London Stone Throwers
Riots in England challenge some well nurtured global stereotypes
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
For most of us in this part of the world who have grown up believing that people in the West can do no wrong, London riots came as a rude shock. Protests on the streets of the megapolis marked by looting, arsoning and stone throwing appeared a copy of what occasionally transpires on our streets as a matter of course. In further resemblance to what happens in Valley or anywhere else in India, the riots began in spontaneous reaction to the shooting death by police of a local man Mark Duggan and soon snowballed into a nationwide disorder. Police soon swung into action, using water canons, filming and arresting the rioters, more than 2000 of them. Around five people died – three of them mowed down by a car – and 111 police personnel were injured. The statistics read like a protest story from downtown Srinagar – albeit some specifics might vary - or anywhere else in the rest of India or Pakistan.
Though there are serious race and economic issues involved, London riots are generally being dismissed by the western media as a simple case of the breakdown in law and order. It is passionately reasoned that the primary motivation that brought a section of people on the streets is the urge to loot and make mayhem. British Prime Minister David Cameron has blamed the “slow-motion moral collapse” and England’s “broken society” for the unrest. And the leader of the Conservative party Ed Miliband has blamed "irresponsibility, selfishness, children without fathers, schools without discipline, reward without effort and rights without responsibilities" for the unprecedented disorder.
Incidentally, London riots have come amidst the ongoing democracy protests across the Arab world which despite their own share of lumpensim are being hailed in the West as the Arab Spring. The Europe led by US has stepped forward to bolster these diverse movements and in case of Libya, the rebels there are receiving military support to topple the dicator Muammar Gaddafi. London riots are smaller in comparison but they too point toward emerging new faultlines in Europe which the ongoing media coverage has tried to paper over. And who knows what happened in London could spread to other European capitals whch over the years have accumulated their respective aggrieved ethnic , racial and religious constituencies.
A significant pointer to this unfolding tension is the recent massacre of the 76 people in Norway by an anti-Muslim zealot Anders Behring Brevik. He envisaged Muslim demographic invasion of Europe and saw himself as a holy warrior in the new Christian crusade to pre-empt it. Brevik may have gone to extremes but his ideology resonates with a vocal section of population across the continent. Besides, this growing immigrant-native divide, there are inter-ethnic tensions and income disparities, heightened further by the prevailing economic slump which make Europe such an uneasy place and who knows, ready to explode.
This in turn sheds some light on another significant debate: That is, the tyranny of narratives and framing which force meanings onto the events and incidents. And since West also reigns in the realm of intellect, we get to know the “truth’ of the world and even that of our own local realities through their interpretations. This is what makes protests in mideast an Arab Spring to be hailed and fanned even through military intervention and those in Britain a Humid Summer, a result of irresponsible parenting and moral collapse which needs to be put down with “full force of law”. The hooded bands of youth throwing stones on London streets have no grievance beyond exploiting an opportunity to give vent to their baser selves.
The point is that these yardsticks that differently judge and interpret the similar events across the world are inherently unfair and in no way reflect the world as it is or as it operates. For instance, Kashmir which witnessed sweeping protests last summer and the deaths of 117 youth in the process wouldn’t elicit anything by way of some concern, let alone a call for halt to the killings. What this does is to raise a larger question about the truth of the diverse unfolding realities in the world: that is, their interpreted truth and the intrinsic truth. What our world needs is more informed and evolved parameters to reflect and make sense of its bewildering complexity.
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Lastupdate on : Tue, 16 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 16 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 17 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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