The English riots touch home

By Martin Kirby

I have been asked to write two short articles for publication here in Catalonia, giving my thoughts on the August unrest in London and other English cities.
Why? In both my books, No Going Back and Shaking The Tree, and in other articles, I have talked of my anxieties about the society we left a decade ago, and about the one we are now weaved into. Both can learn a great deal from each other.

These are the words that were published today, in Catalan, in the newspaper El Punt.

"Am I shocked? Who isn’t? Am I surprised? No.
By the time you are reading this I earnestly hope that the city streets of wonderful, multi-cultural Britain will be alive with the faces and voices of undefeatable community; not rioters, not looters, and mostly certainly not post-trauma, venomous calls for a policing-only solution and the damning of a generation.
The question mark casts an enormous shadow over a society where unease has been palpable for years.
What unease? I do not know anybody (except those who have had a conscience bypass operation) who denies the doubt and, worse, the fear about the warping of values and the communication catastrophe between generations.
Beyond the lawlessness and brutal criminality of an evil minority who have sucked impressionable youth into the maelstrom of the mob with life-wrecking consequences, the roots of it lie in the breakdown of family across several generations. The street holds more sway than the home. Parents and teachers are frightened. Disregard for “authority”, anarchy and criminality are cool.
There is little hope for some young people. They have precious little or no childhood. They have been farmed commercially, schooled beyond the classroom in greed and self, exposed to gross violence and made to think they know when they cannot. What examples there are of respect and tolerance in general are drowned out by a non-stop stream of excess and "celebrity" in stark contrast to a lack of realistic aspiration and opportunity, and less and less love, security and guidance of family. Not just the youth of today. The youth of yesterday too.
What relevance does this have here in Catalonia? Living in a society with family at its cultural heart, where the belief in time for family and food - sitting down together every day to eat/talk/reconcile/laugh/communicate across the generations – is a cornerstone of positive life. Never devalue that. Never stop trying to do that.
Britain's (and other aspiring nations’) single-minded obsession with materialism, turning a blind eye to morally indefensible policies if it is in the economic interest, has come home to roost. That said, most people know this and crave less pressure, more equality and the glue of a far more supportive existence, in their street and in Britain generally.
And, most importantly of all, the vast majority of young people are truly remarkable, despite the example of society."


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