A fun riot, indeed | Selangor Times
Issue 118


A fun riot, indeed
Writer: Lee Lian Kong

"We can do what we like, no one can stop us." Early last month, London and a couple of other cities were held hostage by rioters. The English's castles were looted by 14-year- olds in hoodies.

Though this sounds comical, the underlying issues of the youths involved are gritty and not to be taken lightly.

Those young people are called "chavs", described as "aggressive teenagers and young adults, of working-class background, who repeatedly engage in anti-social behaviour such as street drinking, drug abuse and rowdiness, or other forms of juvenile delinquency".

But the question isn't who they were, but why they were doing this. Left-wingers reasoned that the riots were a result of lack of hope, aspiration and firm parenting in Britain's cities. Right-wingers claimed it was because of our glorification of violence and ugliness in literature, art, media, etc.

Sure, both sides had some valid points, but quite irksomely, it's just not quite there. 

It's too simplistic to just ask why, and even simpler to draw parallels to the Middle East's uprisings, our own Bersih movement on July 9, or Argentina's 2001 mass looting. These had political direction, whether against overstaying dictators, unfair elections, or corrupt privatisation deals. 

If we immediately assume the riots to be of the same mould, we're discounting a vital element present in these riots: fun.

The photos of the rioting said it all. These young ones were running away laughing, or were posing with grins. While the initial protests in London had some political foundations, the ensuing riots elsewhere were just copycats taking advantage of the situation to steal some trainers. They wanted a piece of the action as well.

Thus, the question to ask is, why do they find it fun to steal, loot and hurt? Is it for bragging rights? For a few pairs of train- ers and some designer goods?

That's the middle class in me talking. In my content little world of college and clubbing, I am unable to see the signifi- cance of such "rewards". I'm part of the majority, the dominant culture. I belong.

But what gets me and my middle-class friends going isn't cutting it for the working class. We're of different classes. For me to condemn their idea of fun, condemn the lengths they are willing to go for some branded clothes, is condescending. 

Which is exactly what the media did. Their one- sided coverage of the events reflected the upper- and middle-class delusional idea of their "moral superiority". This is a) hypocritical because we bail out bankers who screwed up our economies - even though as Russell Brand, actor cum social commentator, eloquently put it: "They got away with a lot more than a few f***** pairs of trainers."

And it is b) stupid because we are judging something we don't understand.

When the argument on class comes in, this is when these UK riots found resonance in other nations as well. The media demonisation wasn't restricted to just the UK's Daily Telegraph and The Independent. Society's hypocrisy is the same, be it in Birmingham, Buenos Aires or Kuala Lumpur. 

Chavs, NEDs (non-educated delinquents), rempit - they're the same. Violence, gangsterism, vandalism - it's all just fun to them.

Maybe this "fun" is mindless, maybe it isn't. But this kind of fun is serious. A society that considers damage and destruction as fun is a society in serious need of a debate of where it's going. Incarceration is not the solution, but the willingness to remove our insecurities and to accept alternative views is. Understanding is. And until we do, let's put those pointing fingers away. 


 Selangor Times



Also by Lee Lian Kong:

A Critique on KL : It’s Alive

A 20-something year old girl, dressed in the current trendy look (loose patterned blouse, denim shorts, aviators, brown highlighted hair) walks with her DSLR camera in her hands. She flings it to the sky and the video sweeps into the (as per usual) spectacular aerial view of KL’s cityscape, highway and suburbs.

A man with no shoes

He didn’t have shoes on. A pair of rubber soles with the top part of what used to be a shoe, hanging by a thread or two, hardly count as shoes. On them were his feet, his black feet covered white, only possible through the harshness of the cold, chapping away at skin. I could not take my eyes off them. For three months, I’ve only seen smooth feet, covered in proper shoes or the eye-rolling hipster Toms. Feet and shoes that belonged to the haves.

Music lost on KL

That Kuala Lumpur exists and her beauty lost to so many is beyond me.

Erykah Badu and the free speech paradox

Free speech has its limits. That’s the paradox of the First Amendment.


It had been a 14 hour long flight, after an earlier 6 hours flight. I was flying to Evansville, Indiana, to undertake a one semester study grant by the US Department of State. So there I was, jetlagged and tired but finally, on United States of America soil. It was my first time on a plane and crossing oceans. There was excitement but my tired body was struggling to keep up with it. It didn’t help that at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport where I was transiting, there was a long line at US Customs. I was not in the best mood.

A Lawyers’ March … Fuh!

Labels – most commonly used by confused hormonal teenagers desperately grappling for an identity; may be manipulated by the media and bitchy, good-looking girls and boys to determine social hierarchy in high school. The thing about labels is that we usually grow out of them when we graduate from high school and discover that there are more pressing things at hand like mortgages and stagnant wages.

Why I don’t enjoy nasi lemak any more

The Auditor General Report 2010. Nasi Lemak 2.0. What do they have in common? Yes, that’s right – our nation is bankrupt.

Our merciless society

Amy Winehouse was a soul singer from a town called Camden in England. Her powerful voice was first discovered by Simon Fuller, found critical acclaim in her first album Frank and phenomenal worldwide success in her breakthrough album Back to Black.

First-class Malaysian sporting heroes

They’re everywhere! Flying, reading minds, attracting metals, smashing buildings into pulp. It’s hero-invasion season now. X-Men: First Class had barely ended before The Green Lantern swooped in, and soon, we will have Captain America.

Girls and subcultures

Don’t accept the old order. Get rid of it.So says Johnny Rotten, vocalist of the Sex Pistols. That’s what subcultures are all about: rejection of mainstream society, whether in the form of music, fashion, visual arts, dance, literature, films, etc. A subculture’s intention is to differentiate itself.

Young and Sarawakian/Malaysian

Good things come in pairs. In my case, they came in threes. They came in the form of three close friends from St Joseph, Kuching, who flew across the pond to pursue their A Levels.

A refuge for the young ones

"We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” - Sean Parker, The Social Network


Let's create more P Ramlees

This song will continue to resonate timelessly. P Ramlee was not a one-hit wonder. His songs spanned decades, from the infectious Bunyi Gitar to the aching Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti. His is a genius sorely missed in today’s creatively barren music industry.











From Windows to a Mac: A guide




In for a sweet treat




A Majestic presence





Copyright © 2018 Selangor Times. All rights reserved. Designed By Senedi