London Riots

by leavingwt 143 Replies latest social current

  • sammielee24

    There is a context to London’s riots that can’t be ignored

    Those condemning the events in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture

    Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The government knows very well that it is taking a gamble, and that its policies run the risk of sparking mass unrest on a scale we haven’t seen since the early 1980s. With people taking to the streets of Tottenham, Edmonton, Brixton and elsewhere over the past few nights, we could be about to see the government enter a sustained and serious losing streak.

    The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police’s treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment.

    One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officerfor any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.

    Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear. (Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8%, double the national average, with one vacancy for every 54 seeking work in the borough.)

    Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.

    As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as “social problems” (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.

    Images of burning buildings, cars aflame and stripped-out shops may provide spectacular fodder for a restless media, ever hungry for new stories and fresh groups to demonise, but we will understand nothing of these events if we ignore the history and the context in which they occur. The Guardian.

  • leavingwt

    Melanie Phillips. . .

    Despite the violent mayhem across Britain over the past few days, it is important to point out that there have also been heartening examples of cross-community co-operation and solidarity. Sikhs have been volunteering to stand guard over mosques; Muslims have been guarding gurdwaras; ultra-orthodox Jewish men in Stamford Hill handed out challah loaves to people forced out of their homes in the conflagration; and people of all colours and creeds have been coming together to clean up their communities after the mayhem.

    This is how a healthy society should behave: people from different communities and creeds co-operating in a neighbourly, helpful and respectful way. That is very different from multiculturalism, which is often wrongly assumed to mean precisely this. It does not.

    Multiculturalism is a baleful creed which, far from bringing people together drives them apart. That is because multiculturalism is not a synonym for people from different cultures all getting along together. If this were so, it would be no more than a re-statement of how all decent and civilised societies should behave.

    No, multiculturalism is the doctrine which says that no culture can ever claim precedence over any other. So there can be no hierarchy of values, and no society can uphold its historic traditions and values against any challenge. It is therefore by definition impossible for a multicultural society to uphold liberal values over their opposite – or, indeed, to uphold the fundamental democratic axiom of ‘one law for all’. It is also an oxymoron; for without an overarching set of cultural values to which everyone equally subscribes, there is no cultural glue to keep together a society -- which then disintegrates into a war of group against group, value against value and the strong versus the weak.

    It is multiculturalism which has done so much to wreck Britain; it is multiculturalism which has resulted in police neglect of black-on-black murder and gang warfare; it is multiculturalism which has helped create the anomie, amorality and utter absence of attachment to any notion of the common good which manifested itself in the anarchy on the streets of British cities.

    By contrast, how very heartening have been the many scenes of kindness between strangers, and the poignant attempts to forge common bonds in the face of such terrible loss and provocation. In this must lie our hope for the future.

  • leavingwt
  • purplesofa

    Tariq Jahan words were better than any politician that came out to speak to the people.

    great post worth repeating sammie This economic freefall has stretched the gaps between have and havenots all over the world - check out the protests in Israel over the lack of affordable housing and necessities. When you have massive unemployment and it affects a quarter of your youth - will all that rage and hopelessness - with their sense of entitlement for food, housing, clothes and mobility - coupled with a belief in their own mortality - you have action.

    To call people lazy and leeches because they don't have jobs is just another layer of fuel for everyone in that same position. A 22% unemployment rate - jobs that don't pay enough for people to live on - all that creates an atmosphere of 'who cares'. Do we foster a sense of community and responsibility when our attitude is to point a finger at a bunch of people unemployed - when those people turn and point the finger back at those who created the problems by their own corrupt actions? There is a massive disconnect between the top and the bottom. For anyone who has ever been at the bottom and suffered the barbs and shots of those 'above' them, they understand the way things work like nobody ever could unless they were down there with them.

    This does not condone the actions of those looters but we are seeing more and more of this around the world - a productive, satisified, educated populace is far more calm than a citizenry divided by class - economically, socially, geographically, racially - united you conquer - divided you fall. sammies

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