UK Uprisings Now, France Last Year, Vancouver in June Not Just Thugs

It’s the easiest way to dismiss what we see going on: a mindless group of hooligans, drunks and thieves wreaking havoc for havoc’s sake …and for profit.

And that’s what the “official”  investigations always conclude afterwards …but they’re wrong.

There are several common threads that link the disturbances throughout the UK right now, France last year, Vancouver in June: ALL are being carried out MOSTLY by disaffected youth, unemployed, underemployed for an entire generation now … with not only no real hope of getting out of their predicament, but actually watching it get worse every year.

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer … study after study have shown for a decade now  that those at the top are enjoying much more of the economic feast …while the middle class has been saddled with more and more of the cost of paying for it all …and those below that who are employed are being squeezed with such low pay (and NO benefits)  to the point that they need two jobs and still can barely afford to cover their ever-increasing rising costs for rent, food, clothing, transportation and services.  

Worse:  in some communities, an entire generation of young people in this, the richest civilization humanity has ever known, have grown up without jobs,  and without prospects for EVER obtaining anything meaningful, whether they are in  in Britain, Europe and North America.

And all the while they SEE those who ARE prospering at the top … earning salaries in the millions or hundreds of thousands, others set to receive pensions in the hundreds of thousands, living in huge homes (many with chalets or yachts as well),  driving luxury cars, dining at all those posh places, shopping the High Street shops loaded with fashions and electronics and furnishings and even foods they … with no jobs or only minimum wage poverty pay …  can never buy or realistically hope to acquire some day.

And what do they hear from their leaders and from their corporate media messengers?  That THEY …not the really rich …have to do more with less, pay higher taxes and fees, make  do with less benefits … and tighten their belts, while the fat cats expand theirs.

This is not rhetoric.  This is the truth, supported by several economic studies throughout the Western world, the gaps between the very rich and the middle class and those at the bottom have been expanding, not contracting. 

The result: those at the bottom are now increasingly ticking bombs, just waiting for a spark to set them off.

It gives some of them the excuse to lash out, to express their rage,  to manifest their frustrations … and to scoop up some of those goods in the stores they cannot … and will never be able to afford.

The solution, of course, is for the rich corporate owners and top executives … who often measure profits in BILLIONS,  to realize they have a duty to share more of that wealth with those who work for them, at all levels, to restore the middle class.   And to pay fair taxes so that governments can provide services and projects to assist those at the bottom, including work projects (another New Deal!) to actively employ and train young people for decent work.

There actually was a time when almost all companies did hire workers full-time, paid benefits, created pensions …and fulfilled their social responsibilities as part of society.  Now, even many, many firms that measure PROFITS in hundreds of millions of dollars …have abandoned their responsiblities and downloaded all formerly corporate costs on government. 

And is it a coincidence that the UK, France , Canada and BC  have all had right wing governments in power that have cut programs and spending on youth and the underprivileged?  While easing the taxes  on corporations? 

We need governments that will insist on this changing…instead of pandering to the million-dollar lobbysts working for billion-dollar corporate interests. 

And we need media who will champion the interests of the middle class and the young people who want to work and deserve the right to do so .. for fair and decent wages, so they don’t have to live five to an apartment just to survive.

Of course, I am dreaming.

The police will enforce order; officials will blame a small group of thugs, the government will vow to crack down in the future, and the media will call for stiff sentences to those apprehended. 

But the real guilty will go free …  and think they are now safe.

Until the next uprising.

Harv Oberfeld

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21 Responses to UK Uprisings Now, France Last Year, Vancouver in June Not Just Thugs

  1. DonGar says:


    I agree that the riots in France and Britain are a result of the many unemployed and poor lashing back at society. However I don’t agree the Vancouver riot has any similarity to what is happening in Europe. The French riots were mainly a result of a failed immigration policy which is also a major contributor to what’s happening in Britain.

    Middle class is rapidly disappearing and I agree the spread between the rich and poor is widening. Individual Canadian debt is at record highs and kids getting out of university have thousand and thousands of dollars of debt to repay before they can even start saving for a house or retirement or afford a place of their own to rent. The problem is we have yet to create the better paying jobs in significant enough numbers to replace all the old well paying manufacturing jobs etc that have been lost to places like China and India. Until we figure out that little problem things will continue to get worse.

    And on a final note of the approx. 5% of Canadians making over $100,000 a year how many are in government or government affiliated business?

