Racist Discrimination, Poverty,
and the Urge to Right Wrongs
Reflections Provoked by the
Present Social Explosion in Several Neglected, Run-down Suburbs of Britain
For several days in a row, the
press and television has been showing us images of rioting youth, street
scenes that let us recall Watts and Newark, burning ghettos, exploding
in anger. Yes, for several days we have seen the same street scenes: We
saw the stores set aflame, the fire that consumed a Sony warehouse, a couple
of houses that were burning in poor suburbs of Britain, and angry youngsters
confronting the police. At first in parts of London, later on also in Birmingham,
Liverpool, and Manchester. The media and the politicians try to tell us
again and again that these are thugs. They tell us it is wanton, gratuitious
violence that we see. And the television chains repeat the same scenes
that show looting kids, young people angrily battling the police, and
even crowds which face the firefighters that appear on the scene.
Most of these “thugs” are very
young, many just 13 or 14, and with few exceptions the oldest seem to be
18 or 20. What is at the root of their rage?
The apparent spark that set the
suburbs aflame was the shooting of a man in his late twenties. A father
of three kids who’ll be waiting for him. They’ll miss him, just like their
mother – his partner, who’ll have to get along without him
now. It is not clear whether the man was native born or had an immediate
immigrant background. He was what people here call a ‘colored’ man. Britain
is race-conscious, in fact racist. And we have many reasons to believe
that many officers in the police force are racists.
Our impression is that the cops
were lying in wait for this man. Very likely a small criminal, engaged
perhaps in thievery or in drug-peddling. It is difficult to dispute their
right to do so. But why did they shoot him?
There were insinuations, at first,
that he had shot at the police as well, and perhaps was the first to shoot.
Which would make what then happened self-defense instead of man-slaughter.
But it is clear by now that this allegation is untenable. If there had
been solid evidence, it would have been presented in the news and more
details would have surfaced. In the community that this man belonged to,
the suspicion is alive that he may have had a gun in his car, yes, but
was taken by surprise and never had a chance to shoot. Probably, seeing
that a trap had been set, he did not even intend to reach for his gun and
shoot at the officers who killed him. Did they do it in cold blood? In
the community of “underdogs,” of poor, excluded, discriminated people that
this man was part of, many say that the armed cops never take on a real
gangster. They are afraid. Why risk one’s precious life? The pay is not
good enough. The chance that the other guy will shoot the cop is real.
So it’s always the small guys who get killed. The guy in the kitchen who
verbally threatens to kill his mother-in-law, but has threatened to do
so before and still didn’t do it. If the neighbors hadn’t called the cops,
both this guy and the woman he threatened to kill would still be alive.
The typical overreaction, the failure to have a psychologist deal with
the man – they have seen that. And they remember the youngster who
stole a motorbike; the cops pursuing him shot him in the back. That’s their
experience with the cops. And now this family man.
Yes, a family man. With a wife,
kids. That makes it even worse. And that he practically got the death penalty
without trial, because he was ‘colored.’ And perhaps a thief. Perhaps some
kind of little crook.
The community that this man belonged
to is to a large extent exposed to precarious conditions. Undoubtedly they
know that a certain percentage among them, seeing no other way, earn their
living in questionable if not criminal ways. Okay then, perhaps this was
the case with the man killed by the cops. Perhaps these police officers
had been tracking him for weeks, finding out what he was doing. Of course,
people ask, Why was he in that minicab when they shot him?
How could he afford a taxi?
Quite a few people who are excluded,
have mixed feelings – both about criminals and the police. It is almost
normal when you are living in a run-down suburb, amid other people
most of whom are kind of poor. Some, obviously, very poor. Outrageously
poor, you might say. Poor and downtrodden. Poor and devoid of hope, in
certain cases. Poor and embittered, perhaps even angry, in other cases.
Poor and gloomy. Poor and energetic. Poor and smiling, and undisturbed.
Poor, poor, poor and coping. Or unable to cope with their situation, and
sinking, ever deeper, into despair.
Who, among them, had ever what
you might call a truly positive experience with the police? Or quite generally,
with “the authorities”? With government? The government that exists
in Britain today is closing libraries and youth clubs. It is cutting down
on spending for schools. It is looking the other way as so many youth,
and an even higher percentage of ‘colored’ youth, hang around in the street,
unable to find a job.
