I mentioned the London riots last week, and said that my views have been represented fairly well elsewhere. Strangely enough, one is from a right-wing newspaper and the other a comedian:
Most of the people in this very expensive street were every bit as deracinated and cut off from the rest of Britain as the young, unemployed men and women who have caused such terrible damage over the last few days. For them, the repellent Financial Times magazine How to Spend It is a bible. I’d guess that few of them bother to pay British tax if they can avoid it, and that fewer still feel the sense of obligation to society that only a few decades ago came naturally to the wealthy and better off.
Yet we celebrate people who live empty lives like this.
[…] Certainly, the so-called feral youth seem oblivious to decency and morality. But so are the venal rich and powerful – too many of our bankers, footballers, wealthy businessmen and politicians.
Peter Oborne of the Telegraph wrote a scathing piece, showing that the actions of the rioters differ in their manifestation, but not moral quality, of people at all levels of society – especially the most rich and powerful. Russell Brand, writing in the Guardian, made a valuable contribution as well:
That state of deprivation though is, of course, the condition that many of those rioting endure as their unbending reality. No education, a weakened family unit, no money and no way of getting any. JD Sports is probably easier to desecrate if you can’t afford what’s in there and the few poorly paid jobs there are taken. Amidst the bleakness of this social landscape, squinting all the while in the glare of a culture that radiates ultraviolet consumerism and infrared celebrity. That daily, hourly, incessantly enforces the egregious, deceitful message that you are what you wear, what you drive, what you watch and what you watch it on, in livid, neon pixels. The only light in their lives comes from these luminous corporate messages. No wonder they have their fucking hoods up.
If you want to read about the riots – if you ask yourself why they happened, and haven’t been able to find a satisfactory answer – these are two good starting points. They’re far from the last word, but they are some of the best I’ve read.
Oh, and Charlie Brooker weighed in. It’s expected, it’s snarky, but it’s also worth 5 minutes of your time.
If preventing further looting is our aim, then as well as addressing the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, I’d take a long hard look at MTV Cribs and similar TV shows that routinely confuse human achievement with the mindless acquisition of gaudy bling bullshit. The media heaves with propaganda promoting sensation and consumption above all else.