    (Response: My first reaction was that the turm,oil in the UK was immigrant-based. And the spark may have been. But the uprisings spread to too many cities, too many neighbourhoods …old stock white areas too ..signally something more is behind it. In Vancouver, the Olympic riot, like the ’94 Stanley Cup riot was largely fueled by drunks, anarchists. But this last one waws sonething different …many, many more people … thousands …joined in: not drunk or anarchists ,but angry, clearly disaffected young people full of frustration, rage that went far beyond a desire to just score an I-pad. h.o)

  2. Rocker Rich says:

    Better get fitted with a sturdy helmet, Harv, for the brickbats surely to descend from harumphers upset that you don’t simply blame the rioters.

    If it was just thugs taking part in these uprisings, police would easily shut them down. It’s the discouraged and dispossessed who are attracted like moths to a flame.

    Given the economic havoc that continues to unfold in the US (and the lack of criminal or even significant civil consequences for the bankers/traders/de-regulating politicos who caused it) one wonders when violence will erupt stateside.

    (Response: So I began the week making the lefties angry at me and ended making the right wingers angry at me: it’s been a good week. h.o)

  3. Julie says:

    I totally agree with you Harv.

    There is anger and rage just bubbling, just below the surface. This is not just the young people either. I hear anger expressed by adults, everywhere I go. Not only are, Campbell, Hansen, Christy, Falcon and the BC Liberals despised, for their corruption and stealing. There is anger building towards Harper as well. Ask the WW11 veterans, what they see going on in this country. They see a dictatorship and worse. Ask them what they think about the BC Liberals.

    Who isn’t angry? All of us are. I see and hear it everyday. Anger is all over the internet, from every province. The young may be more angry because, they have no future. BC has been stolen blind.

    All Harper is focused on is, building up his war machinery. His prisons. He is rabid to be an energy giant. Even if he pollutes the entire planet, to achieve his agenda. Harper is only interested, in his own power and glory. And, to hell with the people. We were warned, if Harper wins a majority, we can kiss Canada good-bye. Harper has made, a hell of a mess of Canada.

    (Response: The difference is old folks, like me, may get upset or angry, but apart from talking it up, we aren’t likely (or don’t have the energy anymore) to take to the streets. Young people …facing a lifetime ahead with what they perceive is no hope of getting ahead or a good job or even fair pay for a crappy job, realize the gap is getting bigger and bigger. h.o)

  4. Martin says:

    A lot of these “rioters” in the UK are copycats, who see a chance to go out and be idiots and get a bunch of free stuff. The most troubling video I saw was of a teenager who was injured and bleeding, and was helped to his feet by some fellow kids. After pretending to see if he was alright, they proceeded to open his backpack and steal everything out of it.

    I give the UK credit though, because if I were in charge I would have declared a state of emergency, brought in the military and told them to shoot to kill if they ran into any of these punks causing trouble.

    (Response: Yes a lot are thieves and thugs and troublemakers. But when thousands take part in several different cities …there’s something more going on …and governments and business better start paying attention or I believe it will get worse. h.o)

  5. Keith says:

    Ayup Harvey,

    a couple of hours before I read your post I was having a conversation about this very subject with a lady on the beach at Qualicum after she had asked where I was from ( London). She was fearful that the riots in Vancouver were more than just “anarchists” as our esteemed leaders put it and the Stanley Cup, but something deeper than that with the London riots being for a different reason but with the same basic social circumstances.

    At least 18 months ago I recall reading an article in the Globe & Mail first published in the London Sunday or Daily Telegraph about disaffected youth and all that brings with it in Britain that had no prospects for decent jobs in great part due to watered down educational levels, the export of jobs and imports of cheap labour to or from any lowest common denominator, no future, with the added bonus of not being able to relate with a national identity. The gist of the article was that this situation could happen here in Canada as we are pretty well doing the same things.

    Based on my own experiences with nieces and nephews although well educated are having trouble finding any job in the London area your piece is uncanningly accurate, not just the present situation but to the article in the Globe that said the same thing. I do hope our elected gofers for whoever donates to their campaigns take a serious look at this situation as it will happen here. But as you said…..

    “We need governments that will insist on this changing…instead of pandering to the million-dollar lobbyists working for billion-dollar corporate interests.
    And we need media who will champion the interests of the middle class and the young people who want to work and deserve the right to do so .. for fair and decent wages, so they don’t have to live five to an apartment just to survive.

    Of course, I am dreaming.”

    Hopefully someone will wake up.

    (Response: Thanks. Makes me feel more comfortable writing what I did. I believe big government and big business know the gaps are getting wider …but clearly are more committed to serving the ruling class (who pay for their campaigns and retirement rewards) than taxing the rich more or cutting corporate taxes/grants/subsidies (unless critically in the public interest in very specific cases). h.o)

  6. D.G.B. says:

    You’re right Harvey – people have had enough.

