It’s been an odd week. The news has continued to be shocking and depressing in turns – and of course the knee-jerk tone of some of the coverage makes it more depressing straightaway. The rioters and looters have behaved like yobs, yes – but no-one is born a yob. The question of the reactions to the rioting is rapidly becoming one of those subjects where I pipe down fairly quickly, though. There isn’t much point in trying to discuss it with people who have already made their minds up. I’ve heard a lot of folk saying “They’re animals!” and then refusing to think any further about it.
I’ve been towards the poorer end of society, financially speaking, for several chunks of my life (not least, most of my childhood). I’ve been filled with rage at times, at my situation and at the hoops I was expected to jump through, the humiliations I was expected to endure, and so on. I knew how to control the anger, but I can see how someone who couldn’t control it and had no outlet for it could just blow up. Does the fact that when I’ve been pushed around and patronised I’ve kept my cool and told myself things would get better, mean I’m entitled to judge those who cannot keep their tempers in the heat of the moment, in the middle of a yelling mob? It’s easy to judge, after all, and hard to empathise with criminals.
As recently as ten years ago I can remember being almost overwhelmed by anger and frustration as I tried to get through the convoluted, dehumanising, crushingly stupid process involved in getting my council tax reduced while I was out of work. It's a sad memory. At the next counter along, a young couple had been reduced to screaming abuse by the injustice and illogicality of the system they were meant to follow, and the unhelpfulness of the person dealing with them. I remember thinking “There but for the grace of god…” as I listened to them. I knew that I had all the benefits of intelligence, education, a fairly mature and optimistic outlook, a sense of humour and a lot of patience, and I was still having to fight not to lose my temper. They, with none of those advantages, were losing theirs spectacularly. The young man ended up being told that he would be expelled from the building by security if he didn’t calm down. I listened and watched, and I thought “If I wasn’t equipped, in myself, to handle this situation, and all the other cr*p that life is dumping on me at the moment, it could have been me getting that warning”. It was salutary. No-one is born a yob; people get reduced to it. And those who are least well equipped to cope with trouble are the most easily reduced by it.
Meanwhile, I’ve been wrestling again with my pitch letter for “R’s sisters”, with the help of some very useful feedback from a friend. I suddenly realised there was one other revision I needed to make in the text, too, so I’ve been wrestling with that as well. And I’ve been carrying on with the long-short-story fairy tale. I’m very near the end of that, on to the penultimate scene, and wondering what the end will be. I know that end is a version of “they all lived happily ever after” (this is me, after all!), but that isn’t the tone of the story at all, even if it’s what the message boils down to. I’m rather happy with it, though, and will start typing it up as soon as it’s finished. It’s the third alternative fairy tale I’ve done. Perhaps I should collect them together?