While reading about these recent sad events, I noticed this small detail:Remember when books were worthy of burning? | The Economist
RIOTING and books share a stormy history. Think of the so-called Bonfire of the Vanities in 1497, when Girolamo Savonarola and his band of religious followers roundly collected and set fire to mounds of pagan literature.
I think this Savonarola analogy is misplaced, the Bonfire of the Vanities was more of an auto-da-fé than an actual riot, but nevermind.
In London in 2011, however, bibliophiles can breathe easy: despite the riots, books have tended to stay safely on their shelves, their subtle power blithely overlooked. When it comes to targets for looters, books are losing out to high-end jeans and Apple-made gadgets. One waggish employee at a Waterstones in Manchester reportedly declared
they would remain open despite the ruckus. If they steal some books they might learn something, he said (a quote that has circulated widely in the twittosphere). But he seems doomed to disappointment: as yet no Waterstones and only one WH Smith have been targeted. As Patrick French tweeted yesterday
, The only shop NOT looted down the road from where I live was Waterstones.
Note to self: for the lawless violent rioters, books, unlike Plasma screen HDTVs or Apple gear, are not all that sought after.
I think small details like this are worth exploring if one is interested in finding the various causes of this eruption of violence, which is worse than the Brixton riots of 1981 and 1985, which caused much concern at the time.
I suspect finding the causes of the riots has to be taken in a very British context, since it seems to be quite peculiar to the UK (compared with most other Western countries), it may have taken some time (at least a decade or two, or three) to take form as well. I have been thinking about it, without any answer yet.
Naturally, some may find it easier to just come up with some answer fitting ones political/social/economic/sexual/religious proclivities and then citing some media dispatches and opinion pieces corroborating said answer. Id do that too if I enjoyed it, I just dont.
By the way, UK unemployment rate is ~7.7%
(I think it was 13% back in 1981 cf. the Brixton riots) while US unemployment rate is ~9.1%
, if one cares for these sorts of things.
So far, my personal opinion is that the government has failed to efficiently cope with these riots. Im not a specialist of riot control (or is it called public disorder management these days? I dont keep up), but perhaps riots of this scope could be met with more, assertive (while non-lethal) means, like water cannons, PAVA spray, and whatnot. It might have reduced the riots extension and violence or even prevented the tragic death of three civilians already.
I hope that these riots subside soon.