Having just gotten back from Across the Pond, and been visiting there, albeit in non-hotspots, while rampaging hordes managed to destroy the fragile sense of peace that hovers over the United Kingdom, it seems almost mandatory that I proffer an opinion regarding what brought them to this bind.
For a people who like to utter "That's brilliant" to just about anything they agree and assent to, it's quite evident that this recent train of incidents has left them shocked, angered and ashamed that such should still occur in this day and age.
Britain is no stranger to blackened smouldering ruins destroyed by internecine warfare, just not too many in recent years. With a social safety net and welfare system that is arguably one of the best in the world, there ought to be little that might persuade the average Brit to turn from law-abiding subject of HRM Queen Elizabeth II into rioter and looter. Yet that is precisely what happened last week. The rioters smashed into stores large and small, indulging in petty thievery and arson, while the police watched on in deliberate (or was it unwilling?) inaction.
The root cause was ostensibly the shooting of a gentleman(?) named Mark Duggan, which evoked cries of 'police brutality', and turned into an opportunity for mobs to form, well guided by the cell phones and social networks, if we are to go by the talking heads of TV and politicians ascribing blame for the lovely coordination of the attacks.
I had only free copies of the Daily Mail to read: dreck, like the US' National Enquirer, but smarter and wittier.The articles were all about 'National Shame' , "Millionaire's daughter part of rioters' mob, sob-stories by unemployed moms "I lost my apartment in one of the fires"), what I got to see in this paper was the conservative attitude towards the rioters. Article after article pushed the viewpoint that it was time for the Nanny State to feed the rioters some bitter medicine, taking away privileges ('Evict them from the tax-payer funded homes that they now enjoy', 'Dismiss those with government jobs', etc.) Other voices, mostly on TV, pleaded for a more lenient approach, advocating soul-searching. "We must address the malaise that pervades our culture, not make things worse by punishing those already alienated by the disconnect between what they see the haves enjoy in comparison with them, the have-nots."
While the Land of Milk and Honey has brought plenty to its people, it has failed to give them the sense of purpose that would deter such acts of random violence. Spectacles and grand pomp like Will and Kate's wedding cast an aura and extend the national sense of pride for only so long. While no one would wish for a calamity like the tsunami and nuclear disaster that visited Japan recently, it forced a land of Lotus-Eaters to seriously reconsider and retool their attitudes toward life, waking the dormant spirit of national unity and cooperation in face of tragedy.
For Britain, with her aging holy cows, and a new disspirited younger generation, one wonders if the worst is yet to come, or whether these recent events will have served as an effective wake-up call.