A couple of friends have emailed me asking if my family and I were “safe” during this week of riots.
I can say I am in a comfortable position, living relatively removed from the centre of action. My son’s day-care centre is just a few blocks away from my home, which is also my office. On an ordinary workday, my world is confined to two miles between my house, the school and eventually the supermarket, the bakery, the haberdashery store. Pretty boring at times, I’ll concede, but I have had my share of adventures before and I must confess I am not willing to go into the fray again.
Does that mean I am safe? I guess so.
But then there’s another factor.
I know Paulista Avenue, where most of the riots have happened, like the back of my hand. I was born in a maternity ward nearby; I studied at a college there; I met my husband there; my first and last office jobs were there. Thus, I know that when there are protest marches, Paulista Avenue is the last place on God’s good Earth you want to find yourself at: there aren’t many escape routes once the police close the nearby streets and the subway entrances.
I have friends working and living in the routes of the marches. Some are involved in the demos; some only want to go back home at the end of their shift. So, to answer my friends’ question: yes, my family is safe, but my mind is still reeling with worry.
There is a poem running through my mind this entire Sunday – The Second Coming, by Yeats (that I always, always mistake for Eliot’s The Wasteland – don’t ask). I know the opening verses by heart:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world (…)
Are these riots “mere anarchy”? I don’t think I know the answer to that. My husband, a brainy bloke, thinks this is the result of structural failures – the faulty economy meeting a generation that did not know inflation and lack of democracy like my parents’ generation, or indeed my very own generation. They see the Arab Spring, the Spanish demos, the Occupy Movement, and wonder “what’s in store for us?”
So. Safe. Tricky word. Yes, my family is safe from the tear gas clouds, the trampling, the rubber bullets. But we’re still here, in Sampa, and we’re all waiting to see what’s next.
For the moment, off to bed go I. The kid’s asleep, and so should I.