London is burning. Not on account of invading armies; not because of demons coming out of portals; not under attack by elementals of living flame; not due to some horrible accident in a bakery. These are the fires of London’s own broken humanity.
The riots of the last three nights are deeply saddening. There is nothing natural about human beings – especially young human beings – going on rampages, looting shops and setting buildings aflame on this scale. They do not walk from the ether and decide it is rational or fun to do so: not even they can benefit. They have been called hooligans, criminals, thugs with no sense of right and wrong. Some of them are, but these things do not spontaneously exist. They were not born that way: they became it. They are the product of a society that breaks their humanity.
I have lived in London for fourteen years, and was lucky to hold onto mine. Whatever ethics I might have, I did not learn them from this society but developed them in spite of it. London broke me, too; taught me the very meaning of agony and almost cost me my life. Though I recovered, my resentment at society’s arrogance will persist for a lifetime, and I have long understood that in this city I have no future to find or make – hence why my journey has led elsewhere, first to Guyana, soon to Japan. I am one of the lucky ones: able to find and fund a way out, if only just. Most are not. Before us now are the results of humans forced to subsist where there is no place for them.
Alienation. From the Earth; from fellow humans. That, I speak with regret, is what London can do. Too established is the mistreatment of and disdain for one’s fellow humans here. A crisis in relations between youths and adults: a punitive culture based on obedience, that most shocking of human inventions; on fear, not on love. “Seen but not heard”, and now they return the favour. Every human for him or herself. No jobs, but your own worthless lazy fault for being out of work. Breakdowns in once-loving relationships; constructed facades, selfish materialism, communication failures, a wound that bleeds forever: doors once opened never close. One’s hopes, one’s loves, one’s dreams, all to be cast to the winds, and where a human once stood, only a number remains. The number must struggle: and even to win the struggle is not to live. For many there is no “living” in London, only “existing”.
All these I have known or seen: but I have seen nothing. Nothing compared to what most of these Londoners endure. Ethnic dimensions; racism persists in the Metropolitan Police. But diversity is good for all within it: ethnic strife has no basis in sanity, and signals that something’s gone wrong. And then comes volatile fuel laced liberally upon the tinder: austerity. Cuts: cuts to humanity. Think education is costly? Try ignorance. The gleeful dumping of miserable deprivation, created by the greed of the strongest, upon society’s most vulnerable – above all its youth, least responsible, most defenceless. The betrayal of a whole generation. None of them chose to be born into such an order. No-one deserves to be.
The Conservative Party government is to be held to account for its part in this. These elites have no concept of causes and consequences. Blustering threats and condescending condemnation is but fuel for the fire. It is the arrogance and hypocrisy of elites that has stoked the rage of London so long. Looting, thuggery and violence cannot be justified – but who are these elites to condemn it when all they have done is exactly that? Austerity, bankers’ bonuses, MPs’ expenses, the rampage of the Murdoch empire and the corruption of the Metropolitan Police therein: what are these if not the looting of a nation, thuggery against the weak, structural violence inflicted by the strong on all the microbes beneath because it makes them feel good about themselves? What can we expect of youth, if they are the ones who must bear the costs of this, and all they see from authority – the same authority which believes it has a place to teach them and tell them what to do – is sadism, greed and contempt? The government’s patronising reproaches are the very stuff of double standards, as hypocritical as the Saudi king’s telling off of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Hope, care, respect and love: such things have faded from much of London, from the consciences of those who struggle through youth, ever railed at to show these ethics while receiving none in return, none to help them find meaning, no examples to follow. Where these things disperse from one’s soul, horrors flood in to fill the void. Until London awakens to learn that it has produced these horrors, the despair will continue. Unless it becomes a place where one’s gain is not another’s anguish, those horrors will consume us all.
One feels gratitude and respect to each person in London, especially in the afflicted districts, who has looked on this and responded not with blustering, but with thought and balance. They are what London should be, and there are plenty of them around. They, not the elites, are the ones who listen, who must be listened to. They who know that every consequence has its causes; they who think, who feel, and who would solve problems and help their communities, not pursue some inner rush of delight at throwing down punishments for the sake of punishments. They will fix London, make it a place which no longer shoots down the dreams of its children: because it is human to make dreams come true.
But I will not be around to see it. London has come and gone in my heart – nothing binds me to it, and I doubt ever will again. I prepare to embark on the next stage of my journey, my mad quest to unravel the ills of the world. I have learnt little of their causes from London, but much of what turns them from embers to conflagrations.
Let London be a lesson to all, that hypocrisy, greed and scorn for those less fortunate looses madness on all it can reach. All whose way is that of punishment, beware. If the underlying grievance is legitimate, punishment turns grievance to hatred, hatred to rage, and rage to barbarity that burns down all in its path. This I have known: this I have been, and one does not forget how it feels. The iron fist melts to slag in the fires of taunted injustice. Fight fire with fire and the world is reborn in flames. Take responsibility, think more, feel more, study and solve more problems, create better consequences. Set a better example.
Let London come to its senses, humanity return to those in whom it was broken; and all other cities be spared its fate. Humans must be driven the way of Britain’s youth no longer. Rule by love or rule by fear: what goes around comes around. Peace requires a foundation of fairness and kindness: order based on injustice will always crumble. We all have our choices to make, and we can do better than this.