A recent letter to the Jamaica Daily Gleaner got me thinking about the wider implications of the UK riots. Written by Rosemarie Greene of Spanish Town Citizens Against Gun Violence, the letter was short but powerful. Here it is in its entirety:
The violence in England is a clear indication of the simmering resentment of people in the underclass, along with other factors.
I, therefore, caution Jamaica not to ask for whom the bells toll, but to move swiftly to look into our urban areas where major pockets of decay and social toxins abound. These inequities did not happen overnight; they took a very long time to develop, and are triggered by lack of infrastructure, lack of education and a lack of family life. There are a host of situations that contribute to this.
We must move away from the political divisions and join hands right now and see how we can stem the tide.
I invite Prime Minister Bruce Golding and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, individuals whom I know love this country, to discuss how they can come together and immediately act. Together they must speak from Jamaica House and encourage the people of Jamaica and be on one page, one nation under God.
Ms. Greene could just as reasonably be talking about the United States.
The UK riots were ostensibly triggered by the fatal police shooting in London of an alleged cocaine dealer, who was apparently unarmed. But the roots of the conflict go far deeper and the repercussions have spread far wider.
I found various explanations I browsed the web – including some gun nut’s claim that the riots resulted from disarming British property owners – but I like Ms. Greene’s analysis best.
Take away hope and you take away everything.
So what else is there to lose? Might as well burn, baby, burn.
And whether by accident or design, the leaders of the United States are taking away the hope Americans have traditionally enjoyed of rising from the underclass through hard work, resourcefulness – and a little bit of luck.
Slashing education funds, for example, reduces one means of self-improvement. Shredding the social safety net adds to the hopelessness of the unfortunate. Laying off public workers and depriving them of their union rights swells the ranks of the unemployed, diminishes tax revenue and stirs hostility against “the government.”
And by accelerating the growth of a super-rich upper class, Washington is providing an image of conspicuous consumption that cannot fail to ignite envy and resentment.
By pursuing the path of budget cuts and “austerity,” and by adopting tax policies that line the pockets of the rich at the expense of the poor, American politicians are setting the stage for massive protests.
Especially since the burden is so unfairly distributed.
Unemployment in America is more than twice as severe among minorities, for example. And far too many police officers persist in racial profiling, filling the prisons with a suspiciously disproportionate number of minority inmates.
Look around you, Americans. See the cities aflame in other parts of the world.
Ask yourselves why the downtrodden in so many other countries are mad as hell and refuse to take it any more.
And realize – before it is too late – that it could happen here.