London Riots, the Arab Spring, the African Summer, are we next?

The recent spat of riots in the UK are entirely overdue. While the media is quick to disregard the rioting and looting as the work of a few “thugs,” the wider implications cannot be ignored. Mass unemployment, declining levels of public expenditure, decaying educational infrastructure all have created conditions that leave a young generation of Brits in the dust. It is important to note that lack of foreseeable employment and insecurity are exactly the conditions which led to the so-called “Arab Spring” and later, the “African Summer” as most exemplified by that mass rioting in Malawi of a couple weeks ago.

The stupidity of looting and chaos cannot be denied. However, young people have great difficulty in expressing themselves, often unaware themselves as to why they harbor deep levels of anger and frustration. Verbalizing that frustration in a coherent manner is even more difficult. Things were no different for me when I was a teen and I was just as angry.

The question one must ask, however, is when youth uprisings will return to the United States. We have all the conditions necessary, mass unemployment of young people on an unprecedented scale (ssee below) with little hope in sight. Within the past few years, despite a Democratic President and Senate, we’ve seen vast defunding and dismantling of public education and public expenditure which creates jobs. Worse, we have seen the American populace shift to the right, bowing to the politics of fear rather than reason. I can only see things getting worse from here on out.

I recently watched the excellent documentary “The Weather Underground,” and was astounded to see how far we, as a democratic society have actually sunk. The violent and reckless actions of the Weather Underground are certainly deplorable. The dedication to change and the fight against a seemingly invincible power structure of the SDS, the Weathermen, the Black Panthers and the vast participants of the Civil Rights movement, however, are vastly admirable.

I do not see such a struggle occurring among the youth of 2011. They are far too fractured and self interested to mobilize en masse. It is truly ironic that, despite having the largest and most connected communication network in human history, that the American youth are unable to truly connect with one another. In that sense, the powerful have won and haven’t had to kill a single person.

Unemployment by Age Group (U.S.)

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

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