    There never was such thing as “trickle-down economics”, and the wacky “Tea Party Republicans” in the States made that loud and clear. Only clear thing is that there’s more of “us” than them who perch at the top. Sounds like depression times are back like the 1930’s.

    (Response: The greatest proof that the Tea Party memebers are msotly ignoramuses is that they themselves are often bvery middle class or even less …and yet they have been wankered into supporting tax cuts for the richest corporations or multi-millionaires and billionaires. While destroying their beloved country’s economy and government. Truly amazing. h.o.)

  7. ron wilton says:

    I could not agree with you more Harv.

    Your response toD.G.B. is spot on as well.

    I believe that we here in BC may have accomplished something extremely important by forcing the government to rethink and hopefully rescind the HST.

    If a significant majority voted YES, we will have boldly stepped into a brave new world where corporate bullies can’t rush off to the nearest law office to get a judge to grant an injunction to stop us, or use our own police force to threaten us, or beat us, or pepper spray us, or worse.

    More will join the next declaration for democracy, whether it be ending the arrogance of the Foreign Fish Farms, the Enbridge pipeline, the rape of our rivers, etc. etc.

    We will have created a tide in our affairs that no government or corporate entity can withstand, and when the rest of the country sees what we have done, they too will rise up and say enough, and we will take our country back,step by step, province by province. (Alberta might be tough)

    I can hardly wait.

  8. Diverdarren says:

    No, Vancouver’s riots and the riots of the UK, France, Mid East are not rooted in the same causes.
    But, that doesn’t change the truth of your point. The gulf between rich and poor has never been wider, and the people are starting to rise up.

    There are a dozen reasons which have lead us up to this point. There’s no need to rattle them off, but we (being the West) have been on a race towards the bottom for twenty+ years. Our countries are broke our people are disillusioned, and we’re going down like dominoes.

    What’s the solution Harvey? The way you write; blaming conservatives, asking for private corporations to give profits back to the people instead of the shareholders, and the lack of social programs, it looks like you’re calling for socialism. News flash for you, its been tried before and there is no reason why it would work if we tried it again.

    You are right about there being a next uprising, (who knows where) but when we see it on Main St. USA we’ll know it’s over for us in the West.

    (Response: You know, there was a time when capitalism worked FOR the middle class: millions of people in the UK, Europe, the US and Canada rose from poverty to a pretty comfortable life working for business, even large corporations. And then globalization took over and huge companies found they could make products in Asia by paying people 60 cents a day ..and no the beancounters here began to cut or close anything they could in the Western countries…salaries, benefits, pensions, staff etc etc. We now see and are reaping the results. h.o)

  9. Gloria says:

    The huge corporations, make trillions from our country’s vast natural resources, and from every other country on the planet’s resources.

    Corrupt and greedy politicians, took money from the giant corporations. Eventually, the country is owned by the very corporations, the politicians took the money from.

    Harper gave, mines, banks, large corporations, gas and oil outfits, billions of our tax dollars. I saw that very motion pass, while watching the House of Commons, TV channel. Harper gives them huge tax reductions. The last reduction, comes off Canadians paychecks. Why is our government ripping off Canadians, to give our tax dollars to, the wealthiest corporations in the world? Because, they own absolutely everything of value, that’s why.

    BC has vast natural resources. There is no excuse for this province to be in this terrible financial shape. Should there??? Good grief!!! BC won’t even own our, clean drinking water supply.

    The rivers of BC, belong to the people. The BCR belonged to the people, as well as the priceless real estate that went with the railroad. Our timber belongs to us. BC’s mines and gas fields belong to us. There are mines galore opening up in BC. Who rakes in all the money? The BC citizens, sure in the hell don’t. They even want to thieve the HST from the citizens, to give to big business.

    Of course the gap is growing wider. It has grown wider, all over the world. Are people in all the other country’s angry for nothing? They want change, and so do we. If country’s took their resources back, and kicked the giant greedy corporations out. We would be surprised how much better off, this world would be. Turn the military on the people? To hell with that, turn the army on the giant corporations, and corrupt politicians. Hunt them down, as they do the terrorists.

