Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London riots: A view of life beyond the tipping point

As fires still blaze and smoldering ashes send wafts of smoke to the heavens around London, I wonder if anyone recognized that people were at their tipping point four days ago.  I wonder if the violence was inevitable or preventable...  The irony to me is that if  was a natural disaster that caused this same amount of damage, the disaster would have probably united the community.  How do we respond when our neighbors and fellow citizens cause as much damage as terrorists and natural disasters?  Who is the enemy?  Who is on our side?
From Time Magazine: "The first escalation started on Monday afternoon in Hackney, a poor, ethnically diverse borough with low home ownership, high welfare dependency and large housing estates — the classic profile for tension, according to previous experience. Hackney's main shopping street became a battleground between police and rioters who smashed into boarded-up shops to escape with whatever they could carry, with clothes and sneakers a particular target. Near the Pembury Estate housing project, four youths beat a photographer who they accused of being with the "feds," while others threw bricks and stones at police. Accounts from witnesses suggest a growing number of women are participating in the violence."(See photos of the London riots.)
     Hello world.  This is your youth generation calling out.  These aren't isolated incidents "someplace over there."  It may have started because of a police incident...but that's not the true cause anymore.   Let's not focus on what started the riot.  Desperate people do desperate things...  Even "good" people.  We need to address the hearts of what continues the riot and why people are joining it.  Things start all the time...but why they continue and why additional people are prone to join them, well that's another story.  We simply can't arrest the whole world.  We need to change the world.
     Our thoughts and prayers are for hearts of the rioters in London and for those whose stores and homes were destroyed. May they find peace and a way to forgive. I saw a photo of an elderly man bent over his broom cleaning up the broken glass at his little barbershop.  His eyes said it all.  Wake up!  These communities do not hold the monopoly on poverty or tension.  They don't own the rights to the tipping point.  It could be your town as easily as mine... what will it take to stop the violence before it begins because when fires start, cars get tipped, windows are smashed and the looting begins, it's too late.  
     One article talks about how the social media has added to the coordination efforts of the riots.  Several sites have been developed for sharing posts of looters/arsonists in action.  Twitter and Facebook pages are helping to organize clean up efforts.   It's just a different world than when I was 20.  There are so many tools to reach this next generation and this old dog is committed to learn how to communicate.
As you walk to your car, go to work, carry on your daily activities today with a sunny blue sky far away from the smoldering buildings, we should take pause to check our own hearts.  I would surmise that four days ago most rioters would have never envisioned that they would be joining in a riot.  But something tipped.  Are our hearts in the right place?  What about your extended family and the people you know?  Could there be some small act we perform today that might prevent someone from joining the violence?  I'm gonna say yes.