The Other I

August 9, 2011

Not an Arab spring

Filed under: Cultural Differences,Just Stuff,The English — theotheri @ 4:12 pm

Woman jumping from her London apartment last night 

Police in towns and cities throughout Britain are bracing themselves for a 4th day/night running of looting, rioting, and fires.  The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, have both returned home early from their summer vacations, and Parliament has been recalled to meet tomorrow.

An initial peaceful demonstration in one of the less wealthy suburbs of London on Sunday to object to the very strange police shooting of a local man turned violent.  Looting and violence has now broken out in cities across England and in at least ten separate suburbs of London.  Apartment blocks, stores, and cars have been burned to the ground, people have been hurt, one man died of gun shot wounds this morning, and the main streets in town after town have been devastated.  It is quite terrifying.  

The police have thus far simply been outfaced.  Tonight they are bringing in almost three times as many officers as yesterday, local people have been trying to clean up the streets where possible, and shops in London are already closing for the day.

Some people are calling for the government to call in the military, but I think it is highly unlikely.  It will be interesting to watch, though, what will happen if the rioting continues again tonight.  On the one hand we are urging Syria and Libya and other Middle Eastern governments not to use military force against their own protesters.  It would hardly set an example to bring them into London. 

The police, however, may be given permission to use water cannon if the destruction continues.  The government is hoping, though, that the communities themselves will exert enough influence on the rioters to keep most of them at home and that this won’t be necessary.

In the meantime, I heard a journalist who lives in one of the areas where a furniture store was burned down last night and the main street ransacked say this is a continuation of the “Arab spring.”  He is arguing that young people are rising up and demanding respect and freedom which they have been denied.

There are, of course, long-term and deep social causes that have contributed to this conflagration of violence.   Personally, I suspect, among other factors, that we may be reaping the result of too many single-parent families.  Children need fathers and Britain has the highest percentage of single mothers in all of Europe.  The unemployment rate for the young is disproportionately high, and though society has done a lot to reduce sexist inequality for women, it has not done enough to help young men find roles in society which are meaningful.

But to say that this rioting is our version of the Arab Spring is ridiculous.  The protesters in Egypt’s Tahrir Square did not trash it.  They directed traffic and after Mubarak had fallen, they came in and cleaned up their trash.  They did not burn people out of their homes and loot stores.

No, this is no Arab spring.  This is common thuggery.


1 Comment »

  1. Couldn’t agree more.


    Comment by sanstorm — August 9, 2011 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

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