    (Response: Corporations … even big ones … are NOT bad things per se. They provide jobs for thousands, provide us with the newest technology. But they must pay their fair share of taxes to support society’s services …not have a free ride, like too many right wing messengers demand. And those who have become wealthy in our society have a responsibility to give back a fair portion to their community …not just demand, more, more, more. But with governments and millionaire-owned media serving and now advocating almost completely on behalf of the interests of the wealthy not the middle class, the situation will only get worse. h.o)

  10. 13 says:

    Harvey, while I agree with your thoughts I would also add that many of the unemployed are imigrants that came to Britain and the dream of a new land has not come to pass. Is it their fault for comming or is it britains fault for letting them imigrate.
    Look at the Flash robs in the East. Mostly unemployed black men and boys.
    The rioters in Vancouver wernt poor imigrants they were drunks. They were even worse than the imigrants in Britain and the blacks in the the Eastern states. They dont have the social enonomic problems to blame their ignorant behavior on.

    (Response: I understand your point perfectly. Some of the poorest, uneducated immigrants are having problems in many countries and yes, the UK, France, Europe created part of the problem by allowing so many in legally, beyond the countries’ capacity to absorb them, and even letting those who came illegally stay out of compassion. That just encouraged hundreds of thousands more to come …or try to, so they have to stop that flow. BUT most of those now taking part, in several different cities across the UK, are NOT immigrants, but lower income of unemployed wihtes who, as I wrote, are tired of getting only the crumbs from the huge economic feast being enjoyed by so many others. h.o)

  11. David Graham says:

    I complely concur with Harv on this one. We’ll see what has happened in the UK with the track we’re on in this country. Canada will be a better country if there’s some trickle down with the wealth.

    (Response: And watch the US…with all the government services/programscuts to come, the terrible economy, and the rich refusing to give up their “temporary” cuts …I’d bet there are a lot of inner cities that could erupt. By the way, those tax cuts for the rich were introduced a decade ago to free up cash and help them create jobs: anyone seen any yet? h.o)

  12. D. M. Johnston says:

    Dead right!

    I have been warning about civil unrest in various blogs for over a year and most people mistaken my thoughts as a call to riot. I believe it is called, “shooting the messenger.”

    The BBC reports that 17% of the UK’s youth (under 21) have never held a job. This is a recipe for disaster.

    The USA is heading the same way, aided by the tea-bags….er…..tea party.

    History shows us that when about 35% of the population becomes disenchanted with the government, they agitate for major change, the higher the number of people wanting change increases the level of violence.

    WE now have had the Arab spring and the UK summer, could a USA Autumn and Canada winter be not far behind?

    What we saw at the Vancouver Stanley cup riot was lager louts who just has no regard for the law, but they have learned from their political masters who also have no regard for the law. The only difference is that the politicos have the power and sadly the mob and the riot tends to topple such power.

    I wish more people read history because we are just repeating ourselves and I do not like the outcome.

    (Response: The Mid East uprisings are quite different …more political than economic. But nasty, barbaric dictatorships are easily understood for what they are …if not agreed with.. However, I think when the disparity in a democratic society as rich as ours is growing …it is even more inexcusable. h.o)

  13. mariner says:

    I agree with you on this Harvey. It will get a lot worse before it gets better. The have not’s literally “have not” when compared to those that are well off.

    I suppose sending more police and perhaps, the military will probably inflame the issues even more. Brute force probably isn’t going to solve any problems – it just deals with some of the symptoms.

    It bothers me that British Columbia is setting itself up for similar occurances – and yet the government doesn’t seem to want to know. Even the HST referendum is being overseen by Craig James – who is far from clean and just as crooked as the rest f the government.

    It would serve the government right, if there is civil unrest – including rioting and all that goes with it. Maybe, if some of these large corporations were to lose something of great value, they might just start to think and wonder why. I personally doubt it and won’t hold my breath.


  14. SB says:

    Dead on here with this blog i agree we are on the road to a far worse situation and we need to change.
    These mistakes have been made before history contains many violent unkind lessons and they do repeat , in our modern educated society there is no reason other than greed we know better.
    will it be worth the eventual price?

  15. StandUpforBC says:

    Diverdarren…said: “What’s the solution Harvey? The way you write; blaming conservatives, asking for private corporations to give profits back to the people instead of the shareholders, and the lack of social programs, it looks like you’re calling for socialism. News flash for you, its been tried before and there is no reason why it would work if we tried it again.”

    Diverdarren, the point is that ANY extreme scenario is a recipe for trouble, and ultimately, disaster. We need to restore a balance in our western societies, and Harvey’s excellent piece points out the primary problem. The rich and powerful never seem to have enough, and we cannot rely on any innate goodwill in the ranks of the global elite (people and corporations). Power goes to people’s heads, whether they’re on the extreme right or extreme left, and the trouble begins when there’s no effective set of checks and balances on power (which brings wealth and vice versa).

