Comparing government reactions

It is neither easy nor politically correct to isolate the societal causes that contributed to the riots in England from the government?s reaction to them. It is also irrational to compare those events with the causes behind the recent unrest in Greece and the respective reaction by the Greek government.

While the poor in England have historically been defined by a general lack of professional or social upward mobility, explaining the ?sudden? explosion of anger, the same cannot be said of similar explosions in Greece, as the fate of low-income Greeks so far remains brighter than that of their English counterparts.

However, if we venture to compare the reaction to the riots, destruction, looting and violence by the British government to that of Athens, the difference is massive.

On the one hand, from the very start the UK government did not budge an inch — over social, political or even generational factors — when it came to imposing the law. In Athens, the law was constantly undermined by statements expressing understanding for the rage of the Indignant movement or the troublemakers. In London, the government showed that it was determined to maintain law and order, whereas in Athens, the usual guilt syndrome was stronger than the government?s will to provide safety and security, even when the violence reached its zenith.

To take the comparison further, the British government displayed no fear over whether clashes between the rioters and the police would result in victims that would then take a toll on its popularity, in stark contrast to Athens. At the same time, there was little fuss about the methods used by the British police to quell the riots, whereas in Greece, populist voices bayed for them to shower the rioters with petals and let them go on their merry way. In Britain, the courts stayed open overnight during the period of the riots in order to pass swift judgment on the guilt or innocence of rioters that had been arrested. Needless to say the same was not the case in Athens.

The biggest difference, however, was that in London citizens rushed to clean up the mess, while in Athens and Thessaloniki they showed their support for the cleanup effort with complete indifference.

There are many conclusions that can be drawn from the comparison, but one thing is certain: Christos Papoutsis would never be made citizens? protection minister in Britain.