It is perhaps time to discuss the recent disturbances in London. Monday night saw significant unrest in northern, western and southern areas of London. The PIU office itself is in Clapham in the south. Approximately 15 minutes away, some of the most serious looting in London took place near Clapham Junction station.
This is also close to my house - I took the above picture just after the riot police moved in. The area around me saw large-scale looting and attacks. The streets were subject to hours of lawlessness before hundreds of riot police eventually arrived and cleared the streets with baton charges.
The streets around the office still have an edgy atmosphere and most people are still in shock. Fortunately though, everyone is safe.
There now follows protracted discussions on what went wrong and the lessons learned. Undoubtedly, the disorder revealed deep-seated social problems ingrained within British society. But, the key lesson seems to be about the inherent unpredictability of social events.
Even though I have been based in the area for 18 months I still had no idea that I lived in a violent tinderbox. Even now, as normality slowly returns, it is hard to believe that this bustling and fashionable side of London could ever have witnessed such anarchic scenes. But, as with any large centre of opportunity and wealth, there are also risks and poverty.
The 'edge' that makes London exciting belies underlying dangers. International news agencies have reported widely on London's security risks. It has a bruised history of terrorism, attack and riots. (I have deliberately not refered to recent events as 'riots'; as far as I can make out, the attacks were carried out in the name of no particular greivance or purpose, nor was there any demonstrable feeling of anger. It seemed to be simple systematic looting of my neighbourhood.)
The fact remains that sporadic violence broke out in a handful of areas and was quickly quelled. Now, Londoners take to the streets in large voluntary clean-up operations as the city seeks normality again.
The police have been criticised for their lack of presence and foresight when the initial violence broke out, but there is nothing more that could have been done. The lesson here is that some events simply can never be predicted; there are no precautions against certain events.
The acceptance that certain events cannot be forecast – so-called 'black swans' – is a mature response to a complex world. Hopefully we can learn all the important lessons, but also accept that there are some events that are out of our control.