Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Riots In London

"Mindless thugs" has been the loudest outcry at the rioters.

They are not mindless, they are mindset thugs and such simplistic labelling as ever allows people to not go any deeper than the surface in response.

What is this mindset?

It has developed over the last 30 years since the last set of riots. It is the same areas in flames as before. Any Londoner could have probably predicted the most likely boroughs to experience problems. That tells me nothing significant has been done to help those communities bring themselves up to a happier state. They were communities largely thrown on the scrapheap in the 80's. Sink estates with mass unemployment and educated in sink schools that were no better than holding centres for the hours of school. Now we are seeing the children and grandchildren of those original rioters and their peers from the same estates out on the street and causing mayhem. It's hardly genetic, but when the envirinment is unchanged from that of 30 years ago, it produces the same outcomes.

What has changed over the years, is the development of American style territorial gangs, largely with knife in place of gun. it's a really depressing development and has been allowed to go unchecked over twenty years. Gangs provide the 'family' membership that their own flesh and blood have abdicated from. God knows how many fatal youth on youth stabbings and shootings there have been up and down the country but particularly in London. Carrying a knife makes the individual feel indomitable. The same indomitability they feel when through force of numbers (as the gangs join forces) they come to be in control of the streets and able to do as they please.

Suddenly instead of mooching around outside the shops and malls of a weekend, all of a sudden now they can help themselves to its stock, or destroy it for whatever perceived grudge. They are already used to petty criminality, through harassing passers by, mugging and demanding with menace. They are not being organised by any 'master criminals', nor by anarchists. If anything, they are leading and these other opportunists with their own agendas are coming to the party.

Do you recall the mass gang fight on the concourse of Victoria Station when a youth was fatally stabbed? Two gangs from outside the area, one from Fulham (South-West London) and one from South London arranged to meet and fight and came fully armed. they arrived on their bikes. So these gangs are highly mobile and as we know, communicate fluidly and rapidly. They can target and organise themselves to move about the capital & keep the authorities completely off balance. They are at present taking revenge on their haunts of the High Street, places they have spent so much of their lives at just killing time. Well now they're killing these places.

Feral is an adjective bandied about. It's clumsy but not without some pertinency. Three generations of economic neglect and parental neglect has bred swathes of completely unrestrained youth. They share nothing of your values or moral codes. Judging them accordingly wouldn't even register. they are not going to own any property in their life, so have no compunction about torching that of others. They are totally lost generations. They do not care, they feel impervious to every accusation you may care to throw at them. It simply would not compute.

This is the outcome of neither an economic deprivation nor a political protest. Banks (and by extension bankers) are not being targeted, so it's hardly the outcry borne of sophisticated political analysis. Yes shops have been ransacked, but of a certain type. Electrical goods, phone shops, jewellers, bike shops, sportswear shops - these are all lifestyle items for youth that we as society have been peddlling for decades as worth owning. They already own Blackberry's, are currently wearing Hollister or Nike; what they are helping themselves to is the latest model, the latest edition, exactly how capitalism and consumerism encourages us all to keep upgrading. Chemists and supermarkets provide the fuel of drink & pills to sustain their rampage through the night hours. Those shops that aren't relevant, such as carpet shops, get torched. There is an element of 'if I can't have it, I'll make sure you can't either', in tandem with the destruction's adrenalin pumping. And the power of being able to operate over the law and to be in control of the streets.

We reap what we sow. Generations left to drift with minimal adult guidance, with little education, without any aspiration other than gross material ones, without any sense of endangerment, without any imbued moral value or sense, without any stake in society. All they needed was an opportunity to realise their own unbridled power. After the student demos suggest the path, after the cutbacks in police numbers and the detriment to moral, here was the opportunity.

Some of us have been telling the politicians for 30 years about "Broken Britain". It got reduced to a soundbite. After the 80s riots and her re-election, Mrs Thatcher's acceptance speech pledged to do something about "those inner cities". Scarce anything has been done and here we are again, geographically if not for quite the same motivations. As the Scarman Report which came out of an inquiry into the Brixton riots of that time, still has too many of its recommendations ignored; as politicians of any political stripe refuse to face up to our society's deep-rooted problems; as we hide behind outrage and lumping complex factors into buzzwords; as we continue to face up to the fundamental arrangements of our society on ownership and ruinous consumption, then we have no hope in hell of mending anything.

These generations are lost I'm afraid. What we have to do is try and mend things to prevent the next generations going the same way.


Ben said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben said...

