"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some Thoughts on the London Riots

First things first:  I don't think the London riots are the end of civilization as we know it.   They make for sensational reporting and photography, but at the end of the day this is a hot summer phenomenon that will peter out within the next few days, if it isn't doing so already.   That's my prediction, which you can hold me to, since I am safely ensconced in my office in Milwaukee.

Here's why I think so:  on Ace of Spades, I noted a comment answering the question, "why do people riot?"   The answer:   "because it's fun."   This is absolutely right.   Ask yourself this.  If you were from outer space, and you came to Earth and saw the riots after the Rodney King beating, and then you time-traveled backward to the riots after the Detroit Tigers won the 1984 World Series, or forward to the Vancouver riots after the Canucks lost the 2011 Stanley Cup, could you tell them apart?  I don't think so.   Yet one had a so-called "political" spark, and the others were after sporting events.   In reality, they were all just young men in a critical mass with too much liquor and not enough adult supervision.   And, when they get bored with rioting, or when the cost (in possible arrests, injury, or just time) becomes too much, they go home.  

On the same post at Ace of Spades, they quote someone describing the rioters as "excitement-seeking children."   This is also exactly right.  There is some similarity to the riots in Milwaukee, my hometown, recently.  Here we had "excitement-seeking" children who happened to be black, finding transgressive pleasure in hitting white people.   Sure, there was a racism angle, and, sure, there is a breakdown-of-the-black-community-and-black-family angle.   But at the end of the day those were just pretexts to seek the excitement of rioting.  

It's not an accident, in other words, that rioters are almost always young men, and that the first thing they attack is almost always a liquor store.

There's also a difference in America, however.   Americans have guns.  So while the attacks outside of State Fair were horrible, they also didn't go too far; it was as if the kids , after crossing one line, pulled back from the next line.    People got beat up, not killed.   And no one in Milwaukee is going to start torching businesses or homes, I guarantee it.  There are too many business owners and homeowners who have weapons.   In London, they've disarmed the population, and empowered the criminals.   No wonder their riots go farther than ours.  

Nevertheless, I think they'll peter out.   Too many good shows on the telly, and too many pretty birds at the corner pub.

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