Journey through a riotous mirror

A rather profound comment, by Karl Lokko in the Independent, provides some fresh insights to what was going on under the surface of last year’s riots in England, and kicked off an internet linked journey for me.

The riots were a real shock to Britain: why did they happen? For the most part people blamed the symptoms -alienated youth, ‘feral’ teenagers, greed, criminality, the gangs…

In this forum a year ago, somebody even blamed ‘brand-starvation’ – a form of voodoo psychology. More usefully, a recent comment makes reference to Mr Lokko and advocates that we take …”a holistic point of view and identify the real issues …”

Another comment on the same post took me to a lady called Hannah Fry, a mathematician who has recently become interested in Complexity Theory and used it to model the spread of activity during the riots.

At one point during her presentation, Ms Fry states that this modelling is new, twenty years ago it would not have been possible. Which got me thinking. 1992?

Colleagues and I first became aware of the emerging science of complexity in the 1980’s (the Santa Fe Institute, pioneer of complexity thinking, was founded in 1984).

When I went to the SFI site to check exactly when it was formed I noticed a talk entitled “The evolutionary puzzle of human friendship” by Dan Hruschka. I could not resist such a topic, so, late last night, watched the one hour video.

Mr Hruschka has reviewed friendship, as manifest in scores of different cultures around the world, and found some significant commonalities. (As well as definitions , such as the following from Russia: “A friend will help you move; A good friend will help you move a body!”)

He concluded that “deep friendship is a system of knee-jerk mutual aid, supported emotionally and by gift-giving. It is ubiquitous and unconditional among humans“.

Which connects directly with views held in this blog: giving and mutual aid are built into our human DNA. Giving and sharing is a hallmark of humanity.

Last years riots are contrasted with the joyous celebrations of the current London Olympics. A key difference is that the Olympics would not have worked without over 70,000 people giving their time. A gift of over ten million hours.

The rioters were taking, not giving. Taking back their streets, taking their revenge, taking pride. They were taking stuff; by destroying, they were taking away from a society that they reject. But, ironically, their actions were holding up a mirror to those who would condemn them.

When, as a society, we see ourselves reflected in the violence, hatred and ignorance of the riots, we need to recognise that society has become infected with a strange emotional virus.

Our world has become oriented towards taking. Governments and banks take your hard earned money, politicians and laws take liberties, corporations and the media take you and your love away from your family.

When did your Government, boss or bank last give you anything freely? The corporate / political world view is based upon a flawed perspective of human nature – the idea that it is either you or me, compete aggressively or fall by the wayside. Take what you can when you can.

This corrupted world-view is an aberration of our history, our humanity – and directly responsible for the riots.

It is as though a psychopathic mutation has multiplied in the human gene-pool and threatens the very future of our humanity.

The problem for such a mutation is that it has no future. The more it consumes the human resources of it’s host, the less it has to feed upon.

Perhaps we should thank the rioters for their sacrifice in sounding the alarm!

The reality of giving and goodness will prevail – so long as we are true to our own humanity.

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