The riots are over, the clearing-up continues, and the rain has washed the blood off the pavements. White-knuckled Mr. Middle-Britain clutches his copy of the Daily Mail, the vein in his forehead throbbing mercilessly as he declares that the country is going to hell in a handcart. Opinion-makers and politicians ponder on what's to be done, laying the blame at the doors of absent parents, comprehensive education and the welfare state, while most agree that a strong dose of law and order is the only remedy. Tariq Ali was on the radio this morning claiming that the riots had their root in the working-class struggle against the upper-classes, but as usual, he was talking through his hat; there's been riots in this country throughout history - mostly in the summer - and for all sorts of different reasons. It's pointless trying to explain them politically, or even to suggest that there can be a political solution, other than becoming a police state. In a sense, occasional bouts of lawlessness are the price we pay for living in a liberal democracy, and perhaps if we sought cultural (and even psychological) answers as to why these things happen, we might start getting somewhere.
We bumped into our neighbour today who had just returned from a alternative therapy festival at a country house in Devon. He told us that in the evenings, everybody there had been encouraged to sit together in a large circle round the campfire, but after a while, various groups had broken away and gone off to form their own separate little units. There were a lot of teenagers there, the kids of the alternative therapists, and they didn't really want to be with their parents, so they just got drunker and drunker on cheap cider and gathered together in the liminal zones between their parents' groups and started getting edgy and doing their own thing - which goes to show that even in idyllic societies, some kids feel the perfectly natural - and human - urge to form gangs and act like animals.