’t like the police. I know where I’d rather live.”
Interesting comment from a distance.
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