Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Not Burning Books

I heard a report about the riots in London last night. The journalist said that every single shop in a street had been broken into and looted; except Waterstones. This means that hundreds of young people were desperate to grab the things of the flesh as represented by clothes, shoes, jewellery, bits of technology, money, but were completely indifferent to the world of ideas and the imagination as represented by books. If we had a generation of teenagers that wanted to loot books and then cart them home to read then that would be a sign of hope. But we seem to have a generation or, to be more precise, a small group within a generation that is about taking and having and using and then throwing away. Children who do not have dreams about green fields and broad horizons but have urges for sports gear and blackberries are already lost, a lost generation and role models for another lost generation-in-waiting. What poverty of imagination and mind throws aside the opportunity to pick up free books in favour of breaking and burning and destroying things of metal and brick and extracting things of plastic and lycra? What goes on in those heads and in those hearts? Those who fail to long for beauty can only bring about ugliness.

Young people are responsible for their own actions but they are not responsible for the world in which they find themselves or the messages they have been given by those who are older and have had the power to create or to stifle imaginations. Whatever Fire Brigade methods are needed to deal with today's problems today we, as a society, have a responsibility to form the young people of that lost-generation-in-waiting. If we cannot stop them rioting in ten years time at least let us form in them the desire to steal books and not bling.

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