    Right now, Canada is in grave danger of becoming a full-out dictatorship run by appointees of cronies operating a system that is corroded with corruption. Look at who Harper surrounds himself with: convicted felons, a cabinet minister (Ota) who defiantly lies right in our faces even as she, we and Harper know she’s lying. Harper, a Prime Minister who defies the courts, and thumbs his nose at being found in contempt of our (OUR) Parliament. We deceive ourselves thinking we’re a healthy democracy. That’s been eroded into nothing more than a government PR/media schtick. I won’t even bother to describe BC in this regard, so tainted is its governing structures and authorities.

    We need a balanced approach. Like any engine, where you need a balance of oxygen and fuel (or whatever), too much of one or the other, and the vehicle dies. It’s the same for corporations or societies. If a company doesn’t hire enough new people, it becomes stagnant and falls behind, if it hires too many people too quickly, then chaos will be the result, and performance will suffer.

    Balance. That’s what we’re missing, and the imbalance we are all beginning to become painfully aware of has been deliberately sought and created by the right-wing neo-cons who see the corporation and armies as the be-all and end-all. It will be the end-all if we, and they, do not take significant steps to turn this global ship around.

    Harvey’s response to another post speaks eloquently to this:

    (ho said: “Corporations … even big ones … are NOT bad things per se. They provide jobs for thousands, provide us with the newest technology. But they must pay their fair share of taxes to support society’s services …not have a free ride, like too many right wing messengers demand. And those who have become wealthy in our society have a responsibility to give back a fair portion to their community …not just demand, more, more, more. But with governments and millionaire-owned media serving and now advocating almost completely on behalf of the interests of the wealthy not the middle class, the situation will only get worse.”)

    (Response: Thanks. really well put .. by both of us! h.o.)

  16. Ed Seedhouse says:

    Of course they will try to keep the lid on as long as they can, thinking they can do that forever. And so the inevitable explosion will be all the worse. What comes out of that, who can know? But past experience does not suggest a comfortable outcome.

  17. Gloria says:

    Big businesses such as chains, don’t give their staff more than 20 hours per week. That’s so the greedy @$$, don’t have to pay benefits. I support, the small mom and pop businesses. I will not support a chain, that doesn’t allow their staff lunch and coffee breaks. I far prefer a province of shopkeepers, and small local businesses. That way the money stays in BC, rather than our money ending up, in an off shore account.

    For what reason should our resources be taken over by the giant corporations? Why can’t provinces manage their own resources? What do the BC people gain, from our vast wealth of resources? We stupid little peons are to be happy because, we get a few jobs? Right? While those greedy corporations, bank their trillions, in Bermuda, tax free.

    Don’t talk to me about big business. They pay their staff a pittance, while the big chain laughs all the way to the bank.

    When people lose everything they have, and have nothing left to lose, they lose it.

    That is exactly what is happening, all around the globe.

  18. cherylb says:

    Totally agree. I also think that it can easily become overwhelming because we are being attacked from many different directions at once. We have to take it to the streets, just like we did with the HST. We have to pick one fight at a time and focus on it and see it through. Otherwise, we may as well throw up our hands and give up and all become filled with rage and bitterness. I won’t be doing that. I’d rather go down fighting.

    (Governments can do more rewarding those companies that provide full time jobs, benefits and pensions ..and penalizing those that load up their staffs with part-timers working less than full time, paying no benefits or providing no pensions. And companies have to be made to realize they hurt themsleves in the long run by loading up their top executives with too large a share of the profits pie, at the cost of their employees down the chain. h.o)

  19. DonGar says:

    The message being sent to anyone thinking about being involved in any future riots is don’t worry you will not be punished so go ahead and enjoy yourself. Were is Ms. Clark after her swift action photo op to quickly bring these thugs to justice?

  20. A Dave says:

    The numbers bear your theory out, Harvey.

    Approx. 1/4 youth (and by extension, families) in BC live in poverty. So, in a crowd of 100,000 there’s a potential that 25,000 people are disaffected, with little prospects, and a very good reason to be resentful, with simmering anger looking for an outlet to vent their frustrations. All it takes is some kindling, a small fire, and seeing others getting involved.

    For most, it was probably not an overtly political act to be involved in a riot like Vancouver’s. But to ignore or dismiss the underlying frustration and tension that so clearly exists these days due to the growing economic disparities, not only here, but in London and Paris, would be utter folly for our governing elites. At some point, “bread and circuses” are no longer enough to appease the masses.

    (Response: Thanks. I’ll have more on numbers in my next blog. h.o)

  21. Mike Boileau says:

    I’ll tell you what else we need Harv. We need to stop sending our Armed Forces to places like Libya, Afghanastan and any other places that pose no threat to Canada. We need to stop sending money to any foreign nations. PERIOD!

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