Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A lesson in dignity

A few days absence but it feels like an eternity - though mostly without my computer, I've been watching events unfold on television to leave us with what may be a profoundly altered society.

There are certain images and stories that have represented recent events - the woman jumping from her burning flat, the dazed and injured student being robbed of his possessions, police charging in lines down city streets - but among the most powerful must be Tariq Jahan's challenge to the surrounding crowd:

"I have lost my son - if you want to lose yours step forward, otherwise calm down and go home."

It may be that, with hindsight, the deaths of Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir will be seen as a turning point, the stage at which a game suddenly turned ugly; certainly the previous behaviour of many of the looters had suggested a euphoria at odds with the sententious explanations of 'anger' and 'social exclusion' being bandied around the media.

In the face of a potential flashpoint, Tariq Jahan's restraint in the expression of his grief before the cameras and his refusal to blame the government or police for the actions of criminals stand out as an example of dignity and reason.

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