In many of the poor suburbs that
saw riots it’s a mixed population that you get. Mixed, in many respects.
In terms of jobs or joblessness, for instance. Thus, in terms
And then of course in terms of
‘ethnic’ or, as we would prefer to say, socio-cultural’ background.
Some people in the riot-torn
apparently are native ‘White’ Britons. Largely working class people. Though
there are ‘white’ lower middle class folks, too. Particularly, the shop-owners.
And then of course there are
those who conventionally are referred to as ‘colored.’ As if the ‘white’people
were truly white. As if Chinese people were yellow, and Native Americans
truly red. And ‘Blacks’ black – rather than light brown like café
au lait, or dark like the coffee beans, or darker still, like dark mahoganny.
Or still another beautiful brown.
Today, most of these so-called
‘colored’ people – Arabs, West Indians, West and South and East Africans,
people of Pakistani and Chinese and Indonesian, Indian and even Vietnamese
and Filipino origin – are Britons, too. Britons, however,
who are not necessarily accepted as British by quite a few ‘white’ British
people. Why? Well, they or their parents or grandparents hail from
overseas. Yes, they came to Britain from many countries; not just Pakistan,
the West Indies, China, Africa…
In addition to those who have
attained British citizenship, there are the others – the more recent arrivals,
still without citizen status. Some are considered legal immigrants and
others are illegalized by the authorities.
If we disregard citizenship and
legal or illegal status, there are first, second and third generation
immigrants who inhabit these poor neighborhoods, and they live side by
side with those whose ancestors have lived in Britain for hundreds of years.
It is especially among quite
a few of the first, second and third generation immigrants – people
who, in addition to being poor, are subject to racial discrimination –
that mixed feelings with regard to the police abound. This cannot really
surprise us, in the case of a community of ‘colored’ people which is marginalized
and excluded in many ways.
Can we generalize, however? Are
there no contrary feelings and attitudes? Probably, yes. But to what extent?
And is it really possible to say that such a position or view which is
more positive with regard to the police, is merely the position of a minority
within a minority? Something rare, untypical, bizarre?
One thing is clear. The immigrant
community is a homogenous community because their experience of discrimination
and exclusion makes it homogenous. And is is also a fragmented community,
in a certain sense: After all, these people come from different places
and have therefore belonged to different socio-cultures in the past (African,
West Indian, Pakistani, Chinese etc.).
In addition to this, there is
a certain amount of social differentiation. After all, they include shop
owners, hairdressers, restaurant owners, operators of launderettes etc.
And then, of course, there is are those who are wage earners. Some with
steady jobs, others casual laborers, temporary workers, etc. Then, there
is a large number of jobless people. Some may be languishing at home,
aimlessly watching television. Others (although officially without a job)
may be selling smuggled cigarettes. Or they are perhaps involved in something
else, something that at any rate is not legal.
Although interconnected in many
ways with “the rest of British society”, it is a microscosm that is a world
apart from “normal” British middle class existence. Or from that other,
loftier universe – the world of the corporate “elite,” the world
of Murdoch and his people who apparently are prone to break the law and
lie about it, the world of the out-of-touch, quite typically
Oxford educated leaders of Britain’s large political parties.
It is a working class reality
that the bulk of the immigrant community experiences. It’s the reality
of people belonging to the working class who have a job; and the reality
of working class women and men who have lost their jobs; and the reality
of young people who never got a job. Some of them, for this very
reason, have joined youth gangs. Is it in order to avoid boredom? Or in
order to regain a sense of belonging? Is it because of the considerable
level of poverty, and because gangs promise “income”? At any rate, many
gang members have drifted into the shady, shabby world of drug consumption.
And of crime, of course, that helps “finance” their addiction. And, perhaps,
a bit more than that…
But whether involved in crime
or not, almost nobody in this community would call the cops in case of
a q uarrel with a neighbor. Or to regain an object that was taken away
by somebody. Or for another reason. It is not done. It would almost be
considered perverse and unethical to do so.
Basically, such distance, such
skepticism that we find in this community with regard to the police is
a logical result of a lot of negative experience with “the authorities.”
It is an attitude that always was typical of the working class which experienced
cops on the other side of the barricades. From Peterloo to the great miners’
strike that was defeated by measures imposed by the Thatcher government.
It is true that among segments of the British working class, the historical
skepticism with regard to the police has waned, the more people began to
consider themselves part of the middle class. But among immigrant workers
and their offspring, the typical aversity and distrust has not receded,
by and large. There never was a good reason why it should have waned.
As a matter of fact, quite a
few poor people, and this includes poor ‘colored’ people, are capable of
solidarity with those among their folk who get in trouble with the law.
Let’s say, you encounter feelings
of compassion, if not a certain tacit understanding. People reveal such
sentiment for instance when they are told about someone who is trying to
survive in a place like London as an illegal immigrant. Everybody knows
London is a terribly expensive place. Everybody knows it is almost impossible
not to break the law at least a little bit if you try to make ends meet
as a non-registered, officially non-existent, “illegal” immigrant.
And knowing this, having experienced
this perhaps, in the distant or not so distant past, feelings of
sympathy are evoked by stories about an acquaintance who is an “illegal”
It is not rare that people refuse
to denouce someone in a hard and unforgiving way when they learn that he
is involved in petty crime. Of course, they prefer not to hear about it.
But when they do, they shrug their shoulder and try to forget about it.
In a way, they accept these things
as a part of life. At least as long as they are not victims of theft themselves.
And if the guy is not committing serious crimes, say, murder. Or peddling
hard drugs or other serious things. Shoplifting certainly is not considered
a serious crime, except by the shop owners in these poor neighborhoods.
Theft is considered to be bad if you take something that belongs to the
poor fellow next door. Unless he is a businessman. Quite a few of
these people seem to see the gap between their own situation and that of
businesspeople, even if the latter have no more than a small store. Do
they sense the different way things in society are perceived by “entrepreneurs”?
Very often, the shopowner’s attitude is unforgiving when it comes to theft,
or other forms of illegal behavior. Which doesn’t preclude him from engaging
in tax evasion.
By and large, at least, the shopowner’s
view is not typical of what most poor people think in a poor neighborhood.
He may be poor like them, but his views tend to be middle class. He craves
to be respectable. He may vote for a chap like Cameron.
By most poor people in the area,
however, things are seen from a different perspective than that of the
law books, the middle class, and the police. Everyone knows that people
have to survive somehow, economically. And usually they know from
experience how difficult this can be.
The media, the police, and leaders
of the three major parties in Britain have spoken disdainfully of the rioters.
They refer to them as a rotten underclass, living in sickening conditions,
and they try to tell us that there exist corners in Britain which have
turned totally corrupt and morally deficient. Well, there are those who
think that Downing Street No. 10 is a pretty suspicious place. There are
those who think that Mr. Cameron is not particularly qualified to talk
about morality. We could perhaps talk of their morality and ours, two different
moral standards, embodying very different values. In the competition driven
world of Cameron, Milliband, Clegg, a certain ability to manipulate public
opinion is considered to be okay. And it’s okay to use trickery in order
to outmanouevre a political competitors. It’s okay for people like
Blair and Brown and Cameron to meet frequently with Mr. Murdoch or his
son, or his high-ranking personnel even though everybody knew about the
perversity of Murdoch’s New of the World and Fox News and so on. And Cameron
could have gotten wind of the criminal methods they relied on, had he wanted
to. Including the fact that they bribed the police.
In the world governed by feelings
of solidarity and mutual help, a different sense of justice exists. People
know instinctively that the “big guys” rob and steal and pillage. They
pillaged the former colonies in the past. They continue to pillage that
part of the world today. They pay miserly, unfair wages. They enact
laws that pretend to define social policy while stealing the bread out
of the mouth of the hungry. As far as solidarity is concerned, the poorest
part of the working class, that is to say, the underpaid which include
many immigrants and the unemployed which include many young people and
especially young immigrants, are not necessarily deficient if we are to
compare them with the better paid, among the regularly employed. On the
contrary, there are those who suspect that feelings of solidarity tend
to decrease the more people feel they have made it, and begin to embrace
If, however, we look at the bulk
of the native-born working class in Britain and also in other countries
of Europe, the core of what the media consider to be a ‘silent majority,’
it is strange to see them as a main target group of Cameron’s moralizing
invectives against the protesting people whose outburst we have witnessed.
Does he assume, and do the media assume that these workers are loyal defenders
of law and order? It is not a widely known fact among the members of the
upper and middle class that the moral attitudes of most working people
differ from theirs. Working people have an acute sense of justice, and
they see social justice as sorely deficient in modern society. It is what
gave rise to the mythology surrounding the figure of Ned Kelly, in Australia.
Or, at an even earlier time, Robin Hood in Britain. Working people instinctively
reject big gangsterism. But they feel that it is okay if people correct
wrongs on their own, in their small, modest way. In other words, working
class moral standards quite generally do deviate from middle-class “normality.”
And this even though quite a few workers, due to their skills or incomes,
do consider themselves part of the middle class.
Let’s look at a few examples
that will make this quite comprehensible. It is a well-known fact among
members of the profession that a considerable number of truck drivers routinely
divert diesel from the tank of the company-owned truck they drive, putting
the pinched fuel into the tank of their private car. Among bricklayers
it is considered normal that people take home considerable quantities of
bricks and cement from construction sites without guilt feelings. Car companies
and other firms feel compelled to check bags of workers leaving the plant
because they fear that tools will be taken away. (In the past, this was
not so much a problem in Britain because, in contrast to the situation
on the continent, British skilled workers brought their own tool-box.)
Shop girls account for a lot of goods that ‘disappear’ in stores.
There is no real sense of guilt involved in such acts. It is rather likely
that most people feel justified when they act as they do, taking away this
and that from their employer. There is a sense of being denied a fair wage;
so in fact they think they are privately righting wrongs that the law does
For anybody who is aware of this,
it must seem quite strange that a considerable number of British workers
apparently succumb to the influence of the law and order discourse propagated
by the media. Is this the impact of the famous British legalism? Probably
not. And yet, it is not unlikely that many workers have indeed joined the
middle class and the political “elite” in crying shame when they saw televised
images of the riots and read about the rampage attributed to “thugs.” Obviously,
a humane feeling of pity comes into play when we see an old man crying
because his barbershop has been devastated. And people are shocked and
will say, “This goes too far” when people are killed in the course of a
riot. A friend once mentioned how his aunt, a chocolate factory worker
in her fifties, commented on a bank robbery that had just occurred. She
said, “If they haven’t killed anybody, I don’t mind it if they escape safely.
Let’s hope they’ll be happy, with all that money.” It’s a typical working
class attitude. If you kill somebody, especially a poor little guy like
you and me, you cross a red line. If not, if it’s just the violation of
property rights, it’s not necessarily a terrible thing. But then, the attitude
of that working woman is not shared by every worker. Some will feel jealousy;
they’ll envy those among their class who take something illegally. And
rather than copying their action, they will cry foul. Others, politically
more aware, will critique individualist ways of “righting wrongs,” claiming
that is does not lead to more justice in an unjust society. Still others,
authoritarian types, will denounce any breach of the dominant rules of
the game. Clearly, racism also comes into play in a few cases. Some
working people see arson and murder committed by “others,” by “foreigners.”
And clearly, many are refusing to understand the situation of the immigrant
community, a community whose young people – not all of them, but quite
a few, in places like Tottenham – were among the rioters. But those who
are all to ready to denounce the indignant rioters because most are young
and unemployed and because many share an immigrant background, seem to
forget that our present society is no immaculate place where the righteous
and the wrongdoers can be told apart without much difficulty. Their penchant
for law and order is ideological; it is possible only because the laxity
with regard to company property that is widespread among members of the
working class is somehow denied or “forgotten.” The stern “moral”
position assumed vis-à-vis “the others” reflects the success of
the elite’s strategy to pit the “immigrant” worker against the “white”
British worker, and vice versa. Some “authochtonous” workers sees in in
every “foreign” worker a competitor ready to work for less pay; they see
in the unemployed kid of the “foreign” worker somebody who consumes
part of the shrinking funds still set aside to finance the reduced and
imperilled “social safety net.” So there exists a competition, fanned by
employers. And there exists jealousy, fanned by right-wing populist politicians
like Cameron and by the media that echo xenophobic populist discourse.
In many cases, the divide-and-rule tactics of the dominant social class
seem to work. To what extent? That’s something people will disagree on.
Some suppose that the working class has been thoroughly fragmented whereas
others would say that beneath the appearances of ideological division within
the class, there is the underlying basic experience of an intensified “class
struggle from above” that will have a unifying effect, in the long run.
For the immigrant community,
the situation is pretty clear. By and large, most of them cannot afford
a double standard. Solidarity, within the community, is essential for them.
Having to choose, many emotionally side with a man who may have been a
gang member and even a small crook, a man who belonged to their community,
who was probably hard pressed and subjected to extremely difficult circumstances.
They are on his side at least in that moment when they learn that he has
been shot by the police. Yes, having to choose, they’d rather side with
him than siding with the forces of order, the police.
It is clear, however, that property
owners, business people, both within the immigrant community and within
mainstream society, hold different views about riots because riots endanger
property. Regardless of ethnic or socio-cultural background, middle class
existence gives rise to a different ‘world view,’ a different ethics.
And this is true even if you can speak only of the miserly semblance of
such middle class existence, in the case of self-employed (autochtonous
or immigrant) people who hardly eke out a living, operating a small shop
in a poor, ethnically mixed neighborhood…
Today, a refusal to comprehend
the specific situation of Britain’s poor first, second, and third generation
immigrants characterizes most middle class Britons. It has become an entrenched
attitude because ‘respect for property’ was always a middle-class attitude
and because the mass media, with their images and their typical discourse,
have infected the minds of people. Certainly the middle class, and even
a part of the working class. In theory, and that is to say, superficially,
law and order matters today for what is probably a majority in Britain.
To this extent, the dominant media and the politicians, with their law
and order rhetorics, are probably fairly successful. They denounce the
riots, the explosion that has been triggered unthinkingly if not in cold
blood by the police. And it is by no means only a faction of the population
– say, the more xenophobic Britons, or those who clearly embrace
authoritarian values and who tend to behave accordingly – who will
This is in stark contrast with
the overwhelming feeling tacitly shared in the ‘immigrant community’ that
the explosion in the run-down neighborhoods was understandable and, in
the last analysis, provoked.
On the other hand, we must once
again remember that distrust of the police is not intrinsically an ethnic
attitude, found only among poor immigrants. If this impression exists today,
it is a historic result of a more recent development. In a way, distrust
of the police was common “proletarian” attitude for a long time. It was
very typical among working people in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. It
is an attitude that faded into the background and that, in part, vanished
when workers began to feel “middle class.” If today this attitude
survives most prominently in a cornered, excluded community, among
“colored” working class people, employed and unemployed, it survives
here because of the mixture of two factors, “race” and “class” – the typical
economic marginalization, extreme exploitation and at the same time
excessive exposure to unemployment of this segment of the working population,
which is experiencing exclusion and stark poverty in combination with scarcely
camouflaged racism and continued extreme discrimination. But the fact that
we find this attitude here does not mean that it doesn’t exist at all in
the “white” British working class. Say, among those who consciously see
themselves as part of the Left. Or among jobless young people who are not
at all part of an immigrant community.
In the community where the deadly
encounter with the police happened, almost everyone agrees that it was
bound to produce a reaction – just like the videotaped beating of
Rodney King, the Afro-American citizen brutalized by members of the LAPD,
the Los Angeles police force, was bound to produce a reaction at the time,
Why was that young man shot dead,
people ask themselves. Was it necessary? They see it as part of the reality
they experience, a reality tainted by racism, police brutality, discrimination.
Quite a few people in the community
of poor “colored” immigrants vaguely think that the man killed in their
London suburb, a father of four kids, had to make ends meet. They know
that he was compelled to do so in a context of considerable joblessness,
recession, austerity policies. If he had turned to illegal activities,
did he have an alternative? Difficult to say. Maybe not. And maybe he was
just fed up with living on a few morsels thrown to him and his family,
as if they were pigs.
In the the minds of many of those
who form this community that the dead man belonged to, the dire economic
situation is almost inevitably added to the general picture of discrimination
suffered by “colored people.” It is a discrimination almost automatically
directed against “colored people” in the first place, they feel. In many
contexts, such discrimination is real. But especially in the context of
the job market.
Does it exonerate the dead man
if, in fact, it should turn out that he had become a crook? Not quite.
But to shoot him simply goes too far.
The young who revolted – most
of them belonging to the same community as the killed man – comprehend
such facts as much as their elders, or better. The older people of the
immigrant community are part of a generation that is more resigned
to the unacceptable. Theirs is a generation that, confronted with racist
discrimination, has still been able, by and large, to secure menial jobs.
And for this very reason, it is also a generation that is less affected
by unemployment than the young people of their community.
We all know that today all of
the British working class suffers, due to austerity policies and due to
the other effects of the economic crisis. The rate of unemployment is rising.
The young suffer more than middle-aged working people. And among the young,
the kids from poor families of immigrants mentally classified as “colored”
by employers are even more affected than the “white” kids.
Isn’t this the fundamental reason
why the young rioters identified so strongly with the murdered man? If
indeed he was a guy who broke into warehouses, if he was a guy who peddled
marijuana, if he belonged to a group of people who stole cars, that’s suddenly
secondary for them. That’s just things he may have taken. He was a loser
like them. A man pushed to the margin. Excluded. Then, the cops took
his life. Things don’t count so much, if compared with a life that is taken.
But then, as an act of revenge, they started to loot. To take things, to
destroy things helps to quell the thirst for revenge. It is their way of
letting of steam. No, they didn’t want to take a life for a life: that
it happened nonetheless means that something veered out of control.
They think that it was the police,
the State, the society that fetishizes order although it contributes to
disorder, to chaos, that was guilty in the first place. The life of that
man from Tottenham was taken though he could have been arrested. He was
one of them, one of the poor ”colored” people in a poor part of town.
If the young who rioted see it
like this, their parents probably see it in a very similar way. They
just don’t have the guts to revolt. In the eyes of many people either exposed
to or closely aware of all the racist discrimination and the excessive
economic hardship that exists in the immigrant community, the situation
that these people find themselves in makes it very understandable that
such an explosion occurred. But of course, many young and not so young
people without an immigrant background participated as well. The wealthy,
accustomed to reaping profits, denounce their “greed.” The ideologues
who dominate the debate in the media, and this includes almost all the
politicians, speak of depravity. It is so easy to preach that we should
value “being” rather than “having” if you have everything. In a society
which fetishizes commodities, an 18 year old youth is denounced as greedy
and immoral because he wanted and took what he saw as something beautiful.
Just one thing is what he took: a sweater he could never have afforded.
It was a longing for beauty, a very natural longing, an urge not to remain
clad in rags. This young man had never held a job. Do you want to blame
him, rather than the economy that had no work for him? He only learned
to read and write when he was already 15. Do you want to blame him, rather
than a society that neglected him? The “righteous” denounce him as immoral,
as a greedy thief and worse yet, a looter who profited from the unrest,
the rioting, the confrontation between angry protesters and the police.
It is so easy to see the hurt, neglected child in him who, perhaps for
the first time in his life, touched something that was beautifully done.
But not for him, no, for those who can afford it. When the police arrested
him and took a photo of him, he looked ashamed. Why? Who should be ashamed?
He, who was robbed of so many opportunities?
Yes, of course we know looting
is no answer in the end. Riots by people driving by rage and frustration
and anger do not help to bring about fundamental improvements. And yet
we know the riots were in a way an inevitable answer to a death that was
not inevitable, and to a social situation in the suburbs that is not inevitable.
Those who are not meek, those who are able to stand up and say no to what
is unacceptable, were perhaps instinctively, spontaneously seeking a way
out of their deplorable circumstances.
In another way, that was already
what the killed man may have tried to do. Perhaps he was trying to find
his individual escape route, for himself and his family – people
stuck in poverty, in a hopeless place. The situation experienced
by an excluded, marginalized person makes it pretty understandable if he
turns to petty crime, to theft and things like that. People don’t want
to get entangled in crime. But in a run-down housing estate, full of
unemployed people, folks are not unrealistic. They know that for some,
no other escape route, no other mode of survival remains open. If all the
good roads are closed, people know that in order to survive, some will
choose the crooked road. And anyway, don’t the “respectable” people do
it, too? The merchant at the corner who sells smuggled cigarettes? The
people in their Westend mansions who become experts in legal and illegal
tax evasion? And what about the financial analyst, in the City, for
instance, and the banker, the broker, the real estate agent – all those
who contributed to the financial crisis?
The people in the immigrant community,
including the young, are not unaware of this. And to see policemen bribed,
and top personnel of Scotland Yard compelled to resign from office, and
the prime minister implicated in the Murdoch scandal, thanks to his close
and frequent direct and indirect contacts with this morally extremely questionable
person, can only have contributed to their impression that that the small
fry are dealt with severely, even outside the law, while the big scoundrels
get away with almost everything.
To those who grieve because lives
have been lost, they can say, “We grief, as well, for a murdered man, and
we are sorry for what happened to your loved ones, as a consequence of
that angry revolt which that man’s death caused.”
To the rest, they might say,
“Isn’t it strange how you evoke law and order when a few shops have been
looted and a few houses burned, because of our sudden, blind anger. Whereas
you, in cold blood, continue to pillage the world, setting entire countries
aflame, causing the death of hundreds of thousands – in Vietnam, the Falklands,
Iraq, Yugoslavia, again Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya?”
For the prime minister and for
those high ranking people who have been entrusted with law enforcement,
none of these considerations matter very much. They continue to insist
that what happened is not acceptable. The perpetrators are “thugs.” They
will be tried and the prime minister is expressing his expectation that
severe sentences will be handed out. He sees no reason why thirteen-year-olds
should not be treated as if they were adults. They were part of the revolting
youth who protested against the death of a man who died under questionable
circumstances, a man belonging to their community, a community kept at
the margins, excluded, discriminated, harrassed, a target of racism, again
No, there is no excuse for their
revolt, for that sudden outbreak of anger, frustration, rage. The man,
Mr. Cameron, has just returned from his vacation in Tuscany, which he interrupted,
because of the riots. Hesitatingly, angrily, perhaps. But his manners do
not allow this man born with a silver spoon in his mouth to show this anger
openly. He appears on television and he tells all of us that draconic measures
are required. Maybe, the army will be asked to shoot at rioters next time.
And the Labor Party, the workers’ party led by the elitist Milliband joins
the chorus of those asking for “More police, tougher action by the police,
stern sentences for the culprits.” This is Britain, after all, a class
society where even the accent of someone like Cameron or Milliband
tells us on which side of the big divide that separates the poor and the
wealthy, the working classes and all the others, such a guy was born. It
has not changed, for more than 200 years. And it is not so long ago when
thin, wretched 8-year-old boys and girls in this country were hanging from
the gallows, sentenced to death by stern upper class judges for crimes
such as “thievery.”
Aug. 12, 2011
Riots Happen Here?
has swept Europe and the Middle East.
Is America next?
in Strathclyde, Glasgow (The Guardian)
and Hackney riots:
'We don't want
trouble. We want a job' - audio
Jugend in der Krise
A generation without a future: the young generation
in Europe and
the economic crisis (in German)
Gegen die staatliche
Unterdrückung der britischen Jugend www.wsws.org.de
Against the suppression of young Britons by the
State (in German)
"Da hilft nur
The only remedy is a radically different political
course (in German)
Nach den Krawallen
After the riots in Britain: Cameron
considers deploying the army
British youth gangs
B. Greenberg, “Why Voters Tune Out
Democrats”, in: The New York Times, July 30, 2011
Occupy Wall Street
We Are Change
decentralized solidarity movements
Occupy Wall Street protests
Z Communications AND Z mag
of the U.S. Left", in: Z Communications
Occupy Wall Street Entreaty &
Spanish Anarchists Interview
(Z Communications, Sept.2011)
Local to global.org
Schneider, "From Occupy
Wall Street to Occupy Everywhere"
(The Nation, Oct. 31, 2011)
E. Jacobsen, "Wall Street Already Finding
Loopholes in Financial Reform Legislation"
Story, "A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives"
tax cut for the rich
Old US Groups Forge Broad Alliances"
on the global crisis
IN ENGLISH (ON SPAIN)
Democracy real YA!
Democracia real YA!
'Indignant' Protests Heat Up Election Campaign"
(IPS news net, Oct.4,2011)
Demonstrators Marching to
Brussels to Protest Effects
of Crisis" (IPS news net, July 30, 2011)
Drago, "Spain: Streets Paved
with Evicted Families" (IPS, Oct.7, 2011)
Students in Chile are protesting against
the privatization of higher education that took place
under Pinochet, and against the underfinanced
public education system
net, Oct.20, 2011)
the general strike (Oct.19-20,2011)
on the general strike
Athens (Greece) indymedia
POESY'S CALL TO JOIN
THE GENERAL STRIKE
Argyros on the general strike
Real.gr, Oct.20, 2011)
Al Ahram Weekly
Arab Spring and the crisis of the elite"
Azouz, Egypt govt mulls
raising workers' incentives
in bid to thwart labor strikes
Fouad Najem, "Forbidden"
Ztg. on the Stuttgart demonstration
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