Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The riots, violence, looting, and destruction in London and other cities in England, a country that I love, makes me sick at heart, especially since I was there as recently as the end of last month. There is no excuse, repeat, no excuse, for citizens to take the path of violence and destruction to effect change in their societies. But when we ask why such violence and destruction take place, we must note that at least some of the participants are probably those who have little or no hope of ever having a reasonable stake in the societies in which they live. They are less likely to care greatly about the disorder and destruction and more prone to get caught up in the mob and actually become partners in the destruction of the very communities in which they live.

By no means do I rule out the presence of the criminal element, who, no doubt, take every advantage of the chaos to profit from it, but the rioters probably include 'people of no hope', people who see around them the rich prospering in the greed-is-good mentality of untrammeled capitalism, even as they are left behind. Is it really surprising that some of the 'no-hopers' get caught up in the mob mentality of the riots?

My words could apply to other countries in the West, including my own, where the ever-widening gap between rich and poor and the erosion of the middle class continues apace and will lead us nowhere good.
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer
UPDATE: Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckingham and Counterlight both posted reflections on the rioting in in England which I think are worth a read.


  1. The accelerant of this "riot" is indisputably the criminal element. The riot ceased to be about justice and economics long ago. Protesters do not loot: criminals do.

    We must pray for our UK sisters and brothers.

  2. James, perhaps some of the participants in the looting were not criminals before the riots. There is such a thing as getting caught up in mob mentality. Nevertheless, I believe I make it clear in my post that I do not condone criminal behavior.

  3. Grandmere,

    I too hate what is going on in England...I have no idea how this desperation and anger got so out of control...I do know that the Watts Riots and Stonewall happened because OUR brothers and sisters (and many other loved ones) simply wouldn´t take any MORE abuse, disdain, discrimination and loathing (self and other peoples)...I feel terrible anger regarding the ¨powerlessness¨ I/we
    have regarding injustice (especially at Church) directed at some of our fellow human beings (heterosexual women and LGBTI come to mind immediately).

    Everytime, yes everytime, I think of the ghastily treatment of LGBTI Africans (in Jamaica too) my blood boils...although it boileth over only at my blog.

    I understand and see all variety of desperation in my little world amongst the ¨regular folk¨ in Central America--I fear the eruption of this ¨social/economic¨ volcano almost daily too...people are marginalized and have little hope.

    However: The answers do keep coming as well-meaning folks give of themselves and of their other personal resources to help fellow human beings/neighbors...when we give carefully (because, the thieves are at all levels of society from the street person to the mansion dwellers) and wisely to those who suffer spiritually, emotionally and physically WE make a difference...poco a poco the fear/hate fades away (everyones).

    My opinion only.

  4. The powers that be in Britain prescribed austerity for the country's economic ailments. It worked as well there as it's going to here, that is, not at all. As to the immediate cause, a young man was quoted as saying a very large, peaceful protest march to Scotland Yard was held and the press ignored it completely. None of this, obviously, is an excuse for violence and looting, but why can't we ever learn enough to try to keep these kinds of thing from happening?

  5. Leonardo, people who are the victims of discrimination and injustice sometimes decide they've had enough, and they react violently and destructively. I'm not saying it's right, but it happens, and why are we surprised?

    Bex, I read the story of the peaceful protest a couple of months ago with, I believe, 2000 people, to which no one paid attention.

  6. Protesters do not loot: criminals do.

    I think that's way too hard&fast a line. It's a sad reality that looting may ALSO be, de facto, a form of protest. You feel disrespected, so you don't respect others. You reject---PROTEST---the social order. [I don't agree w/ this POV, but I seek to understand it.]

    And speaking of "criminal element":

    while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. Eugene V. Debs, at his (draft-protest) sentencing, 1918.

    I join you all in prayers...

  7. Will it spread to the US? I hope not but wouldn't be surprised.

  8. My hope is that everyone who's wringing his/her hands at this while saying "I don't condone it, but I'm not surprised and I understand why they're doing it-they're deprived." gets his/her house looted and gets to share his/her excess wealth and privileges with the less fortunate.
    When I heard about the guy with four kids at 28, unmarried to any of their mothers and unemployed, I just had to shrug. How can you make it out of poverty while acting in such a stupid way? Why do you expect the rest of us to feed what you breed?

  9. JCF - when protesters loot, they are no longer protesters: they are criminals. Even the BBC and SkyNews have stated that it is the criminal element that is accelerating the violence for their own gain. Interestingly, one of my Scottish friends and an English friend both blame "foreigners" for the riots. Xenophobia is not merely a US trait.

    Leonardo - someone may correct me if I'm wrong, but I do not remember any incident of looting in the Stonewall "Riot." It was a protest. Violent, yes, but other than burning a couple of police cars, I can't recall reading about any other criminal acts. (Okay, beating the crud out of cops with a high-heal pump is probably a criminal offense.)

  10. JCF, thanks for your comment.

    Piskie, I hope we don't see riots here, too.

    Anonymous, please make up a name and sign your post if you comment again.

    If I were to return like for like, I'd wish for you to live on the margins for a period of time, with little in the way of education or skills and little hope of bettering your life, but I won't.

    I hear your kind of argument many a day around my home town, and now I don't even bother to argue back, because I've found that most folks with that point of view have closed minds. If you're poor, it's your own fault. End of discussion.

