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Monday, August 22, 2011

Malaysia Should Learn from UK Riots

By : Haider Yutim Malaysian Digest

The act of violence and anarchy are rarely mindless. Chaos and causing damage on properties and all other escalating crimes that pose a danger to public safety, there’s politics behind these menacing acts.

A single gunshot – Duggan’s killing – led to riots across Britain signaling the call to put an end to its advanced bourgeois democracy. The British government was baffled by the raging outbursts by teenagers which have impacted heavily on the country’s political map. The chaos was brought over to the courts in London, Manchester and Birmingham where they had to work through the night to process the alleged looters and vandals. Police in London had raided houses to round up rioting suspects. (Quoted from AP, “London police raiding houses over UK riots”) About 1,200 people have been arrested. Most of them are youths from low-income families.

Anarchy in UK

English cities and towns including London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester witnessed scenes resembling warzones: leaping red flames, plumes of black smoke, rocks, bottles and debris littered streets, torched cars and buildings, smashed windows, firebombed police station, thrown Molotov cocktails, and deployed police dogs, horses and armored cars. Police in Birmingham and in Liverpool reported fires and looting. A Liverpool police spokesman said police are taking swift and robust action to what he calls "isolated outbreaks of disorder".

The violence broke out after police shot dead a 29-year-old man in London's economically depressed Tottenham neighborhood. A peaceful demonstration marking his death exploded into violence when protesters threw stones at police, smashed store windows, and set cars and buses ablaze.

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called the vandals “mindless, mindless people”. Nick Clegg denounced it as “needless, opportunistic theft and violence”. Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking from his Tuscan holiday villa, declared simply that the social unrest searing through the poorest boroughs in the country was “utterly unacceptable”. Cameron said criminal street gangs were at the heart of the violence.

“Territorial, hierarchical and incredibly violent, they are mostly composed of young boys, mainly from dysfunctional homes,” he added.

Cameron’s statements were madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrests. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. The words “Anarchy in UK” and “London’s Burning”, both titles of famous hits by London’s two legendary punk bands, were splashed across the headlines of media across the world. Who would have known these two songs from the 70s by Sex Pistols and The Clash, respectively, would come to life more than 30 years later.

Bleak Picture

“Each of the young rioters who clogged Britain’s courthouses painted a bleak picture of a lost generation: a 15-year-old Ukrainian whose mother died, a 17-year-old who followed his cousin into the mayhem, an 11-year-old arrested for stealing a garbage can worth 50 pounds. The youngster pleaded guilty to burglary.” (Quoted from AP, "Britain's rioters: young, poor and disillusioned")

Riots are about power, and catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities. As a friend of mine remarked today, structural inequalities are not solved by a few pool tables. People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realize that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.

Lessons Learnt

Do we need similar unrests which had happened in Britain unfolding itself in Malaysia? Does our ‘rioters’ know what they are battling against? What they are fighting for?  With every step taken to organize a rally will increase the likelihood of the event turning into a madhouse.

No one have anything against efforts to clean up politics as it is indeed an honorable and noble cause. However, when such a movement takes to the streets, it becomes obvious it has been hijacked in order to exploit the aspirations of a frustrated public for a self-serving agenda. Such a movement will ultimately fail to achieve the goals it proclaims to support and will give rise to corruption and tyranny the likes of which its followers could not imagine.

In reality, Bersih’s leadership, along with opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, were attempting to galvanize the very real grievances of the Malaysian people and exploit them to propel themselves into power. While many may be tempted to suggest that the demand for “clean and fair elections” truly are Bersih and Anwar’s goal, a thorough examination of these organizations, how they operate, and their admitted agenda reveals the proverbial cliff of which Anwar is leading its followers and the nation of Malaysia to walk off.

Elements that feed rebellions, mutinies, civil unrest, etc. – anger, distrust, deprivation, disregard, folly of authority, crackdown by authority, and many more – are now known to all. But determining the moment these would strike spontaneously – the Duggan moment – is the problem. For Malaysia, the core cause was ‘to fight for fair elections’. It is almost like the Uncertainty Principle. When and where the match of spontaneity will be lighted is known by none but sudden torrent of incidents, incendiary under surface while the surface appears calm.

Britain has faced its Duggan moment. But why the modern state with its immense intellectual and material resources failed to create a “safety valve and an outlet” at home despite having the experience of one of its civilian officers, who contemplated and materialized such a “safety valve”, etc. in a colony more than a hundred years ago? What should we learn from this? We are not a budding country. We are a developing country. Britain’s tragedy is a mirror that reflects all the niche area that a government should pay a close attention to: No riot is peaceful even when it appears to be so in its initial stage.


SiamangBukit said...

Good write up by writer. Put marina into shame.

leman decaprio said...

Yes bro... good article..

Floppy Minister said...


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