I've been seeing a lot of good articles on the UK riots fly by on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc, due to my friends in the UK (yay internet) and the general high-political-intelligence of the people I associate with. This link came up today, and I liked it very much. It contained a lot of things I was going to say in a post on the topic.http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/11/london-riots-davidcameron
However "unacceptable" and "unjustifiable" it might be, it has happened so we better accept it and, whilst we can't justify it, we should kick around a few neurons and work out why so many people feel utterly disconnected from the cities they live in.
It's not enough to condemn the rioters for their criminal actions or even to incarcerate them and walk away. This is criminality on a mass scale
, and as the article above says, unless there's "a freaky "criminal creating" chemical leak," it doesn't make sense to avoid investigating what would make hundreds (or thousands?) of people behave like this.
After all, every rioter is a human being, just like you or me
. I think that's the frightening thing about inspecting root causes of violence such as this. It's comforting to "other" the rioters: "They're not like me," "I'd never do that," "I can't comprehend living in a situation that would cause that kind of reaction." Deep down, however, these people aren't Others. They're human beings like us. They're parents, children, siblings, cousins, grandchildren, significant others. They have pets and watch TV and look for (or have) jobs and fall in love and have pet peeves. They are
like me and you, which makes the next statement so scary: we might, indeed, act the same if we were surrounded by the same environment as these rioters.
That's what makes it so important to investigate the next statement and try to comprehend living in a situation that would cause this kind of reaction. What kind of environment would make me or you decide to loot a business and burn a car? What change must have been made to our mindset, to our thoughts about our place in society, to our hopes and dreams for our future? Most importantly, since those changes are happening to other people, what can we do to reverse that change so that more people--more human beings like us--can have living conditions that don't produce the mindset that makes looting reasonable?
I really think that making the connection of "the rioters are people just like me, who have been subjected to conditions that cause them to find these criminal actions acceptable, and if I were subjected to those conditions I would think so, too
" is absolutely necessary for going forward to a society that has fewer riots.
I mean seriously, this line of reasoning and empathizing applies to so many
of the social problems plaguing Western culture. It's well known that a lot of -isms would have a hard time surviving if Group A would recognize the person-hood of everyone in Group B and do a bit of empathizing. Why is marriage equality worth fighting for? Well, let's see. "All of those people out there who can't marry who they love are people just like me
, and how would I feel if I couldn't marry who I love? Ohshi--." Indeed.