The spark has been stated as the shooting of Mark Duggan by police. A peaceful protest by family, friends and local people in Tottenham was hijacked at the end by a minority intent on violence. Since this outbreak, other waves of looting have swept London and, from there, the rest of the UK.
David Cameron has called this behaviour a symptom of a broken, or even sick, society. I must say that, to an extent, I agree with him. But it is more than that. This is a symptom of the consumer culture, forever reaching to grow the economy by enticing us to spend even more on things we are told we "need". This is a symptom of the greed and acquisitive material culture that the government, of whatever colour, supports. The reason? This culture underpins our economy and ensures that we can afford the government expenditure - which is based on an assumption of continued growth. Continued growth is unsustainable. It is a house of cards on which we build our economy and stake our futures (pensions). Eventually, we will reach a peak - if we are not there already.
The people who are looting, in the main, are young people. They have grown up in a culture which has told them that they have "the right" to a nice TV, nice clothes, designer trainers. They have grown up in a culture that enforces the right of individuals over the regard of others around them. They have grown up in a culture where it is acceptable to spend more than you have. There are older people in the mix as well, I would guess that they joined in with the same attitude.
The recent debt crisis has closed down access to cheap credit. This has affected the lower paid and those who are credit risks more than the higher paid and those with good credit ratings. I would hazard a guess the the majority of those looting were in the first two categories. Cut off from cheap credit, they saw an opportunity to grab "free stuff" that our culture has been whispering that they "need".
This is a possible explanation, but there is no excuse for this attitude to the property and livelihoods of others. The looters need to realise that, through their actions, the lives of ordinary people have been ruined. Even after the immediate effect of homelessness and loss of property has been sorted out, jobs will be lost and neighbourhoods blighted - not all of those shops looted will reopen.
Above all though, we must learn to live within our means. At the government level as well as at the level of the individual. As Dickens had Mr McCawber state: "Income £20, expenditure £19 19s 6d, result: happiness. Income £20, expenditure £20 6d, result: misery."
Yet, in the midst of this darkness, there is a light. In the days after the looting, people have been turning out with broom in hand. They came to help tidy up after the nights of violence and destruction. They came to help their community and neighbourhoods.
But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. ~ 1 Timothy 6:8-9