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London Is Burning: Raiding in the Name of Fashion and Luxury

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The looting of shops by gangs in London is not a novelty. Over the last few years, hardly a week goes by without reports of fashion stores in Mayfair or Belgravia being vandalised and goods worth thousands of pounds stolen. Luxury businesses in the British capital have had to hike the protection of their products and their staff and their security bill is colossal.

The widespread looting of department stores, sportswear shops, and retailers of electrical goods by hundreds of attackers over the last few days across London and other cities in the UK raise many questions. There are important discussions to be had not only about how and why this social unrest came about, but how British society has allowed for a culture of celebrity, easy money, and up-for-grabs luxury to infiltrate via the media and become morally acceptable.

The rise of fashion into a powerful multi-billion industry associated with celebrities over the last decade has brought about a collective desire to own and demonstrate a public elevated and hedonistic social status. The riots and looting in London are not based on religious, ethnic, ethical or political principles, but on the assumption that one is entitled to have what is publicly promoted as desirable. The rioters are not calculating criminals but young people (mostly from deprived backgrounds) who, whether they feel disenfranchised from society or see no employment in their future, still feel entitled to unattainable goods of luxury. The rioters did not steal food nor books; on many occasion, they stole expensive trainers, branded clothes, computer games, and flat screen television sets. On one interview with the BBC, two girls involved in the riots said that they acted as they did to show the police and rich people that they can do what they want.

At World Man About Town we are very much aware that many profitable businesses are not innocent, ethical industries. At the same time, we disapprove of those who are oblivious and even disrespectful of the hard work of people who developed those businesses (as well as their creative dimension) and prefer to usurp its superficial layers of meaning. As such, we condemn the looting of goods and the depletion of the livelihoods of thousands of people who have celebrated the hard work and creativity inherent to making goods that exist to make our lives feel better.

Once the riots are tamed, basic life lessons and values will need to be learnt and applied: that people need to work hard for what they have, be mindful of others, be aware that greed is unacceptable, and that, no matter what your ambitions, stealing what you cannot afford is morally wrong.