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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Aggression in the streets of London (and elsewhere): Caused by the economic crisis? Or caused by the same mechanisms that caused the economic crisis?!

Feeling like a freak on a leash (You wanna see the light)
Feeling like I have no release (So do I)
How many times have I felt diseased (You wanna see the light)
Nothing in my life is free
The riots in London came suddenly, like a bolt from the blue. The immediate cause: Mark Duggan, a black man, that was allegedly shot and killed by the police without having fired a shot at them. This spark led to a period of unprecedented violence, arsonism, looting and demolition by presumably youngsters from minority groups, that already gets in its fourth night: first it happened only in London, but quickly it spread to cities like Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.

Everybody that is surprised by the amount of violence that is displayed in London, should better think of the riots of 2005 in France, that happened under (about) the same circumstances. 

There also was massive violence, arsonism, looting and demolition by seemingly youngsters from minority groups, in reaction to the death of a few boys in a transformer house. It also started in one place and spread out all over the country. After three weeks, it was over again, probably to smoulder on like a forest fires that seems extinguished.

The only ‘twist’ of London, 2011 is the usage of smartphone services, like Ping, to create flash mobs of rioters at a number of predetermined places. The police and politicians try to pull the sting out of the conflict, by trying to temporary disable Ping, but this is naïve in my opinion. Rioters that really want to riot can’t be stopped by a failing app on their smartphone.

The natural reflex of people and (especially) journalists and politicians, under circumstances like this, is to look for the most obvious causes:

  • High unemployment
  • Troubled future with less opportunities, due to their ethnic background
  • Troubled upbringing and cultural differences between the youngsters and their parents
  • Being a minority group

And after some heavy thinking, the true cause is found: it must be the economic crisis. 
But it probably isn’t: after the riots in France the following findings have been done, according to (the Dutch version of Wikipedia): 
As possible cause for the rise of these riots have been mentioned:  the bad social-economic circumstances that the youngsters live in. 
The youngsters themselves mentioned the media-attention and not so much their backward positions. Groups of youngsters said it was ‘cool’ to know where the biggest riot had been and the fact that the media reported on this.
Sociologist studied the riots and some of them concluded that there was no true foundation for the thesis that the riots were initiated by North-African youngsters.
I don’t say that this will also be the case in the UK, but it might be that some of the rioters in London just think it’s cool to riot. And that a legitimate protest against police violence, formed the right reason at the right time to create havoc for three weeks. Please keep this possibility in mind.

And although I have serious doubts that the economic crisis is the cause for the riots, I suspect that the same socionomic mechanisms that sparked the economic crisis, sparked the riots in France, Greece, The Netherlands (violent riots between Moroccan and Malukan inhabitants of Culemborg) and now the UK. And the same mechanisms sparked the uprising of the populist parties all over Europe and the US (Tea-party).

Mechanisms, like percolating:
·     Pessimism on the future opportunities;
·     Jealousy of other peoples’ success
·     Aggression (caused by fear) against other groups of people, that are to blame for everything that is wrong in the world;
·     Frustration
·     Disappointment
·     Boredom - the world has become so safe that people need to get kicks out of unsafe situations

Although these are mechanisms that can be easily explained, the consequences of those mechanisms can be devastating. People should never forget that the 2nd World War came out of similar economic circumstances, that were especially blamed one group of people.

To show you that all’s not well in the normally quiet country, The Netherlands, here are some snips from an article that was published by the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad:

At the beginning of July, it became known that people in the Brabant’ city of Helmond thought of a vigilante against the terror of Moroccan youngsters. Now, more than a month later and after virtually no initiative of the local authorities, this vigilante is coming into reality.

‘The inhabitants can bring together about 150-200 men. Besides that, there are Malukan and Antillean people, as they also dislike the Moroccans’. A father of four children states this to a report of daily newspaper De Pers (‘the Press’).

‘These people are so arrogant. They call you things like ‘Dutch ****sucker’. The street terror in Helmond doesn’t stop and a lot of inhabitants suffer from this. […]

All of the other stories from inhabitants [that I left out as unnecessary to make my point – EL] are like this. Who said something of the terror, paid dearly for it. The Helmond people are fed up and the city authorities do too little.

PVV-leader Geert Wilders (PVV= Dutch populist party) wants to make a quick working visit to Helmond, after reading this story. On Twitter he states: Moroccan street terror in Helmond[…] .

My point is not to blame one or another group for things that go wrong in Helmond. It is a fact that some abuses have lasted too long in The Netherlands, as it has long not been opportune for politics to name and shame this kind of behavior.

What I want to show is, how the ‘tone of voice’ in official, serious newspapers (and not of the kind of ‘News-of-the-World’) has changed over the last few years in The Netherlands: vigilantes, Morrocan street terror, sick and tired. I also want to show how opportunistic, populist parties, that further don't really care about people, use events like this to gain popularity.

This is not ‘naming and shaming’; this sounds like a herald for having the same riots in The Netherlands, that now hit ‘the streets of London’. 

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