As a tourist and visitor in the UK, I pondered the reasons why the agitated youth have been on the roll burning buildings, buses, smashing windows of stores and stealing their merchandise.
One cannot give excuses for the rioters’ sheer criminality but zooming into the UK picture, one can notice some tight economic policies happening there.
David Cameron’s economic policies are cutting spending and hiking taxes as a solution to the deficit ailment suffered by the country. Surprisingly, the measures have shielded the nation from the financial crisis sweeping some EU countries like Greece and has protected the country’s credit rating from being downgraded such as the case in the United States.
The UK is also a polarized nation with a classist structure. It has one of the highest child poverty rates and lowest social mobility rates in the OECD despite being the third largest economy in Europe (after Germany and France) and the sixth largest in the world by GDP.
What is happening in the UK could, therefore, be a violent manifestation of the poor’s anger at the more affluent classes of the society.
Two girls who have looted wine from a local shop told BBC on Tuesday that the rioters are showing the rich what they want.
Despite the riots starting up in the multi-ethnic, lower-income neighborhood of Tottenham, only a few miles from the Olympic park, they spread outside London to include more cities, thereby dissolving the race-card, and placing the struggle between the rich versus the poor.
According to commentators, the austerity measures in the UK did not reach their peak yet. I wonder what will happen when the squeeze tightens.
On a positive note, violent riots despite their criminality and hooliganism can bring about reforms. Los Angeles riots in 1992 cost the United States nearly $1 billion in property damages and looting but it helped push for more state welfare later on.
Violent rioting which has precedence in the European continent such as France’s 2005 ghetto rioting, should not be tolerated. Constitutionally, European citizens are bestowed with the right of freedom of expression and assembly and can make themselves heard through clear slogans of protest and not by burning properties of an average day citizen.
After all, citizens, poor or rich are all in one boat, and the violence can only turn off investors from coming into the UK and stagnate the nation’s Olympic 2012 plans. London is calm and sunny for the day, a good omen, I would say.