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.


charles said...

Debt; no money to pay; only offered solution,'growth', i.e. production (but the banks aren't lending), advertising and production of, mostly, consumer goods. It's a system that just about works, in prosperous times, not least because it acknowledges rather than denies human covetousness. In lean times its shortcomings - well, for a start, its dependence on covetousnous, its neglect of certain other human instincts - is shown up. What's happening in London - and by now maybe other towns - is surely a form of nihilism: it's not for anything, it's not even against anything specific. A month from now we may be back to 'normal', but right now I feel the landscape is changing and I'm doubting that any patch-up job will do the trick. I do still trust that there are enough good people - on the street, in homes, in government - to stitch the fabric back together.

charles said...

Oops - for the 2nd 'production', read 'buying'. Too hasty. Strange day, in which I've been recalling what I felt at times during the times of US and Soviet posturing and the nuclear threat: that the orderliness of the world I wake up to and walk through is paper-thin.

George S said...

I don't think it's ever much thicker than paper thin, Charles. Maybe it's nihilism, as you say, though there have been riots before, and maybe it's a periodic demon that has to shake the swingeing horror of its fiery thingamajig. This time the whole world looks a bit thinner too. Debt? Debt used to be good. Maybe not so much nihilism - it's mostly kids after all, but opportunism and adrenalin. For now.

Gwilym Williams said...

The fish begins to stink from the head.

Think bailed out Banksters, corrupt MPs, double-crossing Clegg & Co. and lately Murdoch's bought Cops. Then think of the dumbed down underclass. No job. No hope. Even the youth club shut down. It's all the fault of the Man ain't it? And the Man, today's Man, the Old Etonian . . . wot's he gonna do 'bout it, eh? Sweet FA that's all. Hey, what's that noise outside. Summat's going off, or what? Pass me me Blackberry will ya?

George S said...

Fair enough, Gwilym. But I can't see the kids extending to banker-consciousness or even really knowing who Clegg or Murdoch is.

But yes, the fault of The Man, which excuses everything. The unemployment rate was actually falling. I have no doubt that the economic and social climate are key elements, of course, but the form it takes is considerably detached from what might be called political,

Try looking at these, and listen to the two girls:

Mugging Murdoch protest! 9:30am Rosé for a new understanding of centre-leftism!

Gwilym Williams said...

Thanks. I'll have a look soonest.

Gwilym Williams said...

I'm not altogether convinced about those girls.

The boy on the floor (I already saw this footage on BBC World) has an injury, bleeding, to the groin, inner thigh, caused I suspect from climbing through a broken plate glass shop window which theory appears to be confirmed by the fact that he appears to have some objects, which may well be stolen goods, in his rucksack that his 'helpers' obviously are aware of and want to have for themselves - the first of the 'pickpockets' throws away the plastic cover from the item he has seized so it appears that this could already be stolen property from a shop, certainly it is a new unopened gadget - perhaps an iphone or something like that. Maybe he has a rucksack full of these items.

There's no honour amongst thieves! is an old truism.

George S said...

You may be right on both, Gwilym. I am not sure you can tell it is from the thigh that he is bleeding, but could be.

The girls are odd - but that is roughly where such a conversation may really be pitched. And who would want to fake this? It could be from either side and helps neither.

Gwilym Williams said...

The number of police is to be reduced by 35,000 by 2015. Already 10,000 have gone. This is government policy. Clegg is a puppet of the government. He is openly supporting a right-wing silver-spooned Tory who has no idea about black youth, poverty, life in the ghetto, the NHS, or anything else other than how to reduce essential services, and 'save' money we don't have for our part in the world's overseas adventures - e.g. Libya, thereby continuing with our 'special relationship' role (i.e. America's unquestioning backer). If Clegg the Betrayer had any shred of honour he would go.
Yesterday was the 66th anniversary of Nagasaki - where the first plutonium bomb was dropped - 3 days after Hiroshima as an experiment - a bomb that
killed between 70,000 and 100,000 people and wounded a similar number. America maintains a policy of first use. Should the US go down this route again, you can be sure that Cameron will be there. His rosy cheeks glowing with excitement. His Superman perm blowing in the wind. Our leaders. God help us.

George S said...

Surely that can't be all, Gwilym?. You'll be OK in Austria then.

Gwilym Williams said...

But wait there's more.

So Cameron, a man who can't think outside the box, is now going round telling anybody who will listen how he has sorted out the problem by deploying 16,000 police on London's streets - including police from Wales! But of course he has sorted out nothing. Overnight 3 people were killed in Birmingham. Vigilante groups, and self-styled defenders of the community are already on the streets.
It'll get worse before it gets better whatever he says.