Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Now is the Time for Your Tears

I'd like to spout some half-baked theories of disaffected youth; link the marauding teens with MPs expenses and banker greed; pontificate on our X-Factor meets Grand Theft Auto culture...

...but I can't because I'm too sad. Tonight's riots in Manchester, murmured throughout the day, but so flagged up that I thought they couldn't possibly happen - that the troublemakers would be stopped as soon as they crossed into the city centre - ended (if they have yet ended) far worse than I could have imagined. Marauding through the city - slipping from the main streets to the Northern Quarter - it looks like independent businesses as well as flash stores will have borne the brunt of the carnage. London braced itself for more violence with a show of police strength, but the meme had moved, to Salford, Manchester and the West Midlands. I feel that the riots are following me around, hitting every place I've ever lived (Croydon was last night's shocker), though I trust the well-behaved youths of York will spare me another night of personal sadness.

I've spent the last decade wanting to make things better within the limits of what the public sector can do, decrying the materialism and consumerism of our culture - but they're one and the same thing aren't they? Young people want "something to do" up to a certain point of self-gratification; hanging with their friends, messaging each other; getting the latest trainers or mobile phone, whatever the cost; and...finally, today, arranging a riot with a sense of Machiavellian planning that puts most Flash Mobs to shame.

Too early to see the damage; too early to see if it will flare up again. In Looters v. Police, the former are winning at the moment. What's at the end of it? An unlucky lottery of court cases? Juvenile detention? We've long admired America; its capitalism, its brands; are we now admiring its broken youth? Its extremes of wealth?

Another day for such thoughts. Bob Dylan once wrote the song "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" in which he held off your sympathy, "now is not the time for your tears." I've felt that for a day or two, the awful happenings in London, the tardiness of our political classes, the media circus of 24-hour television. Each fire, I thought, would bring death with it - not just flames. But somehow the city burns, the windows of the supermarkets and the fashion shops crack; and the horror goes on - live entertainment on a warm night for an incomprehensible generation. Now, with Manchester, fair Manchester, vibrant Manchester, the people's Manchester in the path of these misguided lotusts, now, as Dylan sang, now is the time for my tears.

1 comment:

John Lennon said...

You sound like a working class hero.