So a couple of days ago I started hearing nasty little bits floating around about some riots going on in London. The bits multiplied and had baby bits as the rioting spread and worsened until it was all over the papers and everyone I saw (including me) was saying to everyone else “wow, London, ay?” with a shake of the head.
I don’t live in London. I am far far away from the chaos, and most people I know are too, but that hasn’t stopped us reacting. My Facebook newsfeed has been ablaze with people exclaiming, pondering, laughing and generally throwing hands in the air, wondering what has happened to our fellow humans.
I don’t undersand it all. I caught on to the situation late, as is my wont with situations that are in any way important or biggish, and so missed any sort of original happenings or things that could have set it off. I have of course now seen and heard things about the police shooting a man, which is awful in and of itself as I don’t like people getting shot, pretty much full stop, and I’ve heard a bunch about the disenfranchised youth of England being fed the hell up and sort of losing it a bit, but all in all mainly riots, fires, awful, youth, race issues, awful, shit, fires, etc.
I’ve heard stacks of blame and recrimination and calls for vengeance and justice and I’ve heard enough to make me deeply, deeply sad.
But I’ve also heard some other things.
My housemate said to me tonight that she read a story about people hitting the streets of London with brooms to clean up. I was considerably cheered by this. Another friend posted a photo she found somewhere of some lovely people offering the police guarding their street a cup of tea. Naw.
How could I forget? What gets me through the frequent moments of “aaah the world is falling apart and everyone is mean and no one loves anything but themselves and why don’t we all give up” anguish I experience is the knowledge that the jerk-non jerk ratio in my life (considerably higher on the non jerk side) can’t be a singular thing. The jerk-non jerk ratio must be similar all over the world. Which means:
There are good, sensible people in the UK, doing good and sensible things.
For instance, the people behind #riotcleanup. Not only have hundreds of people, brooms proudly aloft, flocked to the streets of London and Manchester to clean up their homes but the riotcleanup tag was the most trended topic in the UK the day of its inception, and the second most trended worldwide. This is wonderful news I think, for the rep of social media. It mean that while Twitter and Facebook etc helped organise the rioters, they also helped organise those that wanted to respond in kindness and practicality, proving once and for all that the interwebs CAN be used for good as well as evil.
I found so many stories all over the place about men and women heartened and inspired by the people cleaning up their streets. Little old ladies cleaning alongside youngins, people travelling for miles to help out. I sat on twitter (I was lured back! the riots got me!) and watched the dozens upon dozens of people per minute posting their support and gratitude for what they’ve called “the real London”.
Something else I stumbled upon is this little gem:
Buy a Bobby a Beer.com What a wonderful way to thank people for doing what is no doubt a ridiculously tiring and difficult job.
Also, this! Operation Cup of Tea, which is also going a little bananas on Twitter, asks people to join them in posting a picture of them having a relaxing cup of tea, instead of rioting. They have nearly 200 000 attending on Facebook, and looking over the hoards of photos of cups of tea and coffee consumed by citizens who would rather sip and smile than rail or accuse is heartening.
Just so you know, I’m not trying to be naive. I know there are deep and abiding evils and injustices in the world and in our systems that hurt, incapacitate and frustrate my fellow citizens. I don’t think rioting and generally going a bit troppo is a helpful solution but I am not cruel or cynical enough to dismiss this mess in its entirety as youthful idiocy. I know that cups of tea and brooms won’t fix what has caused this, and that what is lacking here goes deeper than what a smile can counter.
But I needed to be reminded that London, and the world, hasn’t completely lost its mind. My heart breaks for the UK, and for all other countries experiencing unrest and fear daily. I simply am warmed by the appearance of so many wanting to help, to laugh, to smile, to love and by the knowledge that where these are known, there must be many who are unknown.
The rioters and the press may be louder but my favourite type of revolution has always been a gentle one.
So thanks to you all, and my prayers are with you.
Ps, a couple more examples