Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Panic on the Streets of London, Birmingham

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I wonder to myself, what is behind all this rioting/protesting? It's not just the UK I'm wondering about, it's also Israel. Both are countries I am particularly interested in because that's where the bulk of my family lives.
I cannot say I am well versed with the situation in England. What I can say is that during my limited visits to North London, mainly in order to tour the Arsenal stadium, what I saw in the streets did not inspire me to feel as carefree as I feel in Melbourne. At home I never have any issues walking the streets in broad daylight, but in London? The fact sports and electronics shops are reported to be the most looted indicates there is more than protesting going on in the UK; there's crime.
Things are quite different in Israel, where a peaceful protest movement managed to get the government to the brink of capitulation. Their fight is to make life more tolerable: less working hours, easier and cheaper rent, the financial affordability to raise children. Coming from the same background myself I can see exactly where these protesters come from; my only grip is to ask where have they been all these years with the poor Palestinians' plight. However, my complaint is addressed by the fact the current protests are led by the same left wing organizations that have been leading the anti occupation movement in Israel for years.
Despite the differences between the UK and the Israeli protests - the rioting vs. the peacefulness, the high crime vs. the legal protest, I see similar roots to both movements. The way I read it, both in Britain and in Israel people are complaining against the undeniable fact our societies are becoming less and less equal. On one hand of the scale we have the ultra rich, a tiny minority who earn hundreds of times above the average. All the while the middle class is shrinking while the lower classes are expected to accept their fate and be quiet.
The consumerist nature of the protests - the looting of plasma TVs in England and the rent protests in Israel - indicate exactly at that. In today's consumerists society, you are what you own, what you drive and where you live. That is what we have been trained to think over the last few decades. That, however, is a totally unsustainable model to build a society on, given that people cannot derive long term happiness from a big screen. People have aspirations, people need a sense of hope to drive them. When hope is lost, people go out and protest.
The irony is that Israel, with all the bad things going on there, seems to have produced a more mature culture where the protest takes on a decent and honest nature. England, on the other hand, one of the most sought after immigration destinations for the poor of this world, is doing the opposite.

accurate rendition of the flag

Images by belkus (top) and ygurvitz (bottom), Creative Commons license

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