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Understanding London Riots


This cartoon captures the attitude of the rioters and the tone of the authorities. (Cartoon by Martin Sutovec, SME, Slovakia; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

This cartoon captures the attitude of the rioters and the tone of the authorities. (Cartoon by Martin Sutovec, SME, Slovakia; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

Argentina, circa 2001. The economy was in freefall and thousands of people living in rough neighborhoods stormed foreign-owned superstores. They came out pushing shopping carts overflowing with the goods they could no longer afford—clothes, electronics, meat. The government called a “state of siege” to restore order; the people didn’t like that and overthrew the government.

Why is London burning. (Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic, Kleine Zeitung, Austria; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

Why is London burning. (Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic, Kleine Zeitung, Austria; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

Argentina’s mass looting was called El Saqueo—the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country’s elites had done by selling off the country’s national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.

But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn’t theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behavior.

Easy to dismiss the 'progressive-liberal' clap trap. But is there a grain of truth in this narrative. (Cartoon by Rob Rogers, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania; source and courtesy cagle.com). Click for larger image.

Easy to dismiss the 'progressive-liberal' clap trap. But is there a grain of truth in this narrative. (Cartoon by Rob Rogers, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania; source and courtesy cagle.com). Click for larger image.

This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensions—mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these “entitlements”? The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.

This is the global Saqueo, a time of great taking. Fueled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights left on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94 percent of millionaires were afraid of “violence in the streets.” This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.

Martin Rowson on David Cameron's big broken society; on the government's response to the riots and looting across England which saw over 1,000 people arrested | guardian.co.uk  |  Saturday 13 August 2011 00.01 BST  |  Click for larger image.

Martin Rowson on David Cameron's big broken society; on the government's response to the riots and looting across England which saw over 1,000 people arrested | guardian.co.uk | Saturday 13 August 2011 00.01 BST | Click for larger image.

Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing nighttime robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. (via Shock Doctrine in Practice: The Connection Between Nighttime Robbery In the Streets and Daytime Robbery By Elites | | AlterNet).

It is always difficult to understand mob mentality. Especially, if you are Mumbai – and riots are being reported from London, by advertising driven media, and commentary written by State-approved academics. The first piece of sense about the London Riots was this piece by Naomi Klein.

The London Riots also reminded me of the Godhra Riots, when well-to-do people drove up to shops on CG Road in Ahmedabad to drive away with goodies from shops that had been forced open. Earlier riots, for instance in Hyderabad, between 1980-1988, saw shops set on fire, but not looted. I wonder if there are any parallels in behaviour between Godhra and London riots.

Bursting prison populations are definitely a part of the problem. But is the progressive-liberal education the answer? Or is it about basic literacy skills. (Cartoonist Nick Hayes on education and riots sentencing - While teenagers receive their A-level results, the prison population in England and Wales reaches a record level  |  The Guardian  |  Friday 19 August 2011) Click for larger image.

Bursting prison populations are definitely a part of the problem. But is the progressive-liberal education the answer? Or is it about basic literacy skills. (Cartoonist Nick Hayes on education and riots sentencing - While teenagers receive their A-level results, the prison population in England and Wales reaches a record level | The Guardian | Friday 19 August 2011) Click for larger image.

But I have a nagging feeling that this is not the complete picture.

So, for sometime, this topic will stay on the Quicktake list – till such time that we can get a hook to complete this picture.

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