Thursday, August 11, 2011

The London Riots

Will all of the turmoil surrounding the stock markets, the US credit rating downgrade, the financial calamities in Europe and the speculation over what will or will not happen, it's no wonder that the rioting and uprisings have spread from emerging and unstable nations like Yemen and Egypt, where unemployment is rampant among the more democratic youth, to places like Greece and now London.

London has been, for all intensive purposes, the most widely recognized European city for most people in the world. Paris would probably follow at a close second, but London's population and commuter-base makes it a much larger city per population and economy than Paris. So to see a city like this, which is such a focal point and mecca for so many across Europe and the world, to crumble so quickly is surely a sign of the times.

What makes these riots so fierce isn't the rebellion from police shooting a suspect who was a <30 father of four, but the pent up frustration and angst from the economic downward spiral. The tension has been percolating for quite some time, stemming from the lack of economic adaptation in the years preceding the economic collapse of 2008. Why have so many young people taken to the streets? Is it because rioting is a young people's "sport"? Is it because the victim was a young person? Or is it because the governments of so many large cities and countries are too concerned with politics to listen to the youth? Are America and London inextricably tied to the same fate and is London the canary in the coal mine for America?

I for one am in favor of peaceful demonstrations. Period. I think they should happen anywhere as often as possible. I'm not in support of looting, rioting, and interruption of daily activities, let me make that perfectly apparent. But if I were traveling into work and passed a group of protestors raising awareness of our government's lack of cohesion and agreement, or about the skyrocketing unemployment rates, about the rampant greed and avarice of those too preoccupied with themselves to notice the middle class, then I would gladly tip my cap to them.

But is that all they want? A tip of the cap? A few dollars or a few more followers? No. Any demonstrations purpose is to enact change. These rioters feel the only plausible way to enact change is to inflict destruction. It's undeniable, cannot be hidden or sugarcoated. It's destruction. It's man at his most visceral. So where should the line be drawn? Do buildings need to be engulfed for change to be enacted, or is it something that's ignored once the rioting calms? Do TV networks need to be hijacked and messages broadcast across pirated radiowaves for the need for change to be felt by the public? Do demonstrations need to become the norm? Do people need to march en masse?

There's more than politics at work here. The present generation cannot tolerate being held down. In America there is insouciance and apathy, while in Europe there is a revolution coming to a head. Can America really pretend like the same won't happen here? Our news glosses over any kind of demonstrations and pretends like Europe is an exception. We're the exception and it's only a matter of time before we cannot be excluded from this any more. I'm not advocating for destruction. I'm advocating for ignorance to evaporate. I'm championing a call for fantasy to be extinguished. There shouldn't be an economic gap so great that an entire generation of college graduates can become known as "the lost generation" due to a lack of jobs. There shouldn't be a portion of society that can profit from others becoming unemployed. And I'm not the only one who thinks this.

Our television provides an escape from reality and as my wife so astutely observed, "the news is too depressing, the world is crazy." Exactly. It's crazed because the illusion is fading and how long can we hold onto an ethereal bubble before it bursts? What will be the reverberation when it does? Will it be change? Will it be compromise? Will it be calamity?

Stay tuned. The revolution will be televised.

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