This is the most impartial and well written piece about this whole situation. I just stumbled across you on twitter and so glad to have found someone who has made some real sense. I'll try and spread this as much as I can. Thank you for this.

Mike said...

This is a great article for the understanding of these riots. "There is nothing to fear in this world, just to understand" - Marie Curie

Once the riots have been physically dealt with, I really hope this country will have the ability, time, energy and resource to explore the root cause, and to fix it. We need the general public to have the openmindedness you've demonstrated here.

Anonymous said...

I have never really bothered to leave a comment before on any article. Although my natural scrutiny of everything leaves me devoid of judgemental opinions, I find something closer to the truth in your article. We have a lot of learning ahead of us. Humans ARE essentially the same on the inside. Using that premise, we can say 'humans only act in this manner if there is some kind of pressure that is over riding their reasoning abilities'. Are they lost causes? I don't know. History does suggest otherwise.

Anonymous said...

you have a typo..

Anonymous said...

Very well written!

Jen said...

This is an interesting perspective and I think you've made your point well. I wonder how the rioting in Ealing fits in, since it's definitely not one of the neighbourhoods that Londoners predicted would erupt.

Sulci Collective said...

Jen, there are some very rough areas bordering Ealing, be it Acton or even Hammersmith. I think the people from those areas knew to hit Ealing Broadway as a quite well off area.

Larry Kollar said...

I'll admit not having dug in to look, but this is the first thing I've seen that provides some analysis as to the root cause. From this side of the pond, most of us see the UK as largely homogenous (read "white") so many Americans are left wondering what besides race would be a factor. Of course, race is simply a label, and the fewer the differences the sharper the artificial distinctions. Besides, economics has much more to do with gang activity than race.

Thanks for posting this.

AntCityUK said...

Yeah but! If they are so excluded from the material accumulation of this society, how come they got Blackberries then?

Sulci Collective said...

Ant, you haven't read it properly. They have blackberries but are encouraged to buy (for them = steal) the next upgrade. It never ends, because capitalism has to keep getting people to consume.

AntCityUK said...

Yeah but, no but! Right, I did read it right. These people live in one of the richest countries on the planet. They aren't bare foot and dressed in rags but wearing Hollister and Nike as you say. They don't have to sieve through London's garbage to avoid starvation; they get benefits and subsidised housing. They get free education from age 5 to 18 and if the schools are sinks, it's them that sunk them. They get free health care for life. The environment is not unchanged from 30 years ago. Most of these people have lived half their lives under a progressive socialist government. They have freedom of movement for gang fights or work or education. Far from not being able to have it, some of those charged already are skilled people, in work, with options and choices. The reason for these riots is simple; they are a feature of British society; always have been, always will be.

Morgan Whitlock said...

"These generations are lost I'm afraid. What we have to do is try and mend things to prevent the next generations going the same way."

Whole generations?

There are a lot of generalisations/assumptions and errors in this piece (for example, the assumption that UK gang culture is a derivative of US gang culture based purely on the appropriation of US fashion and culture, ignoring a history of inner city gang culture in the UK far older than the US equivalent, or the assumption that the media's focus on London means London is at the heart of the UK's gang culture, when in fact Glasgow has a far higher rate of gang membership and related violent crime).

But none as ignorant and damaging as the assumption that entire generations are represented by these looters and rioters.

You're certainly right to highlight the fact that so many saw these issues and their potential consequences, the complete failure to address them by the political class and the media's lazy reporting of it.

The overwhelming majority of young people in these areas didn't join in this violence and looting. And those who did were not from a single class, as the list of looters being charged has shown. For examples of those rejecting this stereotype you can start with:





Sulci Collective said...

Morgan, I would agree with parts of what you say, but would like to qualify things as follows:

Yes UK gang culture has long-predated that of America's, but it has in recent years become "Americanised" in its symbols and procedures (if that's the right word, which it almost certainly isnt).

One thing that is a relatively new development is the active participation of girls and women in these riots. Because girls now form part of the gang culture.

Yes the Ned culture in Scotland has been long in existence, but then Scotland evidenced no rioting did it?

And yes certainly not the whole generation of age 11-25 took to the streets. But I'd estimate that 90% of the people on our screens in the coverage were not rioting, looting or vandalising, but observing and in all probability generating content on their camera phones. I would ask the question, why were they there? Of course they're not as bad as those rampaging, but they also evidence a certain moral myopia by standing by and effectively condoning the rampage by wanting to observe or record it.

But thanks for pulling me up on certain generalisations.


Jen said...

Marc, I think you're right (in regards to my comment.) The broadway is the main shopping area for quite a large, varied area.