Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London's Burning

I am half English, and have been watching with disgust and disbelief how small groups of thugs and rioters are able to roam the streets, break into, loot, and burn private property with impunity in London suburbs and tonight also in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, and Leeds. The flagrant disregard for human life and property is all too clear, with 17 year olds rushing electronic stores to get themselves a plasma TV or looting off-licence stores for alcohol and crisps.

The shocking recording below is made by a BBC journalist interviewing young girls who participated in the riots. 
Leana Hosea speaks to Croydon looters on @bbcworldservice (mp3)

Personally I have two strong impressions about the events that have occurred and are happening now:
1. The total disregard for law and order and the sense of entitlement that these youth have is coupled with a lack of concern and ownership of their local communities. They talk about "the Government" and "the rich people" as if they were a separate entity or people altogether who don't deserve any respect or even sympathy rather than a part of their own country.
2. The people stood by as their homes, businesses, and neighbourhoods were looted, wrecked, and burned (I am aware of a few incidences where this was not the case). One man stood watching them loot and burn his house for almost 2 hours complaining that the police never came in time to stop them. When they did arrive the police got almost as much of the blame for the destructions as the looters.

There is a very fitting quote about this from Democracy in America written by Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s:

"In certain countries of Europe the natives consider themselves as a kind of settlers, indifferent to the fate of the spot upon which they live. The greatest changes are effected without their concurrence and (unless chance may have apprised them of the event) without their knowledge; nay more, the citizen is unconcerned as to the condition of his village, the police of his street, the repairs of the church or of the parsonage; for he looks upon all these things as unconnected with himself, and as the property of a powerful stranger whom he calls the Government. He has only a life-interest in these possessions, and he entertains no notions of ownership or of improvement. This want of interest in his own affairs goes so far that, if his own safety or that of his children is endangered, instead of trying to avert the peril, he will fold his arms, and wait till the nation comes to his assistance. This same individual, who has so completely sacrificed his own free will, has no natural propensity to obedience; he cowers, it is true, before the pettiest officer; but he braves the law with the spirit of a conquered foe as soon as its superior force is removed: his oscillations between servitude and license are perpetual. When a nation has arrived at this state it must either change its customs and its laws or perish: the source of public virtue is dry, and, though it may contain subjects, the race of citizens is extinct. Such communities are a natural prey to foreign conquests, and if they do not disappear from the scene of life, it is because they are surrounded by other nations similar or inferior to themselves: it is because the instinctive feeling of their country’s claims still exists in their hearts; and because an involuntary pride in the name it bears, or a vague reminiscence of its bygone fame, suffices to give them the impulse of self- preservation."

This lack of ownership and responsibility is most blatantly exhibited by the looters, but also somewhat by the spectators and targeted communities. Many sat down and waited for the police while gangs of sometimes as few as 15 yobs aged between 12 and 20 were allowed to destroy their neighbourhoods while they waited for the police to intervene. It is easy to see that in a city of many millions, 6000 police officers could never cover it all. Now, I am not supporting or proposing vigilantism, but when your family or property is being threatened by wanton destruction it is the right and duty of a person and a neighbourhood to defend it.

So let the communities gather together those willing to defend it, as a shield against this random terror. Last night they burnt a Tesco store. If I had been the manager I would have tried to prevent it by opening up the sports section and making this announcement over the loud speakers: "A group of kids and thugs are heading this way to break, loot, and burn your cars and this store. Free bats, clubs, and sticks for every man that wants to take a stand against these thugs!"

If any of you are under any delusion about what kind of people these are, just watch the video below.