The Side of Civilization

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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.

I had a similar feeling fo clarity today when I read this today:

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.”

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  1. I remember the Korean shop keepers. As the cowardly LAPD stood by and watched, they stood up to protect their livelihood from the thugs wanting to turn LA into a war zone.

  2. “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away!”

    Civilization always rests on what ordinary people are willing to do to defend themselves against the forces of anarchy or oppression. That is why the Founding Fathers gave us the Second Amendment. I haven’t fired a weapon since I was in the Army three decades ago. If a mob were bearing down on my office building to loot and burn it, I think I would pick up some old skills very fast, along with a lot of my fellow business men and women.

  3. Mr. Edwards beat me to it. The Brits don’t allow Korean shopkeepers to own AK-47’s.

    In fact, the Brits have prosecuted property owners for defending themselves.

    One gun freedom organization’s new T-Shirt: “A disarm society is a dangerous place.”

  4. Kathy Shaidle has a good picture of a large band of Sikhs defending one of their gurdwaras in London. Smiling for the camera, but armed with everything from baseball bats to chair legs. Apparently, the Sikhs of London have managed to protect all of their temples that way. Oh, and a news presenter for a Sikh TV network drove a group of police to arrest four thugs he’d filmed engaged in their yobbery. Up the Sikhs!

    The English government’s response has been nothing short of disgraceful. I’ve been repeating this a lot, but it still holds–with disorder like that, there should be Challenger tanks in the streets by now.

  5. *jawdrop* Given the reputation of the Sikhs, I’m amazed that these mobs were dumb enough to even threaten them! I guess it’s sort of like the CodePink blankers spitting on Marines– attack a high profile target because you believe they won’t respond as they are able to– but how on earth can someone who works that out stand to live with themselves?

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