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You may all remember the "feral rats" lady from Ealing. She articulated what many people might have been thinking. I wonder how many of us realised that she runs a baby store. She provides goods and services for small children.

That implies that she cares (although may be mercenary enough to just see the market.. but I doubt that).

So what has happened in our society that means that people (not just Ealing lady, I'm not picking on her) can both love children and write others off as feral rats.

Well maybe the clue is in the use of the word rat. For years now there has been a media distancing that happens when anyone does anything bad. The tabloids (and others) use animal terms for people whose behaviour is not acceptable. By distancing ourselves we can get the space to reassure ourselves that we are somehow different.

I see a new dimension to this just now: that we almost want there to be two sub species of people, the good and the bad. We can't cope with a scale of behaviour, we need to dismiss people as being utterly other.

And that's dangerous. Its smug and superior, but historically it also has had some far reaching implications. In the current situation it is stopping us addressing our own sin (and I don't use that word lightly).

We have to take hold again of the notion that we all can mess up. That we all are selfish most of the time. That we do things that we later regret.

The events of those few nights have brought the violence and opportunism of some street cultures to a wider audience. If we choose to distance ourselves and pretend that these people are somehow other, we will simply repress the issue again.

Lets own the problem: not just when it scares us. No more talk of rats: these are people.

And whether they are the poorest is the subject of the next post.


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