London Riots: A mis-guided act of self-harm….
When things like the London Riots happen, people reach for simple explanations and prefer simplified points of views. Your either for or against. However, this is totally the wrong reaction to complex phenomena and its exactly the kind of response that feeds the climate that leads to rioting in the first place. The actions of the London rioters are essentially wrong, but not for the reasons that the mainstream will tell you they are. We should not take hypocritical condemnations of ‘violence’ as being a moral guide when the people who articulate them are often first in line to advocate for very violent things, like wars for example. Violence will always be a political reality in societies structured the way ours are; so you either like it or lump it. What matters is not violence of non-violence per se but the context of the actions taken.
It is here that the rioters are wrong. Some will be opportunist criminals but that is not the totality of the experiences that led people to take the actions they did. While some will be criminals, plain and simple, thugs feeding off peoples genuine concerns, some will also be the alienated, the dispossessed who are expressing, highly imperfectly a sense of frustration at policing by the Met which is skewed against them and a society which cannot provide any outlet for them accept in the form of rioting. It is up to the people in communities disproportionately affected by the casual brutality of the Met to weed out those criminal elements because they end up tainting them all.
Trashing the few things they have is not the most sensible or reasoned of responses. It is silly and stupid beyond comprehension. They need to be told this and they need a left capable of saying to them quite plainly they are wrong to do so. However, they also need a left that is capable of articulating their frustrations and that shares it. They need a left that can channel that into politics, can temper their mood but use it as a fire to forge something better, a society which is not based upon the anti-democracy of privilege and wealth for the few, not the many.
We know the mainstream wont do this. The mainstream, which after the brutal murder in cold-blood (a premeditated act, not a riot) of 70 odd young people feted the British group with close affiliations to the killer (the EDL) and described them as having ‘legitmate concerns’, doesnt want to hear about the lack of democracy in our society; the deep-seated inequalities, the rottenness of our leading police force, these are all things that are deemed illegitimate concerns. In short, the mainstream is reinforcing the same pattern which led to the riots by simply condemning all participating as ‘thugs’ and ‘criminals’. Such an attitude makes more disturbances inevitable as does a government whose economic polices are destroying peoples lives and sense of hope for the future. Cameron’s absence from this country is a telling metaphor for his complete disconnection from the vast majority in Britain and their concerns and the bitter battles they are facing to survive.
So, lets please avoid the simple discourse, the one whose exclusion of people from normative discourse was a major contributory cause to these events in the first place. If we don’t, if we fall into easy slogans and ‘simple solutions’ then we should not be surprised if the fanned flames of London spread, as it currently looks inevitably like they will.