Monday, 15 August 2011

No riots on Exmoor

The recent riots occurred while I was on holiday walking in Exmoor, so with no TV or newspapers I only had the internet to find out what was going on, because there was no rioting visible on Exmoor as far as I could tell. Actually I don't read newspapers, nor do I watch TV news though I saw the lurid headlines on the newsstands.

By now we've had masses of comment of course, from low-key and considered to shouty and demanding. As usual, the flavour you respond to depends on your preferences. The general consensus seems to be that it was an outburst of criminal looting and destruction of property by feckless and suggestible young people. The causes, whatever they may be seem to have been swamped immediately by the solutions which we can be pretty sure will be more drastic in the saying than in the doing.

Even some erudite and lucid commentators have tended to go over the top, saying things they perhaps wouldn't have said if the indignation virus hadn't temporarily poisoned their judgement. Yet riots have been an intermittent feature of life for centuries, so what do we want to do about them? Do we seriously expect to build a society where nothing unpredictable and bad ever happens?

The riots were either a sign of a deeper malaise, in which case things will get worse, or they are not. Yet it may be that we should expect these things every now and then. Maybe these things are the natural outliers of complex societies and human frailty. Maybe they are the hundred-year floods that occur more frequently than they are supposed to in spite of all our efforts at containment. Maybe there are unpredictable events we must live with because we cannot and do not wish to live in fully controlled and entirely predictable ways. After all, we know where that leads.

So perhaps there is no solution to what happened, other than a lesson or two to be learned, a lesson or two about family life perhaps - how important it is to stable societies. But whether we can do much about it while restraining the control-freaks is another matter.


Macheath said...

Well said! As far as I remember from various reading, the ancient world regarded civil unrest much as it did the hundred-year floods of your analogy; a cyclical phenomemon that could be planned for up to a point but never entirely avoided, human nature being what it is.

James Higham said...

It may well reverse itself but it will take a generation.

A K Haart said...

M - yes, we may be trying to do away with the facts of life. Some of them anyway!

JH - or it may not need to repair itself because we adapt in some way. Who knows?

Thud said...

Sunning myself in the states when riots happened, lots of unsolicited commiserations from various yanks....depressed.

A K Haart said...

Thud - unsolicited commiseration doesn't always help does it?