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THE LONDON RIOTS: Looking beyond the visible

By       Message Gulamhusein Abba     Permalink
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THE LONDON RIOTS: Looking beyond the visible

by Gulamhusein A. Abba

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"Who believed there would be no consequences
to the increase of obscene wealth for a few while
impoverishment simultaneously plagued the masses".
"A Society on the Verge of a Meltdown" By Jakob Augstein
Spiegel Online: 08.18.2011

It has been reported that the recent riots in London are the worst that city has seen. Several areas were affected. Apart from London proper, the riots, which began late in London's Tottenham district, spread to Manchester in central England, Carring Cross area of Nottinghamshire, Leicester, Wolverhampton, West Brunswick and other areas.

The damage done was tremendous. Shops were set on fire, window panes broken, stores looted, police shot at. Cases of stabbing were reported. Lives were lost.

Almost immediately the blame game started. A favorite culprit was "multiculturism" (code for "these damned immigrants'). Others blamed poor or non-existing parenting. Parents blamed laws that prevented them from using old and tried methods to discipline their children.

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Prime Minister David Cameron, on returning to London after cutting short his summer vacation, reacted in the only way governments know to react in such situations. He hammered out a tough line against the rioters. Thousands of police flooded the capital. He talked about not letting a "culture of fear" taking hold and said "nothing is off the table". Including water cannons, never deployed in Britain so far.

To the rioters he said, to thunderous applause, "We will find you. We will arrest you. We will punish you. You will pay." To the people he said "We will protect you" and promised that the government would compensate them for such damage and or losses they may have suffered. And to the authorities he gave an assurance that they would be given "strong powers", which would include allowing police to order "thugs" to remove masks or hoods, evicting "trouble makers" from subsidized housing, and temporarily disabling cell phone instant messaging services.

Whatever else may have been responsible, the charge against immigrants was unwarranted. Those indulging in violence included local whites. And many immigrants went out of their way to stop the rioting and looting.

The rioting, the violence, the arson, the looting, the lawlessness was deplorable and deserving of unreserved condemnation. Such violence serves no purpose. It only backfires. Worse, it results in avoidable damage and loss, including to public property, when the country can least afford it.

Giving the police extra powers and deploying them in large numbers to quell the riots was the right thing to do, on short term basis.

That having been said, there is need for context, a need for understanding the root cause of the unrest and taking long term measures to deal with them.

That is what was urged by some when the US was faced with the 9/11 terror attack. At that time, all those who called for introspection were branded as traitors and accused of blaming the victims!

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The same thing is happening now in England. There is a knee jerk reaction against the rioters. Harsh words are being said against them. And harsh actions are being called for and taken. Deservedly. But we cannot stop there. We have to dig deeper.

Apart from charges of insensitive policing, other factors which are being cited as causes of the riots are: isolation and neglect of communities, deep frustration and anger across Britain over the government's austerity budget which will bring huge cuts to social services and welfare payments, so vital to the poor, without exacting any "sacrifices" from the rich.

I have for years been saying that as the gap between the rich and the poor widens, unrest will spread and, unless corrective steps, grounded in social justice are taken, the poor and the exploited will sooner or later revolt.

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I am a journalsit, writer and a justice-and-peace activist. I am also involved in safeguarding and promoting the rights of undocumented immigrants in USA. Originally from Bombay (now Mumbai) I have been residing in USA from 1982. My articles and (more...)

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