I found out some years after visiting London that my family emigrated from Croydon, a working class suburb south of the city. I’d like to see it some time, presuming it isn’t burned to the ground.
Today we’ll be talking about two cities- Croydon, England and Hama, Syria. I’ve heard the troubles in these two places compared recently, though the comparison (in terms of civil disobedience, not cities) is really between a slug and a phoenix.
Like the London neighborhoods of Tottenham, Ealing, and Clapham Junction as well as Nottingham, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, and Liverpool, Croydon saw riots and looting this weekend, sparked by the shooting of a young man in Tottenham on Saturday by the police. Many of the places where the violence began are poor, ethnically diverse, and are beginning to feel the affects of austerity measures instituted under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government. There’s also a great deal of anger over perceived racial profiling and accusations of police brutality.
If there are injustices, and I certainly don’t dispute them, they’ve been silenced by people victimizing their neighbors.
I guess I’m over this idea of “rioting”. Not that I’ve ever done so, but I respect the idea that people need to have a voice, need to speak out against injustice, and must make themselves heard by those in power. I’m all for that- but somehow I don’t think this latest episode is about that and I believe there are things people can and should do to make themselves heard, like peaceful demonstration. This isn’t what we’re seeing, though. It’s really, if we’re honest, about “getting mine.”
As happened in France in 2005, there will be a political crisis and the politician who demonstrates the most backbone will be the one who profits most (this is where Sarkozy really rose to prominence). The point that young, suburban, marginalized youth had unequal access to employment in France, something I’ve seen first-hand, was utterly lost in the chaos. It will be here too.
Then there’s Hama.
We don’t know many facts about Hama, Syria, because the government has shut down all access to the city. Citizens there and across Syria, as they did across the Middle East and Africa, stood up to bullying through peaceful demonstrations. In return, they’ve been fired at by snipers and tanks.
The atrocities being committed in Syria are so severe Russia was moved to actually allow a statement to be made against President Bashar al-Assad. I know- a statement of condemnation, wow! But having the U. N. Security Council condemn you, and to have the King of Saudi Arabia also follow on with his own demands that you must stop (the Sauds, mind you, were the ones who gave American allies Bahrain the tanks to crush their Arab Spring) is a bit embarrassing to the say the least. The struggle for the regime to survive puts Assad and his ilk on common ground with Gaddafi, a pariah.
While it is too early to say with any certainty, the ICC may eventually put out a warrant against a non-African warlord or leader for once as a result of his actions against his fellow citizens. That won’t likely result in an arrest, but it will isolate Syria’s leadership more and firmly puts them in the camp of Sudan, Libya, and self-imposed isolationists Burma, North Korea, and Eritrea. This is not good company to keep, and the Syrian people and even the rank and file military may eventually best their disgusting leadership.
There is tremendous anger here in America as well at our political leadership for their collective idiocy in endangering the economy. I am sure if you asked a Syrian, or a Bahraini, or a Libyan, if they’d prefer the status quo to the opportunity to vote for mediocre leaders, they’d still choose democracy. A working democracy, one that isn’t window-dressing, reflects the decisions of the people, and poor leadership is, unfortunately, a reflection on the electorate. We have no one to blame but ourselves for our predicament, and that’s as it should be.
The youth in London have a choice. Clearly, one choice is to steal trainers and TVs. Another would be to organize, demonstrate, and take back the government so it is reflective of their views.
To end on an encouraging note, plenty of people in Clapham Junction, at least, were out to try to take their city back. Let’s hope there are enough brooms to sweep away the idiocy that allowed this to happen too, roots of the problem and all.