14 August 2011

On the London riots

Of all the commentary I’ve seen thus far, Graeme over at The Roar of the Masses could be Farts seems to me to have it pretty much right - though I would argue that he is off in saying that ‘decency’ and ‘morality’ are meaningless concepts here, when he is clearly arguing the opposite: that it is a profoundly indecent and immoral society which so strongly denounces and insults the people living and struggling on the bottom rungs whilst willing to tolerate (with perhaps only a bit of feeble hand-wringing) a wealth gap in which the top 10% earn, on average, 100 times more than the bottom 10% (reaching its worst point, it should be noted, under a New Labour government). This is a structural problem, but sadly it will not be treated as such by those in and near the halls of power.

Also, check out the articles Graeme linked at the bottom of his post. Well worth the reading - particularly this one. I do not approach these issues, it should be noted, from a Marxian perspective - I’m still very much a ‘feudal socialist’ with notable MacIntyrean sympathies; at the same time, it is incumbent on us to be sensitive to the larger picture, the systemic outlook.

Just to be clear - I feel no more compunction to ‘stand with’ the rioters here than I do to support the folks in Xinjiang who went around attacking bystanders with knives. But likewise, I say this in the same spirit of ‘tough love’ that I gave to China in that blog post - I love Britain and what it could and should have been; but they have to rediscover that ideal and fight for it once again, instead of succumbing to the comfortable, stultifying and ultimately crippling logic of empire. And they won’t do it by picking up a broom and sweeping all the ‘undesirables’ under their collective rugs (or by shooting them with plastic bullets or hosing them down with water cannon, either).

See also the ever-redoubtable Neil Clark on the topic; also a much-needed voice here.


  1. Great post. The entire situation is very sad, especially many of the reactions to the riots. When I talk with people who say things like" hang the lot of them" or "gun them down," I respond by asking why the situation was allowed to deteriorate to the point where people are seriously considering vigilante violence or a more powerful police state as a response to rioting. Better to try to avoid the riots in the first place.

  2. I certainly agree, John. Though usually the response is something along the lines of 'but rioting isn't the answer' (to which I'd agree), rioting generally isn't something which occurs spontaneously or for no reason.

    At this point, I'm not sure there's a short-term solution beyond cleaning up and getting these neighbourhoods up and running again. But we shouldn't sweep these risings under the rug where they can emerge again (with possibly greater levels of violence). The long view will have to incorporate some kind of integrative effort at changing economic conditions and institutions in favour of the poor, particularly of poor families.