  11. James, yes, and if your family is starving, and you steal food from a store, you are a thief and a criminal.

  12. Yes, I wouldn't remotely compare it with Stonewall. It is basically thugs breaking into shops and nicking stuff. I don't respect them or it.

    Having said that, I think JCF has a point. "The argument of the broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics" (Emmeline Pankhurst).

  13. The English are always bloody rioting anyway. I take that quote from Pankhurst from a book called The English Rebel: One Thousand Years of Troublemaking from the Normans to the Nineties by David Horspool :) They're always at it!!

  14. My "beef" isn't with the broken windows. That is a rage release and I completely understand that. But stealing everything that is removable is not a sign of frustration. Stealing food is, but not staling 1,000 dollar dresses. Having lived on the margin for several years since my illness and unemployment, I do understand.

  15. It seems pretty clear now that Mark Duggan, the man whose fatal shooting by the police triggered all of this, did not, as the police initially claimed, fire first (or at all) at the police, which was their only excuse for taking him out.

    When this becomes common knowledge things could get further out of hand.

    "The English are always bloody rioting anyway" is why the American Revolution occurred, isn't it? Never have happened, as it happened, in a French, Spanish or Portuguese colony.

  16. Once again, I do NOT excuse or defend criminal behavior, such as violence, destruction, looting and burning. That being said, when governments set policies that privilege the already privileged and further disadvantage the already disadvantaged, no one should be surprised if there is civil unrest.

    And yes, the initial reporting on the reason for the police shooting Mark Duggan was less than stellar. I don't take everything that Skye and the BBC report at face value. I don't forget that the BBC reports on the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico missed the mark more than once.

  17. That being said, when governments set policies that privilege the already privileged and further disadvantage the already disadvantaged, no one should be surprised if there is civil unrest.¨ Mimi

    BINGO! I said before, when one lives, yes actually lives, amongst people who earn less than $1 a day (picking coffee, weeding fancy export mini-veggies) and finca owners are wealthy (often Spanish Land Grants) or simply slippery, or well-educated thieves (oh and religious ones too who never pay taxes)
    give ¨privilege¨ a very nasty way of ¨being¨...reading about the life and death of Oscar Romero ought refresh tendencies to avoid thinking about reality (on the ground).

  18. From the perspective of the poor, which I share, there is wonder and amazement that those who decry the violence and the looting now have little to say or do about the legalized looting of pensions and salaries, the theft of social services, land, and jobs, the violence of being shut out of the political process at all levels.

    Eyes are too often averted, tongues clucking, and little to nothing is done. What have you done today to reach out, like Jesus, to alleviate the suffering of the poor neighbor living right beside you?

    As to Anonymous -- when you are poor there is little else to do but have sex because that, for now, is still free. Stand on your pillar and condemn but remember that because the poor have little else to do but have sex, there are many, many more of them than there are of you. Ignore that at your peril.

    May God have mercy on all his creatures and bless us in this time of trial.

  19. JCF - when protesters loot, they are no longer protesters: they are criminals.

    I respect faith-claims, James---but that's what that is. Your opinion. [Which, needless to say, is all I have either]

    Even the BBC and SkyNews have stated...

    Again, more opinions and faith-claims.

    No one wants to be broken into, robbed, violated...

    ...and at the same time, we can't really know EXACTLY what's going on in the heart/mind/soul of those doing the looting.

    There are other kinds of hunger, than purely nutrition-deprivation. There are other kinds of desperation.

    The rioters, the looters: these are our brothers&sisters. As are those being looted. And the police. And the politicians, left, right & center. Let's pray for ALL of them.

  20. Lapin, in the article in the Independent, the writer seems to paint the past with a thick layer of rose-colored paint. As I see it, British society was never as one-dimensionally civil as the author wants us to believe. On has only to read Dickens....

    But you would know better than I. What do you think?

    Brian, your thoughts are are my thoughts. Amen to your prayer.

  21. Ignore that at your peril.¨ Brian

    Exactly. BIG Numbers aren´t always about who has the most money.

    Ignore that at your peril.

  22. I like the way Brian stated it all.... I would only add: If the thief breaks in and steals your second loaf of bread, the thief is not the criminal --the crime is yours.
    --paraphrase of St. Basil

  23. Sadly, as at the beginning of the Russian Revolution the people rose in ways that were not according to hoyle. Those who have lost everything, and watch the rich get more are angry. I see the anger blooming here too. I don't think what they are doing is right, but with those who are fighting for their very lives I do understand their anger. The governments need to focus on the people and the rest of the spending EVERYWHERE (money for the War, money to prop up other nations, etc.) needs to stop to help those in need.

  24. The author of the Independent piece isn't writing about the 1840's & 50's, Mimi, but about the 1940's & 50's. It's a pretty accurate record of how one thought and was taught to think.

  25. We can probably locate the origins of this in two factors: mid-Victorian religious morality and the nature of the British national psyche.

    We tend to glorify the 1940s and 1950s in the US, too, but if you peer closely, you can usually find ugliness beneath the facade.

  26. No way do I glorify the 40'S & 50'S, Mimi.

  27. Nor do I, Lapin.

    And I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm without sympathy for the shopkeepers and the people whose homes were looted. When protests turn violent, the protestors lose any high ground they may have originally had.


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