Some parts of London burned this weekend.
It's important not to overstate things: I lived very near Brixton and in the cordoned off are in 1981 and to be honest, life went on despite those riots. It will this time too, but that's not to diminish their significance. Crime has happened, people have been hurt and both are to be regretted: as important though, causes have to be understood. It's just too glib to say this is criminality. Of course there is some of that, but when the normal social fabric that prevents crime has failed it has to be asked why.
That fabric has failed in my opinion because of feral capitalism: the capitalism that this blog has described over recent years, where a tiny elite have looted society to increase their wealth at cost to all the rest of us. They've done so by capturing banking, capturing regulation, capturing the economics profession and by capturing states themselves (and most especially tax havens) from which to launch their attack on the well being of the vast majority.
That attack has worked. In 1980 58% of UK GDP went to labour. Now it is 53%. Real wages stagnated. Those of an elite grew, massively, and that same elite extracted value from those in work by extending them excessive credit - credit they now demand be repaid whether there is capacity to do so or not. And they have captured UK politics to reinforce their claim.
That has left millions alienated. They have no hope. Some rioted. I don't condone it. But they did it anyway.
And they did so because they maybe implicitly understand that there seems no way out of this mess right now. Even Julian Glover, a LibDem commentator for whom I rarely have much time seems to have now realised the error of that parties Orange Book ways when writing in the Guardian this morning, saying:
Five centuries ago in Europe, Protestants and Catholics vied to define the route to salvation — but both thought they knew a way. Two centuries ago, in the long shadow of the French revolution, conservatives and radicals tussled for ownership of a future that they both thought they could make brighter. In the last century, cheerleaders for the free market disputed the apostles of Marxism. Each was sure theirs was the remedy for present ills. The crises we face in the summer of 2011 are no less sharp or scary, but what's missing is leadership, not so much by people as by ruling ideas. The best, as Yeats said, lack all conviction.
He's right. My answer will be in my forthcoming book - the Courageous State.
But there's another one available right now. It's to follow the leadership being given by Israel. They're not leaving a few discontents to riot; they're taking to the streets en masse. As the Guardian notes:
An estimated 300,000 people took to the streets on Saturday to press their demands for social justice and lower living costs in the largest demonstrations over social issues ever seen in the country. Despite scepticism that turnout could surpass previous events, almost twice as many people joined marches in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other towns and cities.
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, was forced to respond to the spiralling protests with the establishment of a committee to "listen to the distress" and recommend action.
Our government and police are trying to kill off the right to demonstrate in this country - but it is possible, it can work, and I strongly suspect that this next year will see millions on the streets of the UK demanding change.
Yes we need new ideas.
But we also have to make them heard.
We need hope.
Our children need hope.
Our world needs hope.
Each of us has to deliver our small share of it.
And mass action may be a part of delivering it.
But it must be peaceful mass action. Because that's what delivers real change.
When hundreds of thousands of people stand up and simply say "no - you can't do this in my name - I want something better - and I expect you to deliver it, or move aside for those who can" then the world tilts a little on its axis.
And it's very clear it needs to do that, right now.