Burning buildings, flying rocks, chanting youth, store looting, police taunting, and innocent victims crying, this must be the eastern city of Deir al-Zour in Syria, where the hated regime of President Bashar al-Assad is mass murdering its own population. Oh surprise! We are actually in the middle of London, the epicenter of riots and violence initiated mostly by young disaffected people. Troubles quickly spread to four other English cities and authorities are baffled as to the causes of this popular uprising.
We cannot blame the weather as the temperature in London hovers around a balmy 70 degrees F. We cannot blame the full moon as it isn't due for another week. There have been 10 riots since 1985 in England, mostly due to police brutality, although a few had to do with increases in taxes and university fees. Indeed, college students have been at the core of the fray a few times, but the finger points mainly to disaffected young people who cannot find a decent job. Street protests usually start peacefully but quickly degenerate in violence caused by those who see an opportunity to loot stores for the rich, Armani's in London was sacked, and by those who enjoy violence (as crazy as this may sound).
The main reason for these riots lies at the heart of the (unjust) capitalist system which creates an abyss between the "have" and "have not". Racism and discrimination against immigrants also play a role. Let's remember the terrible violence that occurred in France in October 2005, where unemployed youths, mostly Arab immigrants, caused hundreds of millions of euros in property damage and thousands of wounded among police and rioters. England is also fertile ground for racial discrimination, as are several other European countries.
Let's remember the Watts riot in Los Angeles in August, 1965, caused by a seemingly innocuous and common event: the arrest of a black man for driving under the influence. The summer heat and years of intense discrimination against African-Americans reach the boiling point and the resulting violence was instrumental in setting up profound changes in the police force and in the perception of minorities.
Many modern Republicans, including presidential candidates for 2012, favor a smaller government and a "laissez-faire" attitude toward the financial forces that move the market. They firmly believe that the federal government should not bail out large companies in danger of failing. "Let the economic and financial factors take care of themselves," they argue, and eliminate all government controls and interference. Maybe we should ask GM's and Chrysler"s employees and workers their opinion. These now very successful enterprises are paying back their official bail-out loans and will soon recover their independence. Thousands of people could have lost their jobs had it not been for the government's intervention.
Are we exempt from more riots in the U.S.? Of course not; what is happening in Britain could very well spill into the U.S., especially since the stock market suffered a huge decline, a potential harbinger of a new recession.
The Republican kind of savage capitalism favors the smart, the strong, and the rich (Bush's tax cuts for example), and leaves the others to charities (tax deductible of course) and to the vagaries of the market. Unless we change the system, we may be the victims of urban violence more and more frequently with the corresponding dire consequences.