I was reading about this last night: a mini-riot at Kunming airport after the place was marooned in fog. This isn’t the first time there’s been fairly hefty public disturbance at Chinese airports and it got me wondering for a while if the general power principle in China – that you often only get listened to as a member of the public in proportion to the amount of physical force or threat you can muster – was pushing towards the creation of a partially feral middle class. Unlike environmental protest where there seems to be a debateable equivalence between holding an urban hukou and being middle class, having the wherewithal to fly really is a middle class thing.
Why, how Ballardian! But then it occurred to me that a riot at an airport is actually kind of unthinkable in Britain: just something that would never, ever happen. I suppose there are all kinds of historical and sociological reasons for this, but there’s also the quite serious probability that if any such disturbances did break out in the UK or across the West generally, the cops wouldn’t take much of what they interpreted as provocation to start shooting into the crowd, because, you know, terrorism. In fact the whole twitter joke trial thing was an attempt to prevent airports from being subject to even rhetorical disorder, as though they were sacred spaces. It’s in China that people feel that an airport is a free enough environment to express their discontent forcefully.