London vs Madrid

For centuries, the British looked down on the Spaniards as uncivilized and barbaric. I remember traveling in Spain with a group of British tourists who wouldn’t shut up about heir outrage over the bullfighting, the low-cultured folks in the streets and the dirty restaurants and cafes.

Compare, however, the peaceful political protests of the Spanish indignados who go out into the streets to denounce the faulty political system and the crazed mobs in the UK. The Spanish protesters want to repair what’s broken in their society. The British mobs just want to destroy some more.

Of course, most people in Britain are as horrified wih the rioters as I am. However, something tels me that there is a huge overlap among the groups that burn and loot in Britain and denounce the barbarity of the Spanish when they get a rest from those noble activities.

Now who is a barbarian?

17 thoughts on “London vs Madrid”

  1. Of course, most people in Britain are as horrified wih the rioters as I am. However, something tels me that there is a huge overlap among the groups that burn and loot in Britain and denounce the barbarity of the Spanish when they get a rest from those noble activities.

    Somehow, I doubt it. As a Brit who has been a tourist in Spain, I’d say there is a large overlap between the people who have been rioting in England and those who think the ideal holiday in Spain is: eat a Full English Breakfast in 30*C heat, drink, get sunburn, drink, take drugs, rave, fight, snog, shag, fight, drink, vomit – and repeat for 5 or 6 days, or until you’re arrested and sent home (as subject of ironic celebration by The Streets

    plus you’ve contradicted yourself: you’ve just posted that the #UKriots have no political intention or content… so the figo for that then 😉


  2. I really don’t see where I’ve contradicted myself. Maybe I should stop posting before I’ve had a coffee. 🙂 The point is that if you want to see genuine political protests, go to Spain. Now the question I have is whether you see something like the Spanish movement possible in the UK?

    In the US, I don’t see it at all.


    1. It’s true that France, Italy and Spain have a greater tradition of mass demonstration in politics, in the UK we have a tradition of mass demonstrations that achieve nothing, dating back to the protests for manhood suffrage in 1848 upto the march against the Iraq War, and we’ve had recent mass protests against increases in University fees and the TUC’s but so far none has changed the government’s mind. This has good points and bad pints of course – you only need to look at the history of France, Italy and Spain in the 20th century compared to the UK to see that. There is also the fact Spain has 20% unemployment vs our 8% and an even more explosive bursting of the housing market bubble – if things get that bad here, maybe we’ll have that scale of protest movement.


        1. The movement in Spain is a protest movement – the rioters in England aren’t a protest movement in any coherent way (they may be unhappy, but they don’t have a program for political change.)
          There is a protest movement in the UK which is completely separate from the rioters, but my point is that UK political culture doesn’t produce the same kind of mobilisation as Spain.


    2. There are no giant protests against the US government anymore because of the government’s reactions to those protests: tear gas and mass arrests. Most, if not all, the marches or smaller protests on the capitol have succeeded in producing this response, whether or not they actually turned violent (and many times they didn’t).

      Nowadays I just see protestors marching on individual people, not the government as a whole. Our perpetual state of military action does help prevent large protests, though (no one wants to cross a wartime president, because of the reduced rights granted protesters during these times).



    “Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday, when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station. A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.

    Thank you to Bakouchaïev for that.


  4. I’d consider what you are saying, Pen, if it weren’t for the most recent elections and the failure of the Wisconsin recall effort. It now seems to me that people do not protest because they are mostly content with everything.


    1. And then there are the people who are clearly not content behind closed doors yet do not protest because to them, the most they can do is participate in elections. There are people where I live who wouldn’t dream of going on strike or forming a picket line against their workplace, because doing so would mean the risk of getting fired–and to stop working for any length of time might mean they would lose their home.

      Marching against politicians can elicit similar responses. I’d like to march against certain politicians, but I don’t because in doing so I would risk arrest and potential legal harassment. In addition, I would be held accountable for any violent action that occurs–even if I had neither committed nor condoned the act myself.


    2. I think you look too much at elections and not enough at the people. This is about class, race and angry youth with no future.

      This is what you get with savage capitalism and deep cuts in social spending. The more the gap between riches and poors widens, the more you will see those kind of things happen. In fact, it wil get worse as the economy is about to go down in the toilet.

      If you don’t think this is political, I suggest you not to ever teach political analysis.


  5. If British banks had what’s known in the parlance as full recourse loans like Spanish banks where they can take your present and future income without hindrance, there would be riots in England by the working poor and middle class as well.


  6. Hi Clarissa, been following your blog for a while but never responded before. I just want to say that as a resident of Liverpool where we have had several nights of looting, car burning and even attacks upon the fire service – I do feel that many (not all) of the looters are young men who do not feel part of their own society , they have little hope of employment and often come from families where no-one has worked for generations. There are deep inequalities in British society and we have this whole underclass who do not feel connected. As Caroline Lucas said earlier (green party leader) ‘the Prime Minister has said “this is not about poverty but culture”. It is about both when you mix growing inequality with a culture which puts consumerism above citizenship’ This does not excuse the recent behaviour, but may go some way to trying to explain it.


    1. Thank you for commenting! Your name is my favorite one in the world. 🙂 I’m glad I published this post because I’m now discovering my British readers. I love your country passionately ever since I first visited it in 1990. This is why I perceive the damage that is being done to it on a very personal level.


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