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So can the “broken society ” be repaired?

17 August 2011

This article in Spiegel Online offers some of the best analysis I‘ve yet seen for last weeks riots in London and other cities.

“In other words, it was like a sale from Hell. The greedy paid not in pounds, but with the destruction of their own neighborhoods.

Above all, the rioters zeroed in on brand name products, and if they could attack a policeman or two while they were at it, all the better. “Everyone up and roll to Tottenham,” someone calling themselves “English Frank” wrote on Twitter. “Fuck the 5-0 (police). I hope 1 dead tonight (sic).” Meanwhile, someone called “Sonny Twag” tweeted: “Want to roll Tottenham to loot. I do want a free TV. Who wudn’t (sic).”

No sooner tweeted than done. But the looting could get even more expensive than that. In the London borough of Camden, a mob broke through the windows of an O2 shop and stole mobile phones, singing as if they were at a soccer match: “O2, O2, O2, O2.” In Manchester, phone store T-Mobile, clothes shops French Connection and Miss Selfridge, department store Marks and Spencer, jeweller Swarovski and the newly-opened boutique owned by former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher were all looted. In Clapham in South London, an entire shopping center was taken apart — the only business that was spared was a bookstore. Not because they wanted to protect the books, but because they had absolutely no interest in them.

People with a romanticised ideal of revolution couldn’t believe their eyes. This was not “destroy what is destroying you”, but the Marxist idea of commodity fetishism in its most toxic form. Some even tried on looted clothes before stuffing them into their designer bags.

As the inferno raged, politicians, the media and commentators rubbed their eyes in disbelief. At the same time, there were critics who had heard David Cameron declare, before he became Prime Minister, that Great Britain in the first decade of the new millennium had become a “broken society.” Once he was in power, however, he didn’t want to know.

Education grants for children from low-income families — abolished. Also abolished in many areas were youth centers and help centers for the unemployed and pregnant. In the Lewisham area alone, five libraries were closed. What happens next? Where does it end? What is the limit? There is none. In the London borough of Haringey, which includes Tottenham, 75 percent of funding for youth services will be cut over the next three years.

So can the “broken society” be repaired?

There is an awful lot to be done. Great Britain, a country where the gap between rich and poor is wider than almost anywhere else in the Western world, can still be a miserably tough place to live, especially for the children of the poor. According to a UNICEF study, the UK is ranked as the most child-unfriendly of 21 major industrialized nations. There are 3.4 million children living below the poverty line in Britain, a seriously distressing number. And for anyone who has the misfortune of growing up in a bad neighborhood, beatings and assaults are merely part of everyday life. Some 60 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 15 become a victim of crime at least once.”

The whole article is well worth reading.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 17 August 2011 12:57 pm

    Will there be any lessons learned from this? Probably not. Is this what we can expect in the US in the next few years? Very likely if things don’t change.

  2. ed lauter permalink
    2 September 2011 8:59 pm

    Wonderful weblog!

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