...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Day 3873: Mere Anarchy is Loosed Upon the Headlines


There's a lot of talk about "anarchy in the UK" about at the moment. But Anarchy means without RULERS not without RULES. As Mr Balloon, Bouncing Boris and even Mr Millipede fly back into the country, what