Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 5:37 AM

Now London is burning…

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

What happened here on Thursday night raised huge questions and we need answers. The response to that is not to loot and rob.

We have officers in hospital, some seriously injured. It’s a disgrace. This must stop. A community that was already hurting has now had its heart ripped out. The post office, shops, newsagents, the council building that deals with customer complaints, were smashed to pieces by mindless, mindless people, many of whom had come from afar intent on trouble.

(MP for Tottenham David Lammy, The Sun, August 8, 2011)

Mindless indeed.

“What happened here” – in the multi-ethnic London neighborhood of Tottenham – is that the police shot and killed a suspected black “gangster” named Mark Duggan. And this ignited a frenzy of rioting and looting the likes of which, alas, have become all too familiar.

Indeed, this seems an uncanny repeat of similar riots that broke out in this very neighborhood in 1985 after the police shot and killed a black woman during a search of her home. And those riots occurred only one week after the more infamous Brixton riots, which broke out after the police shot and killed another black woman under very similar circumstances.

Therefore, it was as easy to foresee that riots would break out after the Duggan shooting as it is difficult to understand why the police keep shooting black people under such dubious circumstances. Which means, ironically, that the facts surrounding this latest incident are hardly relevant. Besides, they depend entirely on whether they’re being recounted by the police or the rioters.

Nevertheless, I will note that it does not inspire much confidence in the police’s version of events when the bullet they claim Duggan shot at them, which compelled them to return the fire that killed him, turns out to be from “police issue ammunition”.

In any case, I believe there are only two points worth mentioning here:

The first point is actually a reiteration of the prescient warning I gave in my first commentary on the riots that had Paris burning in 2005 and which I reiterated in one on similar riots that had Athens burning in 2008, namely:

[T]he riots in France should serve notice on other developed nations that have relegated the poor to ghettos where crime and every order of vice pervade…These riots demonstrate what little spark it takes for the simmering grievances that define ghetto life to set cities ablaze and terrorize an entire country… There but for the grace of God….

(World beware: French riots affect us all, The iPINIONS Journal, November 8, 2005)

So, notwithstanding the alleged police brutality that triggers them, the reason riots continue to erupt in London is that political leaders fail to heed the categorical imperative to address the chronic unemployment, racial/religious discrimination ,and social alienation that are the long-simmering sparks that give rise to these periodic combustions.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Tottenham is a very impoverished neighborhood with the highest unemployment rate in London. Unfortunately, that Prime Minister David Cameron has rushed back from vacation and recalled Parliament – not to address these root causes, but to spearhead efforts to put out the fires – suggest that it’s only a matter of time before the next eruption…

(Incidentally, I find it interesting that so many indignant politicians are using the term “feral” to describe the rioters’ behavior. For, even though undeniably apt, this term betrays an inclination to put them down like dogs instead of treating them like the “stray” human beings they are; i.e., by socializing and assimilating them.)

The second point has to do with the distressingly self-immolating feature of these riots. For they invariably involve poor, disenfranchised, and dispossessed minorities engaging in a “destructive mania” that only results in making them poorer, more disenfranchised, and more dispossessed.

It might seem incomprehensible to an outsider that a person would engage is such wanton destruction and pillaging of his own community. But if you have no education, no job, and little prospect of being anything but a ghetto dweller, then chances are that you too would have little vested interest in the livelihood and functioning of your own neighborhood. Hell, getting locked up for rioting and looting might just provide the best hope some of these hopeless kids have of getting three-square meals and a bed on a daily basis.

Now, lest you think these are just garden-variety race riots, let me hasten to note that white middle-class anarchists seize every opportunity these days to turn even peaceful street protests into orgies of mayhem and destruction.

In Tottenham they found unwitting comrades who were like the cork on a champagne bottle that had been shaken violently for maximum combustion once uncorked.

But there seems no doubt that these anarchists and London’s well-known “opportunistic yobs” – coordinating their attacks via social networks – are the ones responsible for spreading looting and burning throughout London and other cities in the UK for a third-consecutive night of rioting last night.

Meanwhile, just as the riots in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating overshadowed the legitimate grievances about police brutality that triggered them (and only further alienated the rioters from the mainstream society), I fear the same will happen in this case.

The police have already made over 200 arrests, and that number is bound to increase significantly:

Officers are shocked at the outrageous level of violence directed against them. At least nine officers were injured overnight in addition to the 26 injured on Saturday night.

We will not tolerate this disgraceful violence. The investigation continues to bring these criminals to justice.

(Metropolitan Police Commander Christine Jones, ITV News London, August 8, 2011)

Indeed, with the purportedly aggrieved rioters causing this kind of widespread and indiscriminate lawlessness, is it any wonder the police will not find time to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding the shooting that ignited their rage?

MP Lammy is right of course: these rioters are mostly mindless idiots … intent on trouble. And the only way British authorities seem intent on dealing with them is by locking them up. Truth be told, I’m all for locking them up, and bashing a few heads in the process. But politicians are every bit as misguided as the rioters are if they think this will do anything to put a permanent lid on the simmering tinderbox London’s ghettos have become.

Furthermore, the notion that parental discipline and political condemnation will suffice to tame those who escape arrest is plainly delusional. I fully recognize that these riots reflect a poverty of values as much as a poverty of needs. But this is what distinguishes middle-class anarchists and yobs who riot for opportunistic fun from poor kids who do so to vent a lifetime of privation, victimization, alienation, and utter hopelessness. Let us not forget why and where these (and previous) riots began….

This is why targeted and sustained socialization and assimilation programs in chronically poor neighborhoods (focusing on everything from mandatory extracurricular activities to mandatory job training) provide the only hope against these recurring riots. Or, in language UK political leaders will better understand, these amoral scavengers must be properly domesticated.

But, given the (white-collar) culture of greed and corruption that led to so many MPs shamelessly padding their expenses for personal gain, these politicians would do well to appreciate the instructive hypocrisy inherent in their condemnation of the urban (i.e., black) culture that they claim led to these riots.

NOTE: I am sure British authorities will use any means necessary to ensure that these riots do not hamper ongoing preparations for the 2012 Olympics. And I am confident they will take all steps necessary to ensure that similar riots do not break out during the Games – even if that means interning profiled troublemakers for the duration….

Related commentaries:
World beware: French riots
Alienated youths in Greece

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