Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Understanding the UK Riots

This video is probably the best example of why there have been riots in the UK. The BBC tries to do an interview but it is completely at cross purposes because the upper middle class reporter and the poor guy she is interviewing live in completely separate realities. She demonstrates exactly how "official" Briton simply doesn't get it. He is trying to tell his pain but she stops him because of "legal formalities" and then she goes on to label him as a rioter and he is dumbfounded and upset that she could make this accusation out of thin air. He had just been trying to tell her how the police "suspect" all blacks as thieves and criminals and she just labeled him as a rioter.

If you want to understand the riots, this video is an excellent education. An incompetent BBC reporter "interviews" Darcus Howe, a broadcaster and columnist, who lives in Brixton, South London, England:

He shows intelligence by trying to connect the riots in the UK with the world wide rise in youth violence and tries to connect it with a struggle for freedom and dignity, and she just wants to "cover" a riot using the standard rules of "what did you see" and "how did you feel" without trying to understand anything or put anything in context. Worse, she showed the huge divide between the haves and have nots by her completely lack of understanding of him, his pain, and his life. She has the audacity to label him a "rioter", a serious allegation, and she does it freely on the media. But when he tried to talk about a young man having his face blown off she stops him because that is "before the courts" and "you can't make that kind of allegation in the press". Nuts! She can label him a rioter with no evidence. He can't accuse the police of killing because of "legal niceties". What an absurdity!

Here are some bits from a useful article in the UK's Guardian newspaper:
The police shot a black guy in suspicious circumstances. Feral kids with no jobs ran amok. To Tony’s mind, this was a riot waiting for an excuse. In the hangover of the violence that spread through London, the uprisings seemed both inevitable and unthinkable. Over a few days in which attacks became a contagion the capital city of an advanced nation has reverted to a Hobbesian dystopia of chaos and brutality.


This is the most arcane of uprisings and the most modern. Its participants, marshalled by Twitter, are protagonists in a sinister flipside to the Arab Spring. The Tottenham summer, featuring children as young as seven, is an assault not on a regime of tyranny but on the established order of a benign democracy. One question now hangs over London’s battle-torn high streets. How could this ever happen?

Among several obvious answers, one is a failure of policing. The evidence so far points to more ignominy for the rudderless Met, as doubts emerge over whether Mark Duggan, whose death inspired the initial riots, fired at police. The stonewalling of Mr Duggan’s family precipitated the crisis, and the absence of officers to intervene in an orgy of looting led to a breakdown of order suggestive of the lawless badlands of a failing state.


The real causes are more insidious. It is no coincidence that the worst violence London has seen in many decades takes place against the backdrop of a global economy poised for freefall. The causes of recession set out by J K Galbraith in his book, The Great Crash 1929, were as follows: bad income distribution, a business sector engaged in “corporate larceny”, a weak banking structure and an import/export imbalance.

All those factors are again in play. In the bubble of the 1920s, the top 5 per cent of earners creamed off one-third of personal income. Today, Britain is less equal, in wages, wealth and life chances, than at any time since then. Last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30 per cent to £333.5 billion.


Financial crashes and human catastrophes are cyclical. Each reoccurrence threatens to be graver than the last. As Galbraith wrote, “memory is far better than the law” in protecting against financial illusion and insanity. In an age of austerity, there are diverse luxuries that Britain can no longer afford. Amnesia stands high on that long list.
Go read the whole article. It usefully explores the issues surrounding the rioting.

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