Learning by example. Where the looters and rioters get their models.

11.08.2011 - London - Silvia Swinden

The public disorder, looting, stealing, fire-bombing, assaults, three deaths by (seemingly) intentional car ramming and the responses from the public have exposed a very diverse and ugly cross-section of British society. Outraged politicians blame parents for not controlling their children; parents blame the restrictions imposed on chastising their children (i.e. ban on corporal punishment).

People getting organised with cricket bats to defend their shops or confront the looters are held as heroes, until the police decide they are actually vigilantes obstructing police work. The far right takes advantage of the mayhem and blames immigration, at the same time they prepare for (this time more worrying) vigilante action.

The left is making some feeble efforts to get to the root of things: unemployment, trebling of tuition fees, marginalisation, deep cuts to health, education, services – in particular youth centres; the right wilfully blurring the distinction between “understanding” and “condoning”.

There are some attempts to bring a little actual research into it: “Many economists have spent the past few days passing around a paper on the Hindu-Muslim riots in India in the 80s and 90s. Written by Anjali Thomas Bohlken and Ernest John Sergeant in 2010, it finds that “just a 1% increase in the [economic] growth rate decreases the expected number of riots by over 5%”. Recessions are good for riots: perhaps no surprise, there. What matters, they argue, is when people suffer abrupt drops in living standards – and that goes for Hackney as well as Athens.” Aditya Chakrabortty for The Guardian: www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/10/uk-riots-political-classes

Some remark on the peculiar behaviour of the protagonists of these events. A group of girls about to steal some clothes from a shop try them on first. Some youngsters help another who has been assaulted to get back on his feet, only to rob him. Archenemy youth gangs call a truce to ransack together a shopping centre.

Writer/Comedian Nathaniel Tapley delivers An Open Letter to David Cameron’s Parents, starting with “Dear Mr & Mrs Cameron, Why did you never take the time to teach your child basic morality?: nathanieltapley.com/2011/08/10/an-open-letter-to-david-camerons-parents/

London Mayor Boris Johnson, broom in hand to encourage people to clean us the mess, calls for police budget cuts to be scrapped. He claims [the rioters/looters have] “An excessive sense of entitlement”… but he could have been referring to himself. In the mid-to-late 80s, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – not to mention David Cameron and his now chancellor George Osborne – were members of the notorious Bullingdon Club, the Oxford university “dining” clique that smashed their way through restaurant crockery, car windscreens and antique violins all over the city of knowledge.” The Guardian www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/aug/10/uk-riots-boris-johnson

What other examples could be part of the insidious learning of this new generation?

Getting Away with Looting

– Banks have looted Nations’ coffers. Taxpayers had to bail out the Banks for the excesses of the subprime mortgages, high risk speculation and other shady transactions. Bankers continue paying themselves obscene bonuses, even when they are the cause of the bank’s crashes. Regulation to prevent banks mixing the capital for services (mortgages, helping business, etc) and speculation has been strongly and successfully resisted.
– Members of Parliament looted the expenses budget. Although some were asked to give the money back, many were allowed to just say “sorry”.
– Corporations fiscal looting: Large and medium size Corporations have been using Tax havens in order to avoid paying taxes in the countries where they make their profits.
– Oil looting: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc

The true horror of the UK riots is that everybody was waiting to see how the Mexican wave-like process that began with the Arab Spring and was moving through Spain, Greece, Chile and many other countries, would express itself in the UK. The nonviolent youngsters are doing their thing, 15M, People’s Assemblies, UK Uncut, a good student’s occupation early this year. But this present cathartic expression of anomie is more likely to serve the interests of the unfair system they are (perhaps unknowingly) responding to.

Categories: Europe, International, Politics


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