The Side of Civilization
In Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell writes, when describing his feelings when he heard that fighting had broken out between the anarchist workers and the (communist dominated) government forces:
Once I had heard how things stood, I felt easier in my mind. The issue was clear enough. On the one side the C.N.T. [anarchists], on the other side the police. I have no particular love for the idealize ‘worker’ as he appears in the bourgeois Communist’s mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.
As officers lost control of the streets locals were forced to take the law into their own hands, arming themselves with sticks and chasing looters away from their properties.
In Dalston and Hackney, north-east London, Turkish shopkeepers and their families fought back against looting youths, before spending the night standing shoulder-to-shoulder in an attempt to deter further attacks.
One man said: ‘This is Turkish Kurdish area. They come to our shops and we fight them with sticks.’
On Shacklewell Lane, the Turkish community was hailed across Twitter as being the force which saved the area from wanton destruction.
After a single-deck bus was burned out, stick-wielding shopkeepers chased away a gang of youngsters before standing defiant in the face of further violence.
One, who would not give his name, said: ‘We beat up four of them quite badly and they ran off.’ Another said: ‘This is not justice, coming here and trying to attack us.’
London’s community of Turkish Kurds takes to the streets to protect their neighborhoods
This, at the most basic level, is what civilization is. When a mob bent on destruction comes to burn down your house or destroy your livelihood, if you believe in civilization, you stand shoulder to shoulder to stop them. Orwell may have felt that way about “the worker”, but I feel that way about those who stand up to defend civilization.
I’m reminded too of the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. I lived in the San Fernando Valley, where looting was far less severe than in South Central — but I definitely remember how the city shut down for two days, the smoke from burning buildings could be seen on the horizon, and National Guard troops in full battle dress, carrying M-16s patrolled the streets. But the heroes of that sorry set of events were clearly, to me, the Korean shopkeepers and others from the neighborhoods who gathered to do what the police would not do: keep their livelihoods from being looted and burned down.
|Korean shopkeepers defend their livelihoods curing the 1992 Los Angeles riots|
Some go on about understanding tensions, benefit cuts, etc. Those may all be debatable, but one topic that is not debatable is whether looting and burning down other people’s livelihoods is an acceptable means of expressing one’s feelings. In that dispute, the civilized ones are those who stand shoulder to shoulder and say, “They come to our shops and we fight them with sticks.”