The London Riots: Put on Your Seatbelt Main Street
Dateline London: Over 1,200 arrested; 16,000 police, and the violence just moves to other towns. Children as young as 9 years old are being arrested by police. Prime Minister David Cameron says, "If you're old enough to throw a rock through a window, you're old enough to go to jail." Are the London riots a harbinger of things to come?
Those watching the carnage both nearby and worldwide cry out:
How can these young people just run through town smashing and breaking everything-don't they care about the things they are destroying?
What they are doing is against the law-don't they care about the law?
Burning buildings and looting and turning over cars- don't they know that the people who own those cars, didn't do anything to them?
Answers: No, No, No.
Desperate people do desperate things. If there's a message from Main Street England to Main Street America in this mayhem and chaos, it's that hoodlums and vandals are acting badly, put on your seat belts.
In England, like every where else, it's not just the austerity gutting the coffers or acts like the one in which police shot the unarmed and then lied to cover it up, that's causing all of this unrest. It's not just a few bad apples convincing others to let the thief inside of them run with somebody else's goods. It's a culture gone sideways, the creed of winner take all. I got mine and we don't care about you, so get out of the way.
John F. Kennedy said, "Make a peaceful revolution impossible and you guarantee a violent one." Why has history always proven that true so many times? Kennedy was a student of history and understood the toils of the Boxer Rebellion in China at the turn of the 20th century. He studied the rise and fall of colonialists and oligarchs in Europe and Africa. He was very familiar with how mass inequities fuel peasant revolts and how the disenfranchised can lose their self-worth and take to the streets.
To suggest, as Prime Minister Cameron did, that it's gangs leading these riots, that it's criminals and low-lifes that are behind the violence, is disingenuous to those screaming to be heard and insulting to those in harm's way. No doubt the criminal element is opportunistic at such times, and they are getting the spotlight. And there is no doubt that to inflict personal injury on others is unacceptable, but to duck any responsibility to the disconnect of those who see the future wrenching back to no more than a choke-hold, would be a very dangerous case of denial. What are those who are watching their future being thrown under the bus to do?
It's not just to hunger for food that makes one feel meager and deprived. The crowds are mostly young because they're the ones who are watching their futures get bargained away to the same ones that have left the country with their jobs They are the ones who are watching their parents' safety-nets fly out the door as if in a rummage sale, and how they can't or won't do anything about it.
The young are being asked to drink reconditioned sewer water because clean water supplies are dwindling and wonder in what condition it will be in 20 years? They know the infrastructures are crumbling, that the rivers are polluted and little to nothing is being done about it. They see the degree to which the media farms their every move, they see a society squeezing their thin wallets for whatever the market says it's worth, and moreover they see how they are being squeezed out of any say in their future – marginalized and excluded from the debate.
Force-fed exclusion surely breeds contempt. No more should someone make excuses for this madness then should they identify it all by the actions of the portion that are criminally inclined. To see little more that a future of deficiencies is enough to make anyone mad as hell and not willing to take it any more. What are the young to do? It wouldn't be a stretch to deny those who have nurtured and fed this culture of winner take all, any part in what it will take to fix it, to be more inclusive, not exclusive, so to improve the quality of life for us all.
Where are the parents? Maybe it is time for them to get off their butts and be responsible for the conditions they are forcing their children to live under – either through action or inaction. Maybe it's time to make sure the water their kids will be drinking in a decade will quench their thirst, rather then make them sick. There is a reason for revolution, it is usually born from the disconnect between generations and the denial of its very existence. As JFK said "prevent a peaceful revolution and you guarantee a violent one." What will we do – put on our seat belts, or start correcting our mistakes.
© 2011 John Rehill