No Christmas in Euroland

So, it’s semi-official; Manchester is a city, London is just a collection of villages. Why do I say that? Well, apart from its obvious truth, there is now proof provided by none other than a statistical survey of the movements of those arrested during the 2010 riots (see Drood, August 9th 2010: “London’s burning!”). Whereas the live graphing of rioters’ movements in the period directly prior to their involvement and subsequent arrest shows a concerted rush towards something definable as a centre in the case of Manchester, the same “riot commute” video shows Londoners and denizens of the suburban ring going in all possible directions to arrive at what appear to be entirely aleatory and exocentric, essentially “village” destinations. Of course another answer may simply be that the way movements of large numbers of people are shepherded by the unseen hand of transit coordination and crowd control in London makes any coordinated rush to the heart impossible.

“Reading the Riots”

Other things that we never really doubted have emerged from a recent survey of the opinions of actual rioters on their motivation and grievances. A collaborative effort between the Guardian newspaper and the London School of Economics (LSE) carried out interviews with 270 people who actively participated in the riots in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Salford. Among their findings:

-       there is a general sense of anger at the intrusiveness of “stop & search” policing but its ineffectiveness at solving real crime;

-       people are fed up with the way a certain privileged elite always lands butter side up, even in a crisis;

-       young people are sick of the government robbing the poor and disadvantaged to pay for their own fiscal errors or to shore up the banks;

-       in particular, many are angry at the increase in student tuition fees and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance;

-       although a slight majority of rioters were from African, Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities, motivations were varied and very few of them were prepared to describe the uprisings as “race riots”.

However, a significant proportion of those questioned in this first part of the “Reading the Riots” survey readily admitted that they were there to cause havoc and, above all, get their hands on “free stuff”. There is nothing as depressing as having your prejudices confirmed.

Apropos “free stuff”

Those who thought that joining the European Community and later the Euro would be the fast track to wealth and respect for poorer nations have now been proved decisively wrong. Of course, if Europe had the kind of political and judicial clout that could match its (rather flabby) economic weight, we might stand a chance of seeing the billions salted away by Greek oligarchs and Italian mobsters returned to the common purse. This not being the case, the sick man of Europe is now Europe itself.

However, there are still options. Before we sell our daughters to the Chinese (who currently have somewhat of a shortage) we could always force two classes of Euro profiteers to shoulder their share of the burden. If all our grossly overpaid European parliamentarians were to take a voluntary wage cut of 1000 Euros per month and waive some of their benefits (such as the money they get for signing the attendance register at eight in the morning on a Friday before slipping off to the airport), and if they could communicate that zeal to all of our obscenely overpaid ministers and top civil servants, both national and European, we would save (at a conservative, strictly “Droodian” estimate) about half a billion per annum.

The other class of profiteers who should be frog marched to the counter are those giant companies who have their head offices in London, Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt and Berlin but manage to avoid paying their taxes like other citizens. Either they simply DO NOT PAY (“ha, ha, who’s gonna make me: you and your mum?”) or they rely on highly tedious, very long and complex legal procedures to either mitigate or procrastinate. In Belgium, the beer and beverages giant INBEV and the Indian conglomerate Arcelor Mittal have been among the first to claim subsidies to aid them in “creating employment” but among the last to pay their dues.

If there were effective courts at the European level, with an acceptance of their decisions in all member States, such companies could simply be barred from selling their products or otherwise doing business anywhere within the EU until their outstanding tax bills had been paid. The billions to be harvested by such fierce and effective financial legislation would refloat Greece a hundredfold. The money is definitely there somewhere, just not where we want it, that’s all. And that’s why, at least until further notice, Christmas is cancelled in Euroland.

Edwin Drood

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