The recent Tottenham riots made me think about the difference between the UK and Japan.
Ask most foreigners living here what they like about the country, and they’ll usually reply “The food. Oh, and the safety.”
Sure, you have to keep on your toes for natural disasters in Japan, but the vast majority of people are completely harmless. In central Tokyo, people carry around thousands of dollars in cash, leave their laptops out in cafes when they go to the toilet, abandon their handbags and valuables in the corner of clubs when they dance… and never have any problem.
Thousands of people lost everything in the March 11 tsunami, yet there was a conspicuous lack of looting. Thousands of people were forcibly evacuated from their irradiated homes, hundreds of farmers had their entire business destroyed by radiation, and yet demonstrations are peaceful, well-ordered affairs where people are given pamphlets titled “My First Demo”.
In Tottenham, one black teenager was killed, and swarms of rioters take to the streets to steal Nike trainers and TVs, burning buses and shops. I’m amused to hear such a shocking array of irrational violence called a ‘race riot’. This isn’t about race; it’s about bored, angry young men who want to destroy things. It’s about people losing all empathy and respect for each other, all faith in where they live, all markers of morality.
I wonder how many of those hoodies Cameron has gone to hug today.