BURNIN' AND LOOTIN'
The lack of respect. A pain beyond poverty. A pain that triggers reaction to many injustices.
[Update -- August 10, 2001: Seumas Milne notes that, "[The London riots] erupted across what is now by some measures the most unequal city in the developed world, where the wealth of the richest 10% has risen to 273 times that of the poorest, drawing in young people who have had their educational maintenance allowance axed just as official youth unemployment has reached a record high and university places are being cut back under the weight of a tripling of tuition fees."
When extreme inequality spontaneously erupts in an authoritarian state, it is called a "Democracy Movement" but when it occurs in a liberal democracy, it is called a "riot." ]
Some commentary from today's NY Times:
Politicians from both the right and the left, the police and most residents of the areas hit by violence nearly unanimously describe the most recent riots as criminal and anarchic, lacking even a hint of the antigovernment, anti-austerity message that has driven many of the violent protests in other European countries.
But the riots also reflect the alienation and resentment of many young people in Britain, where one million people from the ages of 16 to 24 are officially unemployed, the most since the deep recession of the mid-1980s.
A slap becomes a spark becomes a spring.
... on 17 December last year, Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian market trader whose father had died when he was three and who had been helping to support his family financially since the age of 10, set himself on fire after a dispute with a government official over where he could sell his fruit and vegetables. At the time, it was widely reported that the municipal inspector, a woman named Fedia Hamdi with a reputation for strictness, had slapped Mohamed across the face – the ultimate insult in such a patriarchal Arab community. The confrontation seemed to pit an ordinary man, struggling to make a living, against the uniformed symbol of a corrupt regime. Bouazizi's suicide at the age of 26 was seen by many as an act borne of his intense frustration with authoritarian rule. It became the domino that fell and triggered a chain of revolutions across the Arab world. (Read more at The slap that sparked a revolution.)
(Thanks to Avi and Lian for the video tips.)