Monday, 8 August 2011
Debenhams, Clapham Junction, 8 August 2011, 23:12, via Guardian
You can't blame it on the long hot summer since there isn't one. Can you blame it on the police shooting? We have yet to find out what happened there, in what order, and how. Can you blame it on police community relations? Seems less likely than it did in the 80s but not impossible. In the meantime a third night of burning and looting. Chiefly looting it seems.
Not of food and the necessities of survival as it was, mostly, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It's consumer goods, those symbols of affluent, fashionable well being. Get me a satnav! one woman shouts as a mob break into a shop. Another woman examines a pair of shoes straight from the looted shoebox. Designer brand.
Sometimes fury strikes a group and spreads like a contagion. The fury is generally monstrous, indiscriminate, but, in its way, comprehensible. At a certain critical point one set of social codes crack and another, more spontaneous set, takes hold. Taboos down, everyone rushes in. The taboo itself is like a shop window. Break the window once and the shop is not a shop but an invitation to carnival. It isn't so much loot anymore as booty from the pirate's party. Go mama, shake your booty!
And afterwards it will be told with pride, not shame. It will be projected as heroism, the heroism of a bout of energy that takes its symbolic pickings from the real lives of others it will never recognise. It won't do the looters any good in the long run, though runs can be very long. Years. Decades. The looters will, in most cases, still be the poor, the semi-criminalised, the ones on the unemployment register, the mothers with poor child care, the children with little to aim for but consumer goods and the lifestyle such goods are supposed to embody but don't.
It may be an interesting warning of times to come. There is in people, I suspect, a certain bottled up resentment at the danger they have been put into by the actions of wealthy unaccountable others. Consumer goods are not the noble stuff of life but people are used to them. People regard consumer goods as their human rights, or what they should have to show by way of human rights.
Let's hope no one gets killed, or maimed, or finds their life ruined by these events and that the social fabric is repaired sooner rather than later. Any patch up job will do, and usually does.