The riots in Britain, the worst for over a century, have come as a rude shock to the British. Until this week, the British had a cosy, self-satisfied feeling that things in their ‘right little, tight little island’ were in many ways much better than in other parts of the developed world. The economic downturn may have seen America’s AAA credit status downgraded and several European countries in turmoil—this may yet befall Italy and France—but not Britain. The government has imposed painful cuts, but British political leaders have been confident that, in the face of the worst downturn since the 1930s, the country has avoided real trauma. Now that illusion lies shattered like so many shards of glass littering Britain’s streets.
This week’s events reveal Britain as more like a Third World country, one with a permanent underclass which owes no allegiance to the state and mocks its authority. Images of people openly boasting of their hatred of the police is something Britons associate with citizens of distant foreign lands, not their own country. Such scenes are all the more bewildering because it was only in April that the country had a public holiday to celebrate the wedding of the monarch’s grandson with festive street parties held in many communities. It’s a shattering experience to change in three months from baking cakes to celebrate William and Kate’s wedding to having young people producing and using missiles as they vandalise shopping districts and loot all kinds of goods, from running shoes and clothes to music systems and plasma TVs.