Many great fires have swept through the City of London in the two thousand years it has existed. The most historically iconic is, of course, the Great Fire in 1666, an inferno so destructive that little was left of the original city once it had burnt through. In the centuries after the capital was rebuilt, there have also been other times when great pillars of flame and ash have ascended to its skies; the Blitz, for example, set London ablaze and awash with death and destruction, but thanks to the courage and strength of the local inhabitants, the city survived.
Now, however, a new fire is brewing in the boroughs and districts of this multicultural cauldron. This fire, however, is not one of external evil, or simply a horrific mistake. Rather, it is one of unnecessary waste and violence that is a disgrace to witness. It is mob rule at its worst and without sense or shame; without idea or understanding, and worst of all, it is without knowledge.
In order to demonstrate why this is the case, let me cast your eyes thousands of miles away from the streets of Brixton and Tottenham, to the streets of Tehran. This is a city which bares few similarities to the present day London we are witnessing. A city where on July 29th, a harmless, Facebook-organised water fight aimed at appeasing the 40 degree temperatures was broken up by police, and 17 boys and girls were subsequently arrested. This small incident is easily forgotten, but it is a stark reminder of the dangers of police power and brutality. It is suppression so ridiculous and tyrannical that it makes our freedoms in this country seem like the richest and most lavish in the world… and the truth of the matter is, they probably are.
Although I am not Mr. Cameron’s greatest supporter — in fact I think that his policies will largely further this country’s social imbalance — I do believe that the UK retains one of the most democratic mindsets in the world at the moment. Amid the riotous violence, the car burning, the looting and the irrational actions of many of the country’s citizens, one should perhaps think of the positives this nation possesses. We have one of the strongest public support systems in the world, with universal health care and education provided free of charge. We have benefits and pensions which aid the nation’s most needy. And most importantly of all, we have freedom. Freedom (on the whole) from the kind of police and state brutality, which one cannot escape in the likes of Syria and Iran at the moment.
Still, I do recognise that the police are evidently not without fault in this nation. And I do feel sympathy for the family of Mark Duggan, but what happened on the night of his death does not correlate justifiably to the current events in London and across many of the nation’s cities. Yes, the areas where the riots are taking place are some of the poorest within inner cities, and yes they are areas notorious for police confrontations in the past, but now the flames are spreading beyond the armed forces and damaging innocent citizens, rather than achieving political goals.
Indeed, it seems that what began as a peaceful protest has progressed into opportunistic anarchy that will have consequences of much more gravity than just the loss of trainers in our local shops. Livelihoods have been lost in all the chaos, and innocent shop holders and families will bear the brunt of the damage. Police tensions in communities will be greatly augmented and young people across this nation will become even more demonised than before. From a fiscal perspective, the overall damage to the UK economy will be severe; tourism levels will drop and the loss of business in the last few days will not do wonders to share prices or to economic growth.
In all of this madness, Iran (which has previously faced revolts over its elections) has rather sarcastically presented these riots as a revolutionary force attacking police brutality. The great irony here is that the revolutionary spirit of the Arab Spring has been slightly overshadowed by the events of the last few days. Many living in these autocratic states have struggled and fought courageously for freedoms similar to those which we possess, freedoms which we are now wasting on ransacking sports shops. Right now, all across Syria, protestors are being shot and thousands executed as the nation attempts to shake free from the iron grip of Bashar al-Assad and his tanks. Meanwhile in the UK, there is a non-revolution taking place, which only serves the egocentric goals of the anarchist and the thief. In the end, the effects will be devastating for both communities and Britain’s international image.
(Image by hozinja)