18 August 2011

There will be more riots.

The riots in London have "shocked" and "dismayed" all honest citizens, and most of all, the British government. The real surprise however is not that the riots took place, but that they are seen as something that is incomprehensible and incompatible with our way of life. Riots are a recurring feature of our societies and they break out regularly in many rich and less rich countries. Just look up "Urban riots" on Wikipedia and you'll get the point.

Riots start with an event - often the shooting of a local inhabitant by the police. This usually sparks off an explosion of pent-up frustration and anger by those who are or who feel marginalised by society.  The police is usually taken by surprise and things quickly get out of hand. What follows is less spontaneous than it seems; typical ringleaders are coloured men in their late 20s with a record of violence and arrest and scores to settle with the police. This was also the case in Tottenham. What they're after is to get their own back by having a go at anything. It's a territorial thing: to get back some "respect" for their turf.

Arson and looting on a more or less large scale then follows. It is possibly the most vocal and logical expression of the rejection of the West's new religion of "shopping". The growing number of people in the West who are unlikely to ever be able to buy the consumer products that are rammed down their throats in media every day may well acquire a taste for rioting. The process is helped along by a second category of ringleaders, self-styled "activists", mostly white young men with a reasonable level of education, the sort of people we used to call anarchists or nihilists, but only because we didn't know what else to call them. 

There is nothing new about any of this, nor about the ineffectual and vengeful way in which most governments react. Once they have collected their wits and get a grip (or the riots simply die down) they begin the "clean up". President Sarkozy promised to root out "the scum" with a high-pressure hose, after the last round of violence in the french "cités". In England, two bewildered facebookers who tried - and failed - to start their own riot were given four-year prison sentences. What this reveals more than anything else is governments' fear that they might not be able to contain this. That fear seems quite justified, as European countries are cutting back massively on spending on education and social services - and law and order - while a recession looms.   

15:33 Posted by Carel Edwards in Blog, Drugs and politics | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook

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