It is not the first time that riots have broken out in the USA over the treatment of a black underclass by white authority figures, and it is unlikely to be the last – and it has happened in the UK and elsewhere, too, in years gone by. The events in Ferguson have a different energy, however: as a mere observer, I sense a hopelessness being expressed by this largely black community that is so representative of many others – a hopelessness that anything will change; an alienation that causes many of the people not to bother to vote; an anxiety as they see Hispanics pouring into the USA for jobs and benefits which could otherwise be theirs; a disappointment with a black President who has failed them with broken promises; and anger at a minority white population with the money, the power, and the guns.
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Phoenix rising from its ashes[/caption]
Ferguson is an American tragedy that highlights cruelly the divisions and inequity that permeates this nation founded on principles of equality, democracy and freedom. The polarisation between the haves and the have-nots in places such as this is stark, and while poverty has created a disempowering dependency on the benevolence of the state, it increases disaffection too. Ferguson is one town among many like it, and the backlash to the killing of Michael Brown could precipitate major unrest in many States in time to come.
In other countries, too, there is disillusionment with and mistrust of the political elite, and the seething challenges brought about through uncontrolled immigration along with societies divided by class and wealth are creating resentment and insecurity among the majority of the population. It takes just one event, like the one in Ferguson, to spark a major fire, and one that could burn out of control.
Fire, however, is cleansing, and from its ashes comes a new beginning and a new order. It could be that a political conflagration in America, and other countries also, results in a chastened recognition of the need for a rebalanced, fairer society where everyone genuinely is equal to each other. Ferguson has lost much in recent days and weeks, but the repercussions of her hurts may be the seeds of hope, for all of us.