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Tony Grist

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Not The Riots We Were Expecting [Aug. 9th, 2011|10:58 am]
Tony Grist
Riots were predicted for this summer, but not these kind of riots. We were supposed to be having demonstrations about cuts, student fees, job losses, Tory misrule, all that sort of thing- respectable, middle-class grievances. What we've got is a sudden upflaring of disaffection in the inner cities- sparked by something the police did.

We'd forgotten the inner cities. We were too busy feeling sorry for the well-to-do. The pain of the well-to-do is dangerous to politicians. The well-to-do vote- and are capable of switching their political alleigance. Besides, the poor are used to suffering; a little extra hardship won't hurt them.

It would be absurd to argue- as some have done- that the police are being attacked in Tottenham because of disgust at their complicity with the Murdoch press- but that's not to say there isn't a connection. The fawning respect shown to Murdoch and the edgy disrespect shown to the Duggan family are aspects of the same corrupt corporate culture. The rottenness pervades the system. One law for the rich, another for the poor.

Yes it's very horrible what's happening on the streets of our inner cities."Don't they realise they're only hurting themselves?" Perhaps they do. Self-harm is a weapon of the dispossessed- sometimes the only weapon. How else are the very poor going to get our attention? No newspaper speaks for them, no politician represents them. 

Riot and revolution are powerful drugs. They get you high. They stop the pain. 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: internet_sampo
2011-08-09 02:30 pm (UTC)
I think that a _lack_ of the predicted riots about cuts, student fees and jobs was one factor in the current riots.

Riots usually happen after a period of greater expectations which are unrealized.

Could it be that the rioters were expecting someone else to speak up about their lack of economic opportunities, lack of gov't support _and_ police corruption (i.e. Murdoch). The guy being shot by police was the their wake up call that nothing was going to happen this summer to help them. It reinforced their sense of unfairness (social and economic unfairness, unfair treatment by police).

Also, this passage:

We'd forgotten the inner cities. We were too busy feeling sorry for the well-to-do. The pain of the well-to-do is dangerous to politicians. The well-to-do vote- and are capable of switching their political alleigance. Besides, the poor are used to suffering; a little extra hardship won't hurt them.

is so succinct in describing what's happening in the US and England.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-09 03:34 pm (UTC)
You're sort of assuming that the rioters have a degree of political consciousness, and I'm not at all sure they have. They saw an opportunity to break bounds and they took it. Of course they're disappointed, but are they any more disappointed this year than they were last?
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[User Picture]From: internet_sampo
2011-08-09 04:01 pm (UTC)
You're sort of assuming that the rioters have a degree of political consciousness,

>>> Yes, though I'd say political awareness ... or even a political unconscious awareness. They see headlines and probably are home when someone is watching the UK equivalent of Fox News.

They saw an opportunity to break bounds and they took it.

>> I'll turn your argument backwards: They were more disappointed than last year that's why they rioted this year over a police shooting. Probably flashpoint events (like the shooting) happened last summer but there were no riots because no disappointment. Why did they not take advantage of any opportunities last summer?

The 1992 LA Rodney King verdict riots is another example. During the 1980s the LAPD would beat and kill Black people routinely and the cops would be found innocent or not even charged. So why did the same thing (cops beat a Black man and are not punished) cause a six day riot? Because the media's attention to the brutality of the Holliday video created the expectation that justice would finally be served.

When the not guilty verdict was returned the disappointment between expectations and reality amplified the unfairness in the city to the extent that it made criminal acts seem just. Riots won't occur until people feel that they have been treated so unfairly that rioting is "morally" justified.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-09 04:17 pm (UTC)
If I understand correctly, the family of the dead man went to Scotland Yard to protest- in an orderly and dignified manner- and were kept out in the cold. There were policemen in riot gear barring the way and when a young woman stepped forward to speak to them they waved their truncheons threateningly....

It was in this context that the thing kicked off.

It began as an issue between the local community and the police, but very quickly escalated into a free for all. The people on the streets are mostly youths, but of all ethnicities (if race was an issue to begin with, it isn't any longer). Members of the dead man's family are as shocked as anybody by what has been unleashed.

There's a great deal of opportunistic criminality- of burning and looting. If there's organisation it seems to be local and small-scale. No leaders have been identified, and no-one is talking politics (except the politicians, of course).

And it's spreading out across the country. One of my LJ friends has just reported the burning of a Macdonalds in Oxford, of all places.

I suppose what I'm saying is that it's too early for explanations. We've had riots in British cities before now (we had a corker up here in Oldham ten years ago) but nothing on this scale.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-09 07:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the correction. :)
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[User Picture]From: trixibelle_net
2011-08-09 04:09 pm (UTC)
Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely. As ever, can I re-blog this?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-09 04:18 pm (UTC)
Please do. I'd be honoured. :)
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[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2011-08-09 04:53 pm (UTC)
Same here - love to requote in my blog, and so right
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-09 05:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Please feel free. :)
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