Chickens coming home to roost: The riots are our fault.Posted: August 12, 2011
The Media, Politicians and the Police have spent a lot of airtime since the windows began smashing in North London explaining to a largely worried audience that there is no rhyme or reason to it. The cavalcade of chaos, destruction and theft, we are told, was purely a matter of theft borne out of a criminal tendency and lack of respect for the law bred by an entitlement culture brought about by an over generous government. Doing so in an oddly disingenuous way that suggested that if there was a coherent message uniting all the rioters they would have somehow supported them; Cameron, Clegg and Johnson all though angry bared teeth stated that it was not political or even thought though, just plain greed and pure criminality.
This overarching narrative is attractive as it provides a nice black and white, criminals do damage, and authority comes along fixes and punishes, all the happy people of the village go back to their lives. This is the root of the “Hang ‘em and Flog ‘em” Idea as because for Conservatism and liberalism to work we have to already be living in the optimum society; it might need a tax raised or lowered, or a new social program put in place but basically this is the best we’re ever going to get. Therefore people who break the apparent placid façade of that society have to be mindless, evil, mentally incapable or all three. As far as the political establishment is concerned you cannot be discontent or detached with the fundamentals of our society as well as a rational human being with real emotions in the way everyone else understands them. therefore, when the ex-editor of the sun Kelvin Mackenzie stated on the BBC’s Newsnight that there was “Nothing to understand” about why the riots took place; those participating lacked respect for authority that their parents should have taught them, he tapped into the core of the Narrative dominating the mainstream news cycle; at the heart of the problem was a lack of due respect.
That’s true, at the heart of the problem, there is a lack of respect; for the past 6 years at least once a week someone under the age of 20 has died violently in Britain, in the past twelve years deaths in police custody has averaged out to about one a month without any action being taken against constables, black and Asian youths are still stopped and searched at an obscenely higher level than their white counterparts, in many areas police forces are seen as, and play up to, the role of a cross between the most powerful gang in town and an occupying army, detaching itself from a community it claims to be the civil guardian of. Now please imagine yourself as someone who was raised in poorly maintained social housing, barely educated in a government-run school and continuously harassed by the representatives of a government who don’t want to build trust with you, who don’t stop you being burgled, who do have a problem with you taking substances to forget the crap situation you’re in yet continuously demands loyalty and gratitude from you. The N.E.Ds don’t respect authority because the authorities and society at large has systematically demonstrated time and again that we don’t respect them.
This lack of respect in both directions has widened the gulf between sections of society and has led to the odd idea indulged in by the government and reinforced by the social networks that a lack of violence on the part of the police and families was at the core of people’s motivation to riot; Standing on the basis that if only the police had cracked more sculls and parents been able to beat their children more, this would have made everything fine. In terms of physical violence, Dogs have more protection than children and members of the police have largely escaped public prosecution; those who have been brought to a public court – like Simon Harwood, where the subject of an uphill battle. Whilst the sentiment might be strong, the tabloid vision of feral children brought up by parents who legally can’t so much as raise their voice to them, confronting police who can’t touch them doesn’t hold any factual water.
The line of argument that dismisses any need to think on these riots further by pointing to the few professionals who were involved in the riots as well as the fact that it wasn’t subsistence food that was on the whole looted amazes me. Not just because it’s a craven excuse to dismiss and ignore the restrictions the structure of our society has put on people. On a very basic level, if you’re going into commit a crime in front of the world’s press, are you going to risk getting in trouble for stealing a microwave pizza when you could risk it for a HDTV? There seemed to be a weird trend amongst many on social networks begrudging people having an imagination and stealing nice things as opposed to Tesco basics, as though had they been steeling rice (which some did, though probably on principle rather than need) the smashing windows and throwing rocks and police would have been fine.
No one is making excuses or endorsing the rioting, and it’s interesting that conservatives can’t get past that fact; the Martin Luther king quote that has been repeated by socialists regarding a riot being “the voice of the unheard” is from a speech condemning rioting as useless and a sure sign that a society has something fundamentally wrong with it. You can’t endorse a riot, any more than you can endorse vomiting; their reactions to an underlying problem, if someone vomited, then their friend’s response was “get them to stop drinking and put them in bed”, a reasonable reaction would not be to accuse the friend of excusing and endorsing vomiting.
This narrative is being peddled to make sure no one (conservatives particularly) has to take a long hard look at themselves and the society they’ve allowed to happen, this isn’t something that came about during the coalition government, or New labour, or even Thatcher, this is endemic in the society we’ve built for ourselves in which theft, violence and intimidation are only okay if you wear a tie and make sure you get the deeds first. 24 hour courts doling out harsh sentences won’t solve this one.