It was a deliberate act that I decided to refrain from adding a knife crime blog post during this millennium's first ever UK riots (I wish they are the last but another 982 years without some such civil disturbance seems very unlikely given humankind's track record to date... but I live in hope).
That said, I did make the odd somewhat reactive statement on Facebook. Making societal comments / interpretation in search of answers to depressing and unacceptable events did not go down well. One of my Fb friends and former work colleagues who lives London way gave me both barrels.
"Discipline and values" he said was absent from these morons. Very true, I thought - and societally I also thought commercial and state groups such as big business and banks have also lacked these and caused criminal outcomes such as failed economies and ruined lives.
But as he pointed out, this criminality was happening on his doorstep and there was no excuse for this abhorrent, violent, devastating and, simply, plain wrong behaviour.
We are both right, I believe. Social conditions and individual responsibility both have vital roles in this situation. What seems inescapable is that massive failure of both has occurred.
As far as knife crime is concerned, I have been pleased to support initiatives such as new laws to make knife threats an imprisonable offence. But, when you think about it, knife crime is a symptom of underlying problems. If we could work out and solve what's wrong before symptoms appear, that is obviously a better way to avoid worse situations later on.
And so the same logic can apply to the UK riots of August 2011. There seem to be many issues everyone is talking about that caused this - absence of fathers, economy, corrupt politicians, gang cultures, video games, little to aspire to, oppressive authorities, too many immigrants on a small island etc... the list of 'excuses' is, in fact, very very long.
As I watched another masked hoodie bandit head off home with a 40 inch flat screen tv (Sony, I think), I forced a wry smile to myself as I thought 'yeah mate, I think the price of them is a rip off, take it for free'.
I do believe that business has at least partly helped cause these riots. While I think that individual responsibility is the key element, business sows seeds of discontent daily, making decent homes and possessions etc unaffordable, while the world of marketing raises desires to unnatural levels in people for these things.
It happens to most of us - and for 'the poor' who can't afford most of everything, year after year, no wonder they want to get hold of what 'the rich' have. Christian author C S Lewis explained this in the 1900s - it's not a new phenomenon.
No wonder frustrations can boil over. Women seduce to get their own way, marketers do it to have you buy at a high price, decent hard-working people lose their jobs on the stroke of an accountant's pen.
Afterwards the victim feels cheated by the woman, ripped off by a retailer and deeply injured by the employer. Bad behaviour like this goes on all the time.
No wonder some group, gang or other who feels cheated or downtrodden by such things decides to riot. 'I'm getting nowhere, time to fight for a bit more respect, something better for my life'. Or even worse if they're bent on villainy, e.g. seduced by mafia-type lifestyles.
And there, I think, is an understandable way to view rioting, gang membership and perhaps criminality. We don't need an American ex-policeman / gang 'expert' to tell us that. Wonder what he can bring to the party? How many deaths are on his hands? Importing potentially right wing policing from the USA is fraught with hazard. Bloody politics. Not that the Russian mafia is something worth importing either (and we seem to have that as well). Minefield.
The behaviour, the damage, the violence, the killing can never be condoned, yet there are the inklings of explanation about why it happened. Some believe in capital punishment to deal with such wrong behaviour - a final judgement on individual irresponsibility.
My stance is not to kill - but execution can be considered the ultimate way to eradicate some symptoms of bad behaviour in society; as humankind though, we have failed to solve the root cause polluting these human beings gone wrong. And then I think 'no, these (wo)men are responsible for their actions, why give them another chance to enjoy life, they've forfeited that right, haven't they?'
Observing the permanently reactive news media this month, I couldn't help thinking of Paul Weller's lyrics when with The Jam... 'these braying sheep on my tv screen make this boy shout, make this boy scream'. That was Going Underground - and I remember during the rioting that being away from all this was what I wanted. The media coverage has been plain confusing - and unhelpful due to its reactiveness. I remember seeing Kelvin Mackenzie on (a poor) BBC Newsnight shouting like an hysterical bullying grandad about using the army to shoot the scum; typical tabloid editor reaction.
And then I watched some middle class BBC reporter trying to relate to a masked rioter - it looked ridiculous, emphasising how out of touch the UK broadcaster is with many in this country.
Trying to get away from the situation is not the answer I reckon; being part of the solution is the answer... towards better ways forward, preferably huge leaps (although it would be wise not to stay and drown on a sinking ship - and I do wonder if capitalism and commercialism, even internationalism, have major holes below the waterline at present).
What do you think? What will make our society safer, better - from rioting, from guns, from knife crime?