It has been a thoroughly disturbing week. Riots occurred in the streets of many cities in England, and the markets have tumbled and tottered. Of the two, the former – the riots – felt more immediate to me, since I have visited, know or recognize many places that had been looted, gutted and in some abhorrent cases torched. Yet, in terms of magnitude and long-term effects, it may well be the latter – the turmoil in the markets – that will have more fundamental effect on the lives of many people in Britain and across the globe.
Naturally it is silly to predict which of these two events will have broader repercussions and be remembered in the future, yet it does present an interesting case to explore how human beings make sense of what is happening, and also how future generations will make sense of what has happened. Many people will be discussing why something happened, and will try to construct a narrative. People will be seeking the underlying reasons and connect the events to tell a story. There may be a temptation to link the two events: for example, one can argue that the economic uncertainties were the main reason for both the riots and market turmoil, and these were two different symptoms of the same malaise.
There will be temptation to weave a narrative that identifies a few causes that caused a chain reaction of events that led to the riots in the streets and routs in the markets. May be these events are linked in some way, may be not. It is sometimes more important to find out how things happened, with all the red herrings and intricacies. Only by doing so would it be possible to make some sense of what happened over the past week.