Sunday, August 07, 2011

The next big thing

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When I was young, the wave of the future rolled in from the east across the North Atlantic.

The British Invasion, it was called. First, the Beatles . . . then everybody and everything. That's where we got "mod." That's where we got New Wave, too.

Now, from
NBC News' World Blog is a foreshadowing from Austerity Britain about what may well be coming to Austerity America.

As political and social protests grip the Middle East, are growing in Europe and a riot exploded in north London this weekend, here's a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?

"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?"

The TV reporter from Britain's ITV had no response. So the young man pressed his advantage. "Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere.

The truth is that discontent has been simmering among Britain's urban poor for years, and few have paid attention. Social activists say one out of two children in Tottenham live in poverty. It's one of the poorest areas of Britain. Britain's worst riots in decades took place here in 1985. A policeman was hacked to death. After these riots, the same young man pointed out, "They built us a swimming pool."

Police and local leaders in Tottenham made real progress in improving community relations in the intervening years and that's true about all of Britain. The best way to prevent crime, the theory goes, is to improve the lot of the people, then they won't need to commit crimes. But caught in a poverty and joblessness cycle, young people in many British urban areas have little hope of a better life.

So when a local 29-year-old father, described by police as a gangster, was shot dead by an officer, the response came quickly.
AS AN ANCIENT GREEK philosopher once wrote, "When the people lose hope, the fit hits the shan . . . but good."

Sadly, causing the people to lose hope is something American government and society have learned to do very, very well.

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