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Tony Grist

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The Riots We Deserve? [Aug. 11th, 2011|10:29 am]
Tony Grist
I was expecting disturbances this summer- what with the cuts and the bankers and all that shit- but I was expecting them to be more overtly political. I was expecting marches, with banners and slogans- and some anarchistic carryings-on at the fringes- as we had earlier this year. I wasn't expecting the kind of Mardi Gras of looting and arson we've just experienced.

Nobody was. I don't think there's ever been anything quite like it before. I guess we have modern social media to blame/thank for the way it spread like a rash from city to city.

The politicians- Theresa May going "criminals, criminal, criminality", Boris Johnson hefting his unused broom on the streets of Camden  like a majorette, Ed Milliband wonking on about bad parenting in Salford- seemed more than usually impotent and out of touch. None of them has been anywhere near a mean street in their lives- except to chat up the voters, of course. They haven't a clue. 

David Cameron told us some parts of our society were "sick"- to which one wanted to reply, "Yeah, the city, the banks, the police, the politicians, the red tops", but that would have been cheap- though no cheaper than the point it was answering.

A society gets the riots it deserves. A society that cares about abstract notions like Justice and Liberty 
gets political riots, it gets people making political demands (maybe while parading heads on pikes.) A society that cares for nothing but wealth and celebrity gets masked looters and the torching of Miss Selfridges.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-08-11 11:04 am (UTC)
When did it become "cheap" to speak truth to power? The elements of British society that you name are indeed sick, as is Cameron himself.

Sadly, I doubt it matters whether the politicians have a clue. What they understand is how to portray an uprising as mere criminal activity by a few undesirables and then use the unrest to drive a wedge between the middle class and the poor. That is what they're doing and I suspect in this case that is all that they need to do, politically.

One thing the British excel at is the brutal suppression of subject populations. They've been practicing for centuries and I expect your ruling class will have this in hand soon enough.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-11 11:20 am (UTC)
It's cheap because it's so obvious. Perhaps "obvious" would have been a better word than "cheap".
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[User Picture]From: michaelgrist
2011-08-11 03:01 pm (UTC)
I'm curious as to what other ways you think they could portray this 'uprising'. It certainly seems to be criminal activity just for the sake of it. I don't see rioters waving placards and demanding anything. They're just taking what isn't theirs and terrorizing people. How else can it be framed?

And all the elements poliphilo named are sick? I don't understand that point of view. They all will have their bad points, and doubtless can be improved, but are they really as sick as kids on the streets doing whatever the hell they want?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-11 04:09 pm (UTC)
Bankers walking away with huge bonuses after having fucked over the economy, politicians fiddling their expenses, police and red-top newspapers in a corrupt relationship (which involves political leaders too.) That seems to me to be as "sick" as anything the rioters are doing.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-08-12 01:25 pm (UTC)
Indeed. They are far worse, really, since the elements you name have a massively out-sized impact on our world.

Except when smashing things, the people being blamed right now are the least powerful people in society. That's ultimately why they are on a rampage and also I think why observers outside that underclass have such a terrible time wrapping their head around what's going on.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-08-12 01:13 pm (UTC)
Looking at modern history, I note that when income disparity and other perceived injustices rise to sufficient extremes, we get mobs of angry people smashing things and setting shit on fire. As an empiricist, this is my preferred framing.

Obviously, my framing does not serve the needs of the ruling class, since it follows that the austerity measures prescribed for the underclass are likely making things worse. Thus we have silly broom-waving displays and such for the cameras, rubber bullets and I'm sure worse for the 'criminals'. Cameron gets his Thatcher on and, with a hearty assist from the media, the middle class swallows the supporting narrative, brooms and all.
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[User Picture]From: heatherp8
2011-08-11 12:03 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry for what's going on in your country.
My heart goes out to those who have suffered loss and damage at the hands of the rioters and looters. I hope cooler heads prevail soon!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-11 12:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

There doesn't seem to be have been much trouble last night. I think the worst of the madness is over. :)
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[User Picture]From: silveredmane
2011-08-11 03:01 pm (UTC)
"A society gets the riots it deserves. A society that cares about abstract notions like Justice and Liberty gets political riots, it gets people making political demands (maybe while parading heads on pikes.) A society that cares for nothing but wealth and celebrity gets masked looters and the torching of Miss Selfridges."

May I add that into a discussion I'm having on Facebook? If so, would you like your name on it?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-11 04:12 pm (UTC)
Please do. I'd be honoured. I'm happy to have my name appear.
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[User Picture]From: silveredmane
2011-08-11 05:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Done.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-11 05:11 pm (UTC)
Cool :)
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[User Picture]From: michaelgrist
2011-08-11 03:15 pm (UTC)
"The politicians- Theresa May going "criminals, criminal, criminality", Boris Johnson hefting his unused broom on the streets of Camden like a majorette, Ed Milliband wonking on about bad parenting in Salford- seemed more than usually impotent and out of touch. None of them has been anywhere near a mean street in their lives- except to chat up the voters, of course. They haven't a clue."

So do you think they're wrong in their assessments? By saying you think they're out of touch it seems so. But out of touch with what? They're the authority figures here, representing the country, and it falls to them to make these kids fall into line. Should they instead be 'getting down with the kids' and trying to be their pals? I can't see that working. But I'm not sure what else there is to be in touch with.

Or is it more about being in touch with the root causes of these roots? If so, well, sure, but is the middle of a riot season the right time to be getting sensitive about something like that? It seems no to me. Get law and order established, set the boundaries again, then work on the problems. You don't negotiate with terrorists, or children throwing a hissy fit.

About the abstract notions of the Arab Spring- I don't know if we can call them abstract. I don't think the majority of people were in Tahrir Square were there for abstract notions. They were there for very concrete ones- they wanted more opportunities, better income, safer lives. In a very real sense- they wanted wealth. And possibly celebrity also.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-08-11 04:53 pm (UTC)
I'd like some acknowledgement from our leaders that wickedness of this kind doesn't come out of a clear blue sky. Riots are always symptoms of a deep malaise. I want them to address the cause and not only the symptoms.

Cameron, Osbourne, Johnson, Milliband and most of their front bench colleagues are rich men (and women) who have inherited their wealth, have never done the sort of jobs ordinary people do, have never known unemployment, or poverty, or any life outside the narrow, metropolitan, Oxbridge set in which they move. There is a wide disconnect between them and most of the rest of us. They don't understand British society because they've never been a part of it. This wasn't always the case. We used to have politicians who had served time in local government, or the forces, or businesses or the trades unions or (like Mrs Thatcher) knew a thing or two about running a corner shop.

I wasn't thinking of the Arab Spring. I was thinking of the French Revolution. The French Revolution saw plenty of street violence and anarchy, but it also had guiding ideals...
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-08-12 01:44 pm (UTC)
You are misreading what happened in Egypt, I think.

The uprising itself was due primarily to demographics. The energy was effectively channeled by trade union leaders and others, who had been organizing clandestinely for decades. They did not start the revolution, but they were ready for it and rode that wave to great effect. And never underestimate the role of al Jazeera, either.

Those leaders did indeed have specific demands. The core of the angry mob that rose up, however, was just so many young unemployed men and women with little to lose. The biggest difference I see between that mob and Brixton's is education, which may also explain quite a bit.
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