"Together we can beat the gangs" is the view of Iain Duncan Smith who pops up in The Guardian today. He explains,
'Even without the riots this is a phenomenon we should be deeply concerned about. Gangs have created no-go areas and made impossible the very things that could help deprived neighbourhoods to rejuvenate, such as community action and business development. Gangs are both a product of social breakdown and a driver of it'
Was it, though, about criminal gangs only ?
The English riots probably had multiple long term causes and a set of short term triggers. Certain amateurish gangs might have been attracted to using Mark Duggan's death to try and loot and sell the goods elsewhere and make a quick buck. A short cut to pleasure as a consumer right.
More likely, some would-be gang types and those who tap into a subculture of gangsta rap and nihilistic hatred led the way. Through the flashmob mentality spread via Facebook and Blackberry many who would not ordinarily start a riot were encouraged to go out on the rampage by these exemplars of fast track violent consumerism.
In which case, what IDS proposes to crackdown on gangs is a straightfoward attempt to prevent gangs dominating certain patches of London, something Saci Lloyd even mentioned today was a factor that was intimidating youths in certain parts of this city.
Most likely by cracking down on gangs, it could be possible in the longer term to stem gang culture. Blaming cuts only for the riots is obviously short sighted and naive. Poverty played a part in generating the mafia in Sicily. But few would think this was only a result of poverty and not of a certain culture.
But this is England. Not Italy.
So stamping out gangs in London has to go together with something that kneejerk reaction politicians seeking re-election through exploiting populist sentiment have been seldom prepared to do-give up on the futile "war on drugs" and legalise them all. The evils and expense of prohibition are far greater than the evils of drug taking.
This would save a lot of money and take away the main source of income for gangs. If those in the subculture choose to value shooting up heroin, even if they end up dying, which is hardly a loss for society anyway, that is clearly far better than enriching and thus ennobling gang culture through the explicit wealth shown by their leaders.
There is an absurdity of trying to protect youths against themselves, as regards hard drugs, the high price of which, due to their scarcity through the 'war on drugs', results in so much crime against others in 'the community'. This would be far offset by their ability to indulge legally either to the point of death or else take the choice of rehab options cheaper by far than policing the gang entrepreneurs who supply the market.
Given that the consumer society that defines Britain makes a fetish of consumer choice, it is hardly surprising that some who don't have the money to buy the consumer goods that alone define their banal and moronic lives ( the poor ) or the intelligence to rise above it ( both rich and poor ) turn to drugs.
This demand creates huge profits for those utterly fanatical free marketeers willing to supply the goods that are wanted. Which creates gangs and, by extension gang culture: not least because consumer capitalism needs that extra kick of transgression to keep certain bored individuals consuming.
The entire edifice of pop music and telly, trashy pop pap media and the exploitation of the sex urge through it that aims at fixating youths on disposable transient idols, the Radio 1 geared up 'prolefeed' and the X Factor is all part of an economy based on ramping up expectations, excitement and phoney ecstatic consumerist clamouring.
It's obvious that those who 'can't get no satisfaction' through the existing profitable channels for release from the tedium of a consumer society ,in which any long term comittments to God, religion, nation, country, idealistic creed etc, for good or ill does not matter any more will seek outlets.
Craving consumers, whose only aim in life is to consume and gain the job that will afford enough cash to allow the consumption power that will yield branded sportwear, will either turn to even greater reliance Westfield style consumerism or, maybe, drugs. Or looting when the credit fuelled debt binge ended.
Existing interpretations of the riots are mostly obsolete. Certain leftists and liberals look truly pathetic in stating that only inequality and poverty caused these riots or even cuts to youth services. That benefits those in the public sector who want to secure their economic futures in parasitical money economy.
Those on the right, the 'law and order' reactionaries also fail miserably in pretending that the radical free market they continually advocate as a panacea for all ills, apart from the burgeoning nightwatchman state of CCTV cameras and police power, can arrest trends such as drug taking inherent in the pathological nature of consumer society.