Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Coming Soon to a Country Near You

{Photo courtesy of Guardian}
Daughter sent me a link today, a blogpost from the trenches of the urban warfare that has broken out in England.

Here are extracts:

The violence on the streets is being dismissed as ‘pure criminality,’ as the work of a ‘violent minority’, as ‘opportunism.’ This is madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. Tonight, in one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart.

and more

Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday, when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station. A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.

And more:

Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news. In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?"

Read all of it here.


  1. I've long believed that once people feel they have nothing more to lose (and something to gain) from revolution, they will revolt and in large numbers. That last paragraph is so telling and so true! Will we ever learn anything from our behavior toward others?

  2. Laurie Penny is a treasure. This article hits it.
    -Aunti Disestablishmentarian

  3. She makes a lot of very good points about the causes of the rioting. I've just written about the riots myself. Two things stand out for me: young people who're so alienated from society they have no qualms about trashing other people's lives, and parents who don't give a toss what their children are up to and make no attempt to stop them causing mayhem. The deep cuts being made in services and facilities for youth only make this sort of wild explosion of anger more likely.

  4. I think we have to be careful that we don't use societal ills as some sort of justification for the destruction of public and private property. That takes us back to the rap star who beats up his girlfriend and blames it in uncontrolled anger. Sorry mate, it doesn't cut it.

    There is a lot wrong with our world today and I'm sorry that you can't afford a new pair of high end, luxury sneakers but don't go smashing the shop window and blaming it on your deprivation.

    Problem is the people doing the vandalism have never been taught how to channel their energy, whether negative or positive, to the good of others. It is focused entirely on themselves. It's a real problem that so many are unemployed but when the main activity is to sit around on their arse all day and whine about how the government has left them done earns no sympathy from me. Neither does burning public buildings and destroying shopkeepers livelihoods.

  5. All sorts of social programs will hurriedly be put into place and they won't work worth a damn either.

  6. I read that piece and think it's brilliant. Naomi Klein linked to it on her Twitter feed, which I follow.

  7. I don't think anyone sensible would excuse or justify the dreadful destruction; rather, they are trying to understand it.

    People don't generally set out to attack and destroy what they feel they have a stake in.

  8. I saw Ms Penny's piece on Common Dreams on tuesday and commented on it there.

    I'll just copy what I wrote there:

    Thanks for this Ms Penny. It's good to read something apart from MSM's version of events.

    In another time - another lifetime it sometimes feels like - a peaceful protest
    over the death of a man at police hands would have been just that, and ended there. I recall several such protests during my days in the UK. This time it's different. There's such underlying anger and hopelessness around in the UK (and the USA), simmering, simmering, now boiling over into something never intended by the original protesters.

    Stay safe.

    And I'll add here that looting and destruction are not my idea of the best way to make a point - but when angry people need to let out their tensions, vent their feelings, they do all kinds of wrong-headed stuff.

    Think of the times we ourselves might have thrown something, slammed a door almost off its hinges, smashed a plate or glass in temper. This is simply an expansion of that kind of thing, and it's infectious once it begins.

  9. Q: What's the difference between a protester and a rioter?
    A: A protester has no effect on the political system.

    ~Ran Prieur, Aug 10/2011, www.ranprieur.com

  10. I think it has already started in the US in Philadelphia.

  11. There are always those who will exploit serious rebellion. Not always easy for those of us viewing from a distance to determine which is what and who is who.

    Certainly, events in our nation (U.S.) places us at high risk for an outbreak of protestation here -- beyond the peaceful level. Would that our leaders would be mindful of that potential and make an honest attempt to rectify issues precipitating such actions.

    I don't have a lot of confidence in the effectiveness of committees, such as will be trying to legislate what our full Congress has been unable to do.


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