Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Healing the UK Riots

The recent riots in UK cities have prompted concern and outrage, even where I live on the other side of the planet. During the height of the disturbances I was speaking with the genteel executive of a local charity in New Zealand who suddenly lost his cool, clenched his knuckles and exclaimed, “the British police should shoot a few of them! That will stop the riots instantly. They need to know who’s in charge!” 
It struck me that buried deep within this utterance are clues both to how the violence emerged and how it can be transformed. 

Although the causes of this violence are complex, there are key threads. In the UK, many of us have been creating a society of self interest at the expense of a genuine understanding of a ‘we’ for generations. Of course, we do self-interested ‘we’ very well, the ‘we’ of my family, my team, in effect my tribe. But it is rare for us to reach out in altruism to people we don’t know, don’t like or don’t approve of. And this is all that is necessary to feed suspicion, hostility, and an ability to dehumanise our fellow humans. The current framework of wider society is based on self interest, even when this is dressed up in political and economic clothes.
This has led to fragmentation which is the root of violence, and not just the stuff of public disorder. This emphasis on the individual has produced discord deep within our own consciousness. We might think of this discord as a self maintained wounding of our spirit. 
We have become attuned to ‘me’ at the expense of others and this has generated a mindset of deep division that is prepared to grasp and hurt in order to feed the insatiably greedy self focused mind. Taken to extremes this is looting, remove any vestige of empathy and it is violent disorder and assault.  It changes faces according to context but shares the same causes and conditions.  
Self-focused fragmentation is a common condition but is manifested differently depending on the circumstances and amplified by suffering and delusion. There seems to be a prevailing sense of alienation in many of us right now. It’s about time we all took this seriously and asked if this alienation keeps us safe or makes us happy. The answer is surely not.

We have created a veil of excuses in which we hold the causes of fragmentation, including social violence, outside our self and demand that someone else do something to fix them and take responsibility for changing ‘my’ world. This is symptomatic of a fragmented mind, twisted by grasping and self indulgence and missing vital logical links. We must not externalise because it misses the point. We all created the riots, we are all needed to transform the causes and conditions that gave rise to such pain.
The capacity to heal society is alive and well and is to be found deep within each one of us. We can touch this healing every time we smile, every time we appreciate someone, show compassion or help a stranger. In each one of these actions, and all altruistic and heartfelt behaviours, we are healing the riots and preventing them happening again.   
This is an extract from Tim Robert’s article Healing the UK Riots which you can read in full on the Resurgence website.
Tim Roberts served as a British police officer for many years, is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Chester and lives and works in New Zealand as a consultant in Leadership Development.
Follow Tim on twitter @TimRobertsCo

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