Friday, 19 August 2011

The Meaninglessness of the English Riots was their Cause.

Clifford Stoot and Stephen Reicher have offered one more attempt to frame the events of 6-1o August 2011.

Yet another piece of rationalisation of the riots for those who want to lead some 'social response' to the riots which is as flawed as the authoritarian repression model of dealing with the spectre of disorder. Face facts: the riots are an inherent result of addictive compulsive disorders.

There is no morality to the riots any more than morality plays much of a part in decision making across British society, be it the greedy bankers, lying spinning politicians and corporate admen and PR spivs who sell the people want they are conditioned to believe really want, whether the X Factor, celebrities, etc.

Riots generally occur when groups have a sense of illegitimacy about how they are treated by others and where they see collective confrontation as the only means of redressing the situation.

Indeed, by coming together in the crowd, people become empowered and can invert normal social relations. EP Thompson, the pre-eminent historian of crowds, argued that in a world where the powerless are generally invisible, the riot is a form of "collective bargaining".

At the very least ( my italics ) the rioters' problems have become a problem for the powerful and hence the powerful have been forced to take note of issues they had previously ignored.

Where is the evidence that the rioters and looters had specific demands and were trying to increase pressure upon the government to deal with their wants and needs ? Have they conducted a survey of the looters and how they regarded their role in the violence ?

This is a convenient ideological rationalisation of the kind that is designed to console those who need to find a meaning that satisfies their need for meaning and to give a voice to the voiceless to advance their own careers and interests.

Does any of this matter? Well, yes it does. Because our understanding of the nature of crowd action has fundamental implications for how we respond to them.

Obviously. But this response does not matter. It's another interpretation based on an obsolete belief that there are necessarily always rational interpretations of mob behaviour when the irrationality of the mob is generated by pathologies that still are created by a consumer society of entitlement.

Let's face facts: there were riots outside Ikea in Wembley over being first to get into the store to take advantage of the sales offers. Advertising and media ramps up desire for consumer goods as the be all and end all of human existence.

Under New Labour's regime of credit fuelled debt bingeing and easy money, there was cash for the goodies that the rioters used ( laptops, blackberry Iphones etc etc ). Then that dried up and jobs became scarce due to the colossal scale of migration of better educated and hard working Catholic Poles

Migration has not once entered the reckoning of the liberal left as regards the riots, despite them invoking 'alienation'. and unemployment. The figures that show migrants taking the majority of created jobs in the British economy has not been discussed in The Guardian which continually lauded it for the past decade.

If, like Cameron, you see riots as an irrational and pathological phenomenon, then the response is first to repress (why reason with those who have no reason?) and second to look for problems inherent within the communities from which the rioters are drawn.

Thus we see the government pledging a series of new repressive police powers such as curfews (which the police themselves don't want) and looking to uncover the source of moral sickness among disaffected youth.

So this sort of consumerist rioting is not a moral sickness any more than pathologically greedy bankers ? Really ? Perhaps there should be no judgementalism or moralism about the bankers actions then. They are alienated from themselves and others no less than rioters.

If, however, you see the actions as a meaningful response to a shared sense of illegitimacy and lack of alternatives then you need to address the way in which this has arisen. That is, you need to look at the experience of relations between rioting communities and those with power, authority and influence in our society.

The lack of meaning in the lives of those who rioted and were given a sense of identity through acting violently to create a sense of meaning and "empowerment" does not mean the riots were a 'meaningful response'. The meaninglessness of it is as meaningless as an absurd and fundamentally unproductive consumer money economy of which it was a symtom.

The riots had causes but the rioters themselves had no cause and the primary spring was 'because they could' due to social media networking, boredom with life, no direction or higher goal to which to put their aggressive energies and partly identification with a gansta rap subculture that glamourises violence as the way to survive.

Once law and order broke down due to the police being afraid they would alienate "the community", the riots spread with a seemingly unstoppable momentum into sheer criminality and looting. That does not make them 'mindless' or the causes of the riots being down to only criminality but it helps the government to portray it as such.

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