It Can’t Happen Here?

Like hell it can’t:

London reels from third night of rioting

Matt Falloon
Reuters US Online Report Top News
Aug 09, 2011 06:10 EDT

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister David Cameron was to hold crisis talks on Tuesday after three nights of riots, looting and arson by masked, hooded youths that wrecked shopping streets in many parts of London and spread to other cities.

Politicians and police blamed the riots — the worst in Britain for decades — on criminals and opportunistic hooligans.

But residents in affected areas and some commentators attributed the unrest to local tensions and anger over economic hardship in a city where the gap between the haves and have-nots is growing.

“We ain’t got no jobs, no money. We heard that other people were getting things for free, so why not us?” asked E.Nan, a young man in a baseball cap in Hackney, a multi-ethnic area in east London and one of the worst hit areas.

Overnight, as the violence died down, cars piled high with goods drove at high speed through London streets. Witnesses were told of numerous cases of car theft by groups of looters.

Some commentators have blamed the rioting partly on cuts in social services being imposed as a result of the government’s tough austerity policies to reduce a large budget deficit. Economic growth is sluggish.

Many looters were from areas of high unemployment and said they felt alienated from society.

Cameron is now likely to come under new pressure to do more for poor districts of the capital. He has resisted calls to slow the rate at which he is cutting the budget deficit in order to lessen the impact on youth services and other facilities.

Do I need to be explicit about it? When our own already devastating economic situation in America plunges even further into the depths, this will happen here. It is a classic human response when you take away people’s livelihoods and homes. Yes, of course, you can follow British officials’ lead and call them “criminals and opportunistic hooligans.” But if you still have a home, you’d better have good locks on your doors, and keep a close watch for fires… that is, if you’re not already homeless and desperate, out there yourself, ready to wreak havoc.

Austerity is almost always the wrong economic response in a civilized society, because civilization is mighty thin after the first missed meal, or the first night sleeping in the street. Good people will do bad things… count on it.

UPDATE: Apparently there is indeed a share of opportunistic criminality to the riots, including young people using BlackBerry messaging to coordinate hits on particular shops. Don’t get me wrong; I most certainly do not absolve those people of their culpability. But there’s also this:

Gavin Poole, director of the Center for Social Justice, said many of the youths involved were from a “lost generation” who faced a life of living in ghettos with little opportunity.

“These are the actions of people who live in chaos, hopelessness and poverty,” he said, quoted by the Press Association.

Their behavior was criminal and should be punished,” he said. “Yet we have to recognize that this mayhem also exposes a broken section of British society.”

The British are not the only nation with a broken section of society. Everybody… please keep cool and stay safe.

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  • jams o donnell  On Tuesday August 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Even has disturbances in Romfordd last night, Nothing on the scale of inner London. I hope it doesn’t kick off again tonight. In mid afternoon shops and banks were already closing down

    • Steve  On Tuesday August 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      jams, thanks for checking in. I was worried about you. In the general area of London, I know you, and I know a few musicians who are away on tour frequently in other parts of the world. Now I just need to hear from those musicians.

      What is your sense of the causes, and how bad is it in your area?

      In any case, jams, stay out of the way of the “criminals and opportunistic hooligans” … of which I don’t doubt there are some… and out of the way of desperate people in desperate circumstances. You and the not-wife and the cats please stay safe!

  • MandT  On Tuesday August 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    criminals and opportunistic hooligans, thuds and tigers, OH MY! In other works the karma of colonial racism come home to roost. PS… lams, do you know Wally Shorts. Is he still alive?

  • MandT  On Tuesday August 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    PS. Wally was a jazz flutist I met in India 40 years ago. We traveled from Calcutta to England together. I always hoped the best for him and had a dream about him recently.

    • Steve  On Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

      MandT, I don’t know if Wally Shorts is still alive, but apparently his real name is Brian Threadgill, and there are refs to him all over the web (just google “Wally Shorts”, and be sure to include the quote marks) and a couple of musical tracks on YouTube. Take a look and see if that’s the guy you mean.

  • ellroon  On Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 8:38 am

    My son and husband are predicting there will be riots here in the US soon. Something (like fucking Wisconsin) will set people off…. and there will be no stopping it.

    I hope they are wrong. But this corporate take-over of America must be stopped one way or another.

    • Steve  On Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 10:29 am

      ellroon, that is certainly a possibility.

      With all the anti-riot equipment GeeDubya Bush invested in, and considering the history of police actions against even peaceful demonstrators in the U.S., I would try to stay out of them if possible. I do not believe it is possible to face down the government by mass nonviolent civil disobedience in this day and age, let alone by force… they hold all the cards.

      You know that world described in Orwell’s 1984? If we’re not there yet, we could well be before long.

  • MandT  On Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks Steve!

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