LONDON RIOTS: I-PHONES NOT BREAD
In the Middle East young people are fighting the authorities these days, risking their lives to achieve
democracy while in England rioting youth this month illustrated just how badly democracy has
Not a surprise to anyone who followed the ever closer and corrupt relationship between finance and
politics with politicians elected on the strength of campaign contributions from financial institutions
or major corporations and managers of major financial institutions ending up in parliaments and
senates, often as ministers.
In England the establishment and its serfs, the mass media, instantly denounced the looting, store-
burning youths, mainly unemployed and living in marginalized urban areas, as thugs or 'underclass'
rather than what they were in reality: The discards of a 'democratic Capitalist system' that
condemns more and more of its young citizen each year to unemployed poverty while real wealth
becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands thanks to 'democratic legislation' that appears to
make the rich richer at the expense of the poor.
The riots, some call it an insurrection, caught the system off guard.
Police mainly stood by. Politicians wrung their hands (or blabbered about harsh repressive
measures) and those still gainfully employed cowered in their homes scared stiff by the baffling fury
of rioters not only out to smash luxury cars and torch retail stores but eagerly 'expropriating'
electronic products and toys they could no longer afford but did not want to live without.
Today the old riot call for 'bread' has become a riot 'for i-phones and plasma TV'.
English cities burned while the world's financial markets (manipulated by a cartel of banks and
financial institutions that hold the bulk of global wealth) went on tumbling, wiping out billions of
dollars of ordinary people's investments.
The modus operandi of these periodic 'dip' or recessions is not difficult.
Take Italy's current financial downgrading which followed massive dumping of Italian
government bonds by the Deutsche Bank, one of the giant European manipulators of a country's
fortunes. Forced by its creditors (among them the same bank) to legislate emergency measures
cutting jobs, government investments, pensions, salaries while raising the pension age, the European
Union decided to bail out the Italians by buying up the bonds the banks had dumped in the first
place and were now picking up at a much lower price.
Most of those who were burning the stores would hardly have understood the financial and
legislative subtleties by which they were deprived of a fair share in a democratic society running a
system that sees them as much of a problem to dispose of as the spent fuel rods of a nuclear plant.
(Preferred solutions: Park the people in low-class suburbs and the rods in third world countries).
While the scope of the destruction would be difficult to condone it is stupid to argue
poverty does not excuse violence and destruction. When you have nothing more to lose and have
no future what fear or hope can hold you back? The suicide bombers of occupied Palestine, Iraq
and Afghanistan are proof of that.
As the English swept up the debris of populist fury they also swept up some of their own
prejudices and pre-concepts. Surveys found, contrary to popular belief, the riots were not the work
of black immigrants but had a complex mixture of social and racial backgrounds - white, Asian,
black. Adult men and women had joined with the youth, many from a sense of opportunism to
participate in the looting. Adults agitated youngsters on the street and from upstairs windows to
smash this or that commercial establishment.
The riots were highly mobile: Alerted by text messages crowds moved from area to area
and were warned well in advance of the arrival of police. Phone text messages mobilized crowds to
go to certain suburbs: Let's go and rob Clapham' or: 'Kilburn and Brixton are happening' or
'Croydon' is burning down. The rioters wore face masks often cut from pharmacy bags.
Social surveys found most of the young rioters felt trapped in the system, disconnected
from the community and they just do not care anymore.
As the riots spread from London across England, people everywhere must have
questioned the utility of an expensive 'democratic' political system whose elected representatives
cannot (or will not) prevent their countries from being plundered by financial raiders or are unable
to protect citizen against the anger of those fellow citizen who the system relegated to the garbage
heap of humanity.
In the end the people of London must have also wondered why their city hosts an
Olympic Games next year that will cost billions and cause new mega-debts (as all Olympics do)
when the money could have been spent far wiser creating alternative living and may be even jobs
for millions of marginalized fellow Londoners?
Uli Schmetzer is a former foreign correspondent and author of Times of Terror (notebooks of a foreign correspondent) ,Gaza
(a novel about the Middle East) and
The Chinese Juggernaut (How the Chinese conquered South East Asia and are conquering the world).