Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What does the rioting in London (and other UK cities) mean?

(Image: Rioting in Toxteth, Liverpool, from the Guardian.)

It's too early to say. Maybe.

The conclusion from this Guardian editorial, "Urban riots: Thirty years after Brixton: Conspiracy and deprivation are just part of the story behind today's rioting, which must be understood so it can be overcome," offers food for thought:

The riots are a product of the lives which the rioters choose or feel constrained to live. Blaming the riots on individual wickedness, conspiracies or on government spending cuts is too glib for such complex issues, though they cannot be dismissed altogether even so. Both conspiracy and deprivation are part of the complex and grim story, as is the cult of violence, especially guns, and a rage against exclusion from consumerist fulfilment. A new Scarman would no longer be able to explain these riots as an outburst of resentment against the police. But they are an outburst of resentment and a mark of manifold failure all the same.

I had been mulling over writing a speculative piece about whether or not the worldwide financial crisis (see this Ezra Klein column "Double dip, or just one big economic dive?" from the Post), which is deeper than a recession (think the long period of financial decline and revival required after the Savings and Loan Debacle of the late 1980s--this period, for DC proper, lasted more than 10 years), and the possibility of a progressive response to the Tea Party in the U.S. will lead to a rise of civic activism and populism (not riots I hope).

After all, there has been organizing and demonstrating in Wisconsin and Ohio during the process of Governor-imposed restrictions on collective bargaining, and in Berkeley and other university campuses with regard to tuition increases, not to mention demonstrations in Israel ("Israeli protesters seek radical change" from AFP and "Israel protests show nation's beating heart: Protests led by the young have rekindled the spirit that built the nation," an op-ed from the LA Times), and Spain ("Spain Protest Movement Targets New Rallying Point" from Dow Jones Newswire)about the high cost of living and austerity programs, and in Germany against nuclear power ("Demonstrators in Germany Demand End of Nuclear Power" from the New York Times). Also see "May Day protests take place globally: Demonstrators in France, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Germany and Iraq were among those protesting on a range of issues" from the Guardian.

Although, as always, I am reminded of this 2004 Ted Rall editorial cartoon, and the point made by Neal Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business) and others about media, entertainment, and an anaesthetizing effect as it relates to civic involvement.
Ted Rall editorial cartoon, 12/2/2004

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