Anger for Doomed Youth

London Riots 2011

On April 11th 2010, Nick Clegg predicted in interview that if the Tories were brought to power, there would be rioting on the streets of London, to great derision by Cameron and the media. It was, of course, a transparent attempt to win votes. I wonder, however, if that moment went through his mind yesterday as he was confronted by the citizens of Hackney, desperate for answers as their homes and shops burnt. ‘Is this how England is going to be now, after the cuts?’ asked one man. ‘No, I don’t think so,’ was his weak, soft-voiced retort. The folk on the ground know it; even shopkeepers whose reactionary views are only to be expected have been heard to suggest it is the disenfranchisement of our youth that is behind this wanton destruction of property. This depth of thought seems to end, however, when the situation is interpreted by the media and those in power. Like the desperate children they so fear, the right only call for retribution, for an end to a situation they despise, without dissecting the reasons why it has escalated to this point.

Capitalism is in crisis. The evidence is all around us. Famine kills thousands while we reinforce hospital beds to deal with the obesity crisis. Oil wars rape the middle-east. Revolution and repression reign in Syria, Egypt and Lybia. There is so much international upheaval that following global politics is a full-time job. Governments around the world are cutting services because of deficits caused by greed. The poor are being made to pay for the mistakes of the super rich and unemployment is sky-high. In the UK, youth centres, sure-start centres, are closed down. Schemes offering books for disadvantaged children and subsidising food for young mothers are slashed. Many communities are in dire straights. Police morale is at an all-time low after too many cuts and too much corruption. The markets slump again in what is now being coined a double-dip recession and teenagers take to the streets in the worst riots for a generation. It all begs the question: what the fuck is going on?

The right-leaning media appears to offer few answers. Talks of ‘pure criminality’ (whatever that is) and swift ‘justice for the perpetrators’ wear thin. Can we really be so short-sighted as to think these kids just appear, evil, intent on destruction? How can we so universally, so ruthlessly condemn children who are behaving in the exact way society has trained them to behave? They value what we trained them to value: wealth, power and materialism – they are children of capitalism. Our society created this underclass, and kept them quiet with material aspiration… now there is no hope for material aspiration, this is the only place they have to go…

This is not Egypt, this is not Sudan. Our poor are not starving, our prisons (at least the ones based in the UK) are not places of torture and systematic abuse. During the Arab Spring, many of us were discussing exactly why such an uprising was impossible in this country. We cited our advantageous economic condition, the relative comfort and high living standards of our poor, stating that it would take much more then a little economic hardship to push the British over the edge. In hindsight, I think we neglected to address the potency of extreme inequality in this equation. As the gap widens, and the capitalist machine continues to push excess as an indicator of success, such anger is inevitable. Universal hardship unites us, but when we scrape together pennies for a loaf of bread, and pass six audis on the way to the shop, hatred and hopelessness begin to take hold. In their hopelessness, why should these children care about the repercussions of their looting and arson?

These riots have not been a grass roots rebellion, and they have been universally condemned from both left and right, but since when was vandalism labeled violence? Why are we only outraged now they are destroying property and not each other, in their quest for unattainable material possessions? It is this right-wing division of “us and them” which causes these sorts of problems in the first place. Continuing with this attitude towards our country’s disadvantaged youth will only help perpetuate this division. Reaction provokes reaction and the powers that be seem unwilling to address the bigger picture only talking in terms of short-term solutions. If these kids believe they are not part of society it is because they aren’t. Not the blasting of water-cannon nor the shooting of rubber bullets will solve that problem. Let us not forget, it was a shooting at a stop and search incident which provided a catalyst for these events in the first place.

In our gang culture it is viewed that there is an on-going war with the police, and these kids must feel they have had their first decisive victory in that war. In a battle for London’s streets last night, it is laughable to conceive that the police did anything other than lose.

Floatfly & Micolagist

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5 Comments

  1. Interesting article on Al Jazeera here, more intelligent, analytical, and balanced than anything I’ve read in the British media thus far:

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/08/201189165143946889.html

  2. Awesome article from Nathaniel Tapley, telling it like it is, with a comical angle. Brilliantly written and massively on point!

    http://nathanieltapley.com/2011/08/10/an-open-letter-to-david-camerons-parents/

  3. Penny Red – Here comes the future, you can’t run from it – if you’ve got a blacklist, I wanna be on it.

    I like this girl!

    http://pennyred.blogspot.com/2011/08/panic-on-streets-of-london.html?spref=fb

  4. “Those who want to see law and order restored must turn their attention to a menace that no amount of riot police will disperse; a social and political order that rewards vandalism and the looting of public property, so long as the perpetrators are sufficiently rich and powerful.” Quote from above^^


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