London burning

This is the second time in a row I’m writing about the UK instead of Rio. Seeing riots there on a day when nothing of note was happening here – well, ok, a bus was hijacked, but you know… it’s not what you expect.
Yesterday, another correspondent I know currently posted in much tougher terrain than either Rio or London posted on Facebook “London doesn’t look THAT bad” which was immediately met with rebuke from most Londoners. Of course, they are right, as much as violence is relative and the looting and fires don’t seem much when you’re living in a war zone. To anyone whose business was trashed or who was frightened or injured, not to mention the four people so far who have died, it is very real. There is nothing worse than using violence as a kind of badge of honour, not least treating it as if it were normal and to be horrified is to be somehow wet or missing the point.
In my first job on a local paper in Surrey, rich, elderly readers were constantly complaining that everything from wheelie bins to potholes in the road was an indication that we were living “in a third world country.” Laughable of course, and even then from my flat in Crystal Palace it looked like the loss of perspective of the terminally spoiled. Now that I’m in the far more heavily-armed and socially unequal Rio de Janeiro (more so than Dorking, certainly, even taking the estate into account), the violence in the UK is still shocking, but the explanation of wealth disparity just doesn’t ring true.
In November, the last time there was widespread violence within the city itself (of course, that is, violence affecting middle class people who don’t live in favelas), the army was sent in and drug dealers paraded like hunting trophies on television. In Britain, the initially cautious response of the police and government was in stark contrast.
However, lest we think we are somehow more civilised, let’s not forget there is something really wrong if large groups of people will use any excuse to start looting from shops. These were not people living in poverty albeit they might have been on the lower earning scale. They wanted free stuff. Somehow they thought it was ok to just go and take it.
It’s clearly not the case that the severe implementation of law and order, as has been called for in some quarters, will always solve violent disorder. Here, I’ve seen how this sates the desire of those not directly affected to experience the catharsis of punishment, but more often than not displaces the problem or perpetuates the violence.
Seen from here, the UK is a terminally spoiled nation, with no values other than striving for a celebrity lifestyle funded by credit. Follow your dream, says the X-Factor! It has discovered its lifestyle is no longer sustainable. As ever, the poorest strata of society is most affected, but what a pity there is no sense of society left anymore, no pride, no self-esteem, to take that nation through its economic problems. The times of unified political protest have been replaced by a time where people scrap for a widescreen TV. Suddenly it looks THAT bad.