I feel compelled to write something about the chaos that is currently washing over our country, but I’m finding it hard to come up with much to say, as I feel like I haven’t really developed an opinion on it all yet.
Obviously, I’m never going to support the actions of these people, there is no discernible political message or driving force behind what is happening, and those are the only things that justify any form of civil disobedience in my mind (and even these would never have me labelling the widespread burning and destruction of houses and businesses as justified).
The problem I’m having is with all the people labelling this as ‘mindless thuggery’ or ‘purely criminal’ or calling the perpetrators ‘scum’. Worryingly, I’ve even seen people that I’m friends with on facebook say that the people involve don’t deserve human rights. This, I believe, is the start of an escalation of rhetoric that can only end in a deeply segregated police state.
So here’s an attempt at an embryonic working out of what is happening. There as been a deep-seated current of resentment gaining a lot of momentum in all areas of society over the last year or so, it has been made stronger by austerity measures imposed by a government with a very shaky mandate from the people, thanks to our archaic and useless electoral system. People are genuinely angry and anger always needs an outlet. Most of my friends on facebook who are angry are white, middle class professionals, so our outlet for anger is sarcastic comments on facebook and the making of amusing images of David Cameron on photoshop. At the end of the day, we are still (mostly) earning about enough money to get by in life, and still afford a few luxuries (I could even afford to buy a diamond ring recently). We also still remain the most listened to group within the British electoral system (no matter what people who claim they are part of the ‘silent majority’ claim).
Problems like we are seeing at the moment arise when groups who don’t have these privileges and outlets for anger suddenly start feeling it. They are often not as politically aware as the social groups I move in, or feel like they don’t understand politics, so they channel their anger through something they do understand. The one thing that we, as a society, have taught our young people to really believe in is property; preferably property that shows status to others. Under-privileged kids see that other people have massive TVs and diamonds etc. so get angry that they don’t have them. because they can’t see a way that they will ever be able to get these things through working, they decide that it is their right to just be able to take it. Now all they need is a trigger to make them think it’s okay to exercise that right without being punished. All of a sudden, they see images of people going into shops through smashed windows, it is given a legitimate name like ‘protest’ and all the pieces have fallen into place.
Maybe that’s what we’re seeing. Only maybe, I’m only a teacher from Gloucestershire, but maybe that’s what it is: genuine anger at being put on the trash pile of the country without even being given a chance, but refracted through the prism of our consumerist and material society.
Overly simple, I know…