The decline of the west?

Amazing scenes from England. We’re used to seeing riots and civil disobedience broadcast from less democratic and third world countries, but this is something completely new. This is the west, and if that sounds a tad cocksure and smug then it isn’t meant to be. By and large we have wealth, relative democracy, and stable government has been the order of the day. Unlike many of the the aforementioned societies there is not the obvious corruption/injustice/evil to rebel against. There have always been protests, and many well justified, and some have degenerated into conflict. They have passed though. Watching the footage from London and other places it seems like anarchy has taken over. While the original riots were in protest at a police shooting, the events since have seemingly gone a long way from there. With the police seemingly helpless it looks to me that deeply felt disaffection has come to the surface with violent results. There seems almost joy in this lawlessness, a celebration at expressing these feelings openly, flaunting it at the law and so-called civilised society. While it’s easy to argue that the events have become opportunistic as looting takes over, there is obviously something fundamental which cannot be ignored. From this far away I wonder if these cavorting rioters have felt neglected, overlooked and forgotten, an underclass deemed to be of little value in the 21st economy, and with few real opportunities to move beyond that. If that is true then what we are seeing is the cathartic expression of frustration and rage. For the moment they have the spotlight, destructive as it may be they are expressing themselves, and demonstrating to the world that they exist and this is what they think.

Could this happen in Australia? If my thesis is right then the disaffection we are seeing across England exists elsewhere in the western world also, particularly in the States I would think. Less so Australia. We have a different demographic. We’re fortunate also that we are economically stronger. I don’t doubt that there are many disadvantaged here who feel totally disengaged from society, but I think they are much fewer and further between, and that the opportunities here are greater. Our history is different too, and our base nature. To some degree I think this is an English problem – they are still battling the tail of the GFC; austerity measures, greatly unpopular, have cut deep; and a history, if not legacy, of social division. Whatever it is the English must heed the lessons of this, as must others. This is not an aberration.

When will it end? The world now has its beady eyes on the events in London and Birmingham and Liverpool and so on. The police there seem to have given up on trying to control the conflagration, happy to limit the damage and contain it. I think it might have a bit to go, but will lose momentum shortly. What then? I don’t rule out this sort of civil disobedience jumping borders. I’m certain there are many similarly disaffected across the world watching these events keenly with a sense of envy, and perhaps ambition. It’s different now. We’re entering into another phase of what have been economically turbulent times. People are different too. Our times are different. Things aren’t going to get better in a hurry, and they may well get worse. And now the seal has been broken I would not be surprised to see these violent scenes repeated again, in England, and elsewhere.

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