Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

We have recently returned from visiting our son and daughter-in-law, who recently moved from Pittsburgh to San Diego. We had not seen them since they left the east coast. And now they are living on the west coast.

As ever, the ocean is a marvelous thing to behold. Two things can bear endless watching: a camp fire or fireplace, and the ocean.

We had spectacular weather while we were there--it was wondrous to leave the heat and humidity of a typical Pennsylvania summer, and experience the cool days with breezes blowing.

While we were there, we used Skype to have a sort of family reunion--talking with our daughter and son-in-law who live in London. Yes, that London.

Not long after we returned home, the news began breaking about a sudden up-swell of riots in Tottenham, a section of London. As if someone splashed gasoline on smoldering embers, the riots bloomed and spread through various parts of London. Then it morphed again, and spread to other cities in the UK.

View Initial London riots / UK riots in a larger map

The map above gives some sense of the extent of these riots.

It is always hard to be a parent when your children live at a distance from you. But, it is even harder to have them literally a continent apart and away.

It really struck me that there's a sense of revisiting, in contemporary terms, what Dickens was writing about in his classic A Tale of Two Cities. Of course, then London was the stable city, while Paris was the city on fire.

I am hoping that calm is restored soon. And even though we are thousands of miles from our children, we too can regain our calm. But, as we wait for calm, I also recall the moral of another English novel--The Lord of the Flies: the veneer of civilization is very thin indeed.


dmmgmfm said...

Sending stay safe thoughts to your children. And by the way, I am going to San Diego on Friday. It's my first time ever to California.

Anvilcloud said...

It's sad and shocking. British society, for all its warts in the past, used to be very civilized.

warriormom said...

It is so sad. I'll be thinking of you and your daughter across the pond. It is tough having a child so far and in a volatile environment.

NCmountainwoman said...

The riots are indeed frightening even to those of us who have no loved ones living there. And sad to say, your statement about the veneer of civilization is spot on. I fear the spread of flash mobs will continue. Scary to think of marauding teens taking over with random violence.

Ruth said...

The issues in poor urban areas of Britain are complex and flareups are bound to occur again. I relate to your concerns about your daughter's safety. I try not to read about the violence in northern Mexico where my daughter is living.

Ginnie said...

That map really puts everything in perspective. Scarey.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Britain has serious class problems. Now they have a Conservative government that is trying to improve the economy on the back of those who can least afford it. It seems the troubles were predictable. To hear the politicians talk now you have to realize that they are willing to clamp down on the symptoms but not face up to the problems.

Climenheise said...

I wondered how K was doing. Trust she will stay okay. A formeer cop from the UK who now lives in our area observed that the respect for authorities among the English generally is less than among Canadians. One wonders if the loss of consensus on basic world view givens is not also an important factor. Alongside the lack of work, so that many hooligans (as they're called) have no investment in their own neighbourhood, and can therefore trash it. Trouble is, a number of those being prosecuted for the violence clearly do not come from the young unemployed. Something in the air? Budget cuts for sure don't help to make life better.

My word verification this time is "bleated". Think of the foregoing as my "bleat" (or baby rant).

Climenheise said...

Follow-up: The ex-english copper added that population density is very different in the UK than here in Manitoba -- twice as many people as live in Canada in a country (England) half the size of Manitoba. Well, yes.

KGMom said...

To all who left good thoughts--thanks.
Where our daughter and son-in-law are is safe--they have reassured us. Of course, what seems a bit different in these riots is the whimsical nature of who went on a rampage, where they rioted, and what was harmed.

There is something very instructive in this whole unfolding event--the future of many places in the world may replicate such clashes if the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to widen.
That's not the only cause here, of course. In fact, apparently some of the rioters have jobs and are relatively well-off.
But there are lessons here; I only hope political leaders can pay attention and not be knee-jerk reactionaries.
Not sure that Cameron is rising to the occasion yet in the UK.