London Riots: “A Rage Against Exclusion From Consumerist Fulfillment”?

Taking a break from our own national troubles, I saw a disturbing video on the British daily The Guardian website purported to be shot during the ongoing London riots (more on the video later), which have now spread to other cities in Great Britain. 

The riots, initially triggered by a police shooting last week of a black man and suspected gangster from Tottenham named Mark Duggan—circumstances still under investigation—are also fueled by what some are callinga rage against exclusion from consumerist fulfillment.” 

Tottenham is an ethnically diverse area of north London, troubled by gangs and guns, and, of course, what always seems to accompany gangs and guns: poverty.

According to David Lammy, Member of Parliament from Tottenham,

Tottenham already has the highest unemployment rate in London and the 8th highest in the UK.

Of the jobs that we have, most are dependent on public funding.

There was not a single word today on how the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives plan to tackle the jobs crisis that is currently occurring in Haringey.

Cutting 500,000 public sector jobs is grossly irresponsible.

These unpalatable and unnecessary cuts will be disastrous for our community. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives risk throwing us back to the 1980s, when the frustration and anger that flowed from squandered talent and relentless poverty led to social unrest.

Mr. Lammy said those things in October of 2010.

Today, the riots continue, obviously no longer only related to the original outrage over the death of Mark Duggan, but connected with a general feeling of economic deprivation that seems to have no end, at least for some members of society.

A left-of-center columnist for The Guardian, Nina Power (“There is a context to London’s riots that can’t be ignored“), thinks she can pinpoint the cause of the troubles in the UK:

Since the [governing] coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital… Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures.

She continued:

As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as “social problems” (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.

Some of us here in America have warned that if we don’t do something about the unequal distribution of income here at home, we may not be all that far off from displays of outrage, hopefully not in the form of riots, but displays of democratic outrage that may culminate in a complete transformation of our economic system.

In short, if you like capitalism and want to keep it, you need to pay attention to the burgeoning income and wealth disparity in the United States.

That having been said, about that video:  If it is what it is alleged to be, it is disturbing not because it features some grisly violence, but because it features a casual disregard not only for humanity, but for civilization.

And despite left-wingers like Nina Power legitimately arguing for an understanding of the context for criminal behavior, it is hard to understand those who have little to no regard for the rights of others, especially in a society as civilized—and amenable to democratic change—as the United Kingdom. 

Here is the short video, and I am one liberal who wouldn’t mind if they round up and lock up the perpetrators of this crime and throw away the key.  Such people don’t belong on the streets with the civilized:

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4 Comments

  1. ansonburlingame

     /  August 9, 2011

    OK duane,

    A reasonable blog but laced with quotes from mostly liberal newspapers in England.

    Here is a quote in today’s Globe. “This is the uprising of the working class. We’re redistributing the wealth”. That was said by, “Byra Phillips… 28 year old self-describe anarchist.”

    So are the riots coming from the “working class” (the class as defined by HLG and you that we must “help”) or is it coming from “self-described anarchist”, or “hoodlums and criminals” or who exactly…..?

    Now I agree that the riots generally reflect grave concern by many over the cuts being made by the conservative government in England. But the question is for them and all the people of Great Britain over what to do about Great Britains extraordinarily out of whack fiiscal condition. Obviously something has to be done to fix the fiscal mess in Britain, and France, and Italy and Spain, and Greece, etc. etc. And in America as well

    Europe has obviously been ahead of us in implementing socialistic policies since WWII. Now those policies have created grave fiscal conditions and something must be done to avoid a European “cliff” in fiscal matters.

    One thing Great Britian could have done is NOT to have contributed money to bailout Greece and now it seems Italy as well. But…..?

    Greece and now England see the social unrest from reducing social programs and if or when we do so the same may well result in our cities as well. For sure Wisconsin was just the very small tip of a very large and looming iceberg as well.

    You and I can both agree that such riots are “wrong”. But I at least think they will only become worse if we spend more in the short term and then have to cut even further in the future, like it or not.

    In a sense if not reality the whole western world is going broke. So what to do? Well stop going broke seems to be the answer.

    Anson

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  2. hlgaskins

     /  August 9, 2011

    “So are the riots coming from the “working class” (the class as defined by HLG and you that we must “help”) or is it coming from “self-described anarchist”, or “hoodlums and criminals” or who exactly…..?”

    It’s probably a combination of both. Remember the rise of the Nazis in Germany. At the end of WWI from 1920 to 1930 economy in Germany was in complete disrepair. Then the 1929 Wall Street Stock Market crash brought on the Great Depression with repercussions that was felt around the world. Germany became a country of unrest and unemployment which left its hungry and disenfranchised citizens looking for something or someone to put the country back on its feet, and then along came Hitler and his message of hate. There’s a lot more to it but that’s the gist of it.

    Which brings us back to the U.K. I was listening to an interview of a Social Worker and he mentioned that unemployment was a major cause but another was unfair treatment by the police.

    I believe that people have a right to protest, but not using violence because it’s counter productive. It elevates the disenfranchised from being victims of a pad economy to perpetrators of a crime. I find that sort of news somewhat distressful, because that sort of behavior often spills into other nations experiencing similar economic difficulties. Let’s hope we do better over here so that it doesn’t happen here.

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  August 10, 2011

    HLG,

    Your hope for a better way to express outrage at government in America is a good “hope”, just as I “hope” that we in fact take care of the CANNOTS.

    But if my “hope” becomes a reality, I do believe the WILL NOTS will be in our streets as well. It has happened before. Look at Greece. How many of those “flame throwers” were in fact really downtroddened people with no “legs” left to stand upon?

    But such is not a reaction only for modern democracys when bad times come along. Look at how the Roman Mob was used time and again to attempt to sway political actions, oh so long ago.

    It seems to me that the entire western world is going to be facing these kind of things as economic retrenchment lands right on all of our heads. And spending more money will only delay the reaction, in my view. How does one “buy off a mob” and sustain such “bribes”?

    Anson

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