London riots: what happens when you sweep people and other troublesome things under the rug

I have been transfixed by the violence and destruction going on in England over the past week – cars and buildings set alight, stores ransacked. It is upsetting on so many levels. Lives and property are being ruined for no apparent reason. It’s horrible.

Rioters burned the Sony warehouse in London - and may have taken down some fine independent record labels

Of particular interest to me, the rioters burned a Sony warehouse. Big corporation can afford the loss, right? Not so fast. A lot of very good independent record labels are distributed through Play It Again Sam, which subcontracted with Sony for storage space in that warehouse. Some of the most notable ones being Beggars Banquet, 4AD and Rough Trade. Labels that have released some of my all time favorite music, especially in the postpunk genre. There are also many smaller labels that aren’t as well known. Some lost all their UK inventory and may go under because of this.

Here is an article about what was lost and what it could mean.

As livid as I am over the mindless destruction. I find myself being just as angry if not more so at the people and institutions that created this explosive situation.

Just as the law & order types say, the rioters are mostly just thugs. Or in the terminology of one of my favorite postpunk bands, “hammerheads” who need to be locked up. They’re not rising up against some dictator. Mostly they seem to be saying “free shit!” and grabbing all the iPods and Xboxes and running shoes they can get their hands on. And setting things on fire just for fun. I don’t think there are a lot of revolutionaries  pondering the politics of the situation.

This song describes these people pretty well I think:

Yet, the root cause is certainly political, whether these tools realize it or not.

This is basically about greed, but the rioters are not the only greedy ones. Are there not plenty of greedy politicians and business people? How about the crooked cops who sold out the public to the crooked journalists? I don’t think the rioters are thinking about much beyond loot and what they call “fun,” but they probably realize there are a lot of people who have things they don’t deserve to have, yet are getting away with it.

The motive for theft is pretty simple to explain, but what about all the fires? To me it comes across as a generalized fuck you to society. They’re not smart enough to know who to be pissed at, but they know things are rigged against them somehow, so they just attack randomly. Buildings. Stores. Things that are other people’s not theirs. They obviously don’t feel any loyalty or connection to the society around them. It’s just a world where some people always seem to have more than they do. There is a recession on that they didn’t cause, and now social services are being slashed. They don’t feel like they have any future, or anything to lose.

I thought Massive Attack had a pretty good take on it. They posted it on their Facebook page and promptly lost a bunch of fans who thought they were condoning the violence. They weren’t. They were simply pointing out the cynical conditions that led to this situation:

In context with the complicit support of the government, the banks looted the nation’s wealth while destroying countless small businesses and brought the whole economy to its knees in a covert, clean manner, rather like organised crime.Our reaction was to march and wave banners and then bail them out. These kids would have to riot and steal every night for a year to run up a bill equivalent to the value of non-paid tax big business has ‘avoided’ out of the economy this year alone.
They may not articulate their grievances like the politicians that condemn them but this is absolutely political. As for the ‘mindless violence’… is there anything more mindless than the British taxpayer quietly paying back the debts of others while contributing bullets to conflicts that we have absolutely no understanding of?It’s mad, sad and scary when we have to take to the streets to defend our homes and businesses from angry thieving kids, but where are the police and what justice is ever done when the mob is dressed in pin stripe.   -Massive Attack
This interview with television presenter Darcus Howe also got my attention, not just because of what he said, but because of the dismissive, arrogant attitude of the reporter, who simply WON’T LISTEN.

It’s a perfect illustration of the problem if you ask me. There were a lot of angry people getting ready to explode, and they had no voice. Still don’t. A problem was brewing and society didn’t want to see it. So here it is out in the open, impossible to ignore.

As an American, maybe it’s not my place to butt in, but I see the same forces at work here. Lots of young people with nothing to do and no future that they can see. It’s a recipe that has led to riots in the past and it’s just a matter of time till it happens again.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “London riots: what happens when you sweep people and other troublesome things under the rug

  1. There was a time when people’s very FREEDOM was under threat, and they responded with a lot more dignity than the detritus of society did last week. There is no excuse for what happened in London and other UK cities last week, none whatsoever. Social injustice, corporate greed…blah blah blah – modern psychobabble. It boils down to one thing: lack of respect. Lack of respect for the law, for their fellow human beings, for property. Perhaps we ought to (in the words of one twitterer this week) “ship ’em all off to Syria and see how many pairs of Nike trainers they can nick over there”. I have ZERO sympathy for any of them, and I don’t need some dance act trying to explain the socio-political landscape to me. You behave like this, I say, you kiss goodbye to your human rights.
    Let’s perhaps concentrate on the guy who lost his son when he was mown down along with two friends in the Birmingham riots, or the London shopkeeper who had to stand by terrified as looters took everything and smashed everything from the business he puts 14 hours a day, 7 days a week into. Once again, modern society is so f****ked up, it’s too busy concentrating on why the perpetrators did what they did to spend any time on the victims.

    • I don’t really disagree. I don’t have sympathy for criminals either and that’s all they really are. All I’m saying, and Massive Attack as well, is deal with ALL the criminals. That includes the criminals at the top.

      I’ve been thinking about this, and here’s what it comes down to: We’re in a recession. When things are better, the kind of people we’re talking about get 1) more distractions to keep them occupied because the state can afford it, and 2) for the perhaps too small percentage of them who DO want to rise above their circumstances, it offers opportunity, jobs for them to get should they want to work. And why do we have a recession? A really bad recession that looks like it will be a double-dip and maybe even a real depression? The greed and corruption of the people at the top. Why didn’t any of the bankers or politicians who were trading on the misery of the poor for their own advantage, face any consequences for what they did?

      And to a certain extent this is probably projection. Regardless of whether the rioters are mad, I’M mad. I’m in a low paying job with little security, hanging onto the bottom rung of the middle class, and the future now looks pretty uncertain for me, and for the country.

      If I have sympathy for anyone, really, it’s the people who felt the same anger as those rioters, but have worked all their lives, tried to obey the law and make better lives for themselves and their children, and now have no jobs and no prospects and also can’t see any kind of a decent future. And who have been just as ignored. What can law abiding people do to get the attention of the ruling class? Voting doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere.

      I actually agree that this is more of a time to get back control of the situation and figure out who needs to go to jail for all this murder and mayhem, but at some point we’re going to have to make the rich and powerful responsible for their behavior.

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