Economic decline and rioting on the city streets of England are filling our newspapers at the moment, but very little attention is being paid to what things are going to be like when all the furore has died down and we have to rebuild what has been damaged and lost.
It feels as though we’re on a precipice, on the verge of ecomonic disaster and momentous social change. And not just us, I hasten to add – the USA, Spain, France, even China to some extent – one by one the economic powers are falling, and I haven’t heard anyone even allude to what the world is going to look like when the last power bloc falls.
England stands firmly within an international community, a complexity of economically interdependent relationships whose strength ultimately relies on the strength of the American economy. The plunge into ridiculous levels of debt since Bush’s decision to deregulate the financial industry has undermined those relationships, and those who have taken the dream of capitalism between the bit and galloped off in pursuit of perfect freedom are now miring themselves and others in the bog of being unable to extricate entire countries from this now unsupportable debt.
And so the worsening economic climate has been a major contribution to social disaffection. The police shooting of Mark Duggan was catalyst rather than cause of the ensuing violence, as discontent has been rumbling and building under the surface of our society for quite some time now, perhaps even generations. Unsurprisingly some of the major media-fed characteristics of our society – such as the drive to possess, and the centring of ones own world around oneself – have driven the wedge between the wealthy and the impoverished in England deeper and deeper every year. As a nation we are all, including myself, responsible for having created the mess we are in, being almost completely unable to see the value in caring for the wider society we ought to be a part of.
For some individuals, the immediate aftermath of the riots is clear. My heart goes out to those whose livelihoods have been destroyed, to those who have suffered injury or bereavement. They are ever-present in my prayers as they face the coming weeks and months and possibly years of coping with the fall-out of the awful events of this week. As a nation, staggering through a social crisis that no-one seems to have foreseen, and simultaneously suffering from the blows of international economic decline, it feels as though we have a long way to go before we reach any kind of stability. I wonder why it has to take a crisis this deep-running to bring people together; still, it is hopeful that we are now beginning to show, as a nation, our potential to see beyond our own individual needs. Witnessing the hordes of people cleaning up the damaged streets, and reading of the generosity of those helping affected people, is a tonic amidst so much suffering. If, as we rebuild businesses, homes and lives, we can build such expressions of generosity and good will into the fabric of our society, then whatever the future brings for England, we will be better resourced to deal with it.
Posted in Community, Economic decline, Endings, England, Human Condition, Loss, Questions, Riots, Transformation
Tagged community, economic decline, England, Human Condition, loss, Questions, riots, transformation
I’ve just come back from holiday. We took the boat to Northern Ireland and spent a week visiting relatives, then drove north across the border to Donegal. As we drove across I suddenly had a very clear memory of myself as a teenager, being driven across one of the European country borders by my mum to some holiday destination. I vividly remember thinking how much I would dislike having to live on or near to a border between countries. Not being particularly discerning at the time I don’t think I managed to work out why that was; now I suspect it was to do with the fact that issues of geographical identity were particularly important to me, especially because I had no sense of belonging to a particular physical place.
The startling contrast was that driving over the border from Northern to Southern Ireland, I found myself revelling in being in a place between places, where somehow the physical identities of each country merged seamlessly together; one flowed into the other, rather than experiencing an abrupt change. I enjoyed the sense of being in a place where you could live on one side of the border but perhaps identify more with those across the ‘invisible line’ than with those fifty miles away in your own country. It felt good to be in a place that seemed to point more towards the commonalities between people – whichever social group they belong to – than their differences.
The question I asked myself in response to this inner revelation was about how people feel who do live on or near a border. I suppose I was thinking particularly about the European borders of my own experience, where there are no severe political tensions or open warfare; simply people living side by side who are born into different cultural traditions. Is living in such a space more likely to produce someone who is happier to dwell on the borders in other respects, not always feeling as though they need the safety of black and white answers to the difficult questions? Allowing people to be first of all people, so that other things which define them don’t draw unnecessary limits around who they are or what they have the potential to be?
I have no idea whether there is any connection between living on physical borders and being enabled to live in the borderlands of human experience, but to me they certainly have in common a sense of risk and excitement, as well as the potential to open us up to the possibility of our own transformation into a better version of ourselves. To learn to be comfortable with ourselves in a state of change, and withhold judgement on others; perhaps those are achievements worthy of a lifetime of living in the borderlands.