Taking a break from our own national troubles, I saw a disturbing video on the British daily The Guardian website purported to be shot during the ongoing London riots (more on the video later), which have now spread to other cities in Great Britain.
The riots, initially triggered by a police shooting last week of a black man and suspected gangster from Tottenham named Mark Duggan—circumstances still under investigation—are also fueled by what some are calling “a rage against exclusion from consumerist fulfillment.”
Tottenham is an ethnically diverse area of north London, troubled by gangs and guns, and, of course, what always seems to accompany gangs and guns: poverty.
According to David Lammy, Member of Parliament from Tottenham,
Tottenham already has the highest unemployment rate in London and the 8th highest in the UK.
Of the jobs that we have, most are dependent on public funding.
There was not a single word today on how the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives plan to tackle the jobs crisis that is currently occurring in Haringey.
Cutting 500,000 public sector jobs is grossly irresponsible.
These unpalatable and unnecessary cuts will be disastrous for our community. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives risk throwing us back to the 1980s, when the frustration and anger that flowed from squandered talent and relentless poverty led to social unrest.
Mr. Lammy said those things in October of 2010.
Today, the riots continue, obviously no longer only related to the original outrage over the death of Mark Duggan, but connected with a general feeling of economic deprivation that seems to have no end, at least for some members of society.
A left-of-center columnist for The Guardian, Nina Power (“There is a context to London’s riots that can’t be ignored“), thinks she can pinpoint the cause of the troubles in the UK:
Since the [governing] 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… Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures.
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.
Some of us here in America have warned that if we don’t do something about the unequal distribution of income here at home, we may not be all that far off from displays of outrage, hopefully not in the form of riots, but displays of democratic outrage that may culminate in a complete transformation of our economic system.
In short, if you like capitalism and want to keep it, you need to pay attention to the burgeoning income and wealth disparity in the United States.
That having been said, about that video: If it is what it is alleged to be, it is disturbing not because it features some grisly violence, but because it features a casual disregard not only for humanity, but for civilization.
And despite left-wingers like Nina Power legitimately arguing for an understanding of the context for criminal behavior, it is hard to understand those who have little to no regard for the rights of others, especially in a society as civilized—and amenable to democratic change—as the United Kingdom.
Here is the short video, and I am one liberal who wouldn’t mind if they round up and lock up the perpetrators of this crime and throw away the key. Such people don’t belong on the streets with the civilized: