The Archbishop of Canterbury gave an insightful speech at the House of Lords debate on 11 August on the riots. He used words like 'troubled society', 'nothing to romanticise', '...rebuilding in some of our communities...' and '...what kind of society we are interested in for what kind of society...'
Our society is troubled and has been for years. The rioters are children of this broken society. Indeed, there is nothing to romanticise in what they did because it isn't as if they were fighting a revolution (Arab Spring) for a larger stake in our democratic system. On the contrary it looked as if the rioters didn't want any slice of society or community life except for the consumerism that they could take without paying for it.
So, the rebuilding starts. Damaged shops are being put together. Streets littered with broken glass have been swept clean. But what of the rebuilding of human capital? In a capitalism system it can often be forgotten that the producers of profit and goods and services are humans, not just greedy consumers. We look at building faster internet systems, higher speed trains and modern buildings but the people who inhabit and use these services are deemed faceless. Everything is done for an anonymous collective of society.
The Archbishop said: '...this is a moment we must seize; a moment when there is sufficient anger at the breakdown of civic solidarity...' Sometimes a window of opportunity opens up and disappears as quickly as it arose. We now have a clean sheet of paper in which to rewrite the terms of a modern society. Let's hope and pray that it is not hijacked by vested interests and that children are given a big share of the attention of those who do have the power to make changes.
I particularly am thinking of Birmingham where three young men were murdered. I was in Birmingham at the weekend and witnessed a city trying to heal itself. Beside the hoardings on shops that hadn't been removed people were going about their daily lives. The constant police presence was assuring. The spirit of reconciliation shown by the father of one of the dead men was the silver lining.
There is hope.