Friday, 19 August 2011

London Riots Nothing Like the Arab Uprisings

Revolution in Tunisia
Ah, the London riots. 'They' say the Arab spring has sprung in the UK but I couldn't disagree more. There’s no arguing that discontentment, marginalisation and social inequalities catalysed the London riots, but what started off as legitimate protesting in Tottenham quickly turned into opportunistic violence by faceless folk.

Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi was a victim to police brutality and Mark Duggan similarly so, and in both cases, this mistreatment is what sparked protests. But that's where the parallels end between the struggling Arab world and the burning streets of London.

It's one thing to pour into the streets and protest against police brutality and the state, and it's another to destroy people's homes, businesses, cars, and livelihoods. In the Arab world we saw (and still see) spirited, passionate and hopeful men, women, youth and the elderly marching together, chanting together, singing together and demanding democracy, demanding their rights and demanding to break free from dictators whose oppressive rule have reigned for decades. In London, we're seeing looting and destruction. London is up in flames and anger is misdirected (though how much of it is anger and how much of it is gratuitous violence?). Civilians  have been killed, mugged and forced to jump from burning buildings.

In Egypt, the revolution marked togetherness. When protests peaked, Christians protected Muslims while they worshipped. Egyptians chanted: "Muslim, Christian, we are all Egyptians". In London, rioters are indiscriminately attacking their own neighbours. All for an adrenaline kick, perhaps? There are reports of rioters advancing on worshippers and people fearfully guarding their place of worship.

There is no excuse for this aggression. And people romanticising the riots are, quite frankly, out of touch. These (mostly) teenage boys aren't fighting the power; they're fighting other commoners.

These actions are counterproductive because they detract focus from the real grievances and the real social and economic problems people face. The riots have given David Cameron et al. the opportunity to comfort the country with rote-learned speeches, look like the goodies, generalise and demonise people who truly are disaffected and, worst of all, not do anything to alleviate the problems that he and his predecessors gave rise to in the first place.


Anonymous said...

Petty bourgeois arab exceptionalism at its finest...

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