Wednesday, August 10, 2011

british in denial about their "arab" spring

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GlobeandMail | This isn't the Arab Spring. But the riots in London and beyond do pose a challenge to one of the world's most stable democracies. As Home Secretary Theresa May put it, Britain relies on the consent of communities, not on water cannons, to keep social order. And when thousands of people are hell-bent on destroying order, even if for no other purpose than the cruel joy of it, it does tend to raise the question of what happened to the consent.

But that is a question that can be dealt with down the road, when the streets are calm again. One doesn't ask a young man with a Molotov cocktail in his hand why he wishes to burn the city down. One calls in the police.

Riots involving thousands of hooded people rolling from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and city to city are not, however, easy to beat back. David Green, the director of Civitas, a British think tank, verges on panic when he writes that “being reluctant to use force can be admirable. But when events have got out of control, the fullest use of police powers is justified.” He implies that anything goes. But how many deaths would be justified? Democratic societies need to protect public order and property, but not at any cost to life.

What is happening is sickening to watch – the mob mind unable to conceive of anything beyond the twisted pleasures of destruction. The fires raging in London and, Tuesday night, in Manchester, show humankind reduced to its most elemental drives. There is no reason to think that these nihilistic riots are anything but a way to fill the boredom of summer. They are not a protest against tuition increases, or social-service cuts, or the fatal police shooting of a black man in Tottenham. That shooting was no more the cause of these riots than the Vancouver Canucks' disappointing loss in the Stanley Cup finals in June caused thousands to engage in an orgy of looting and fighting and burning cars. It was an excuse for those people who feel most alive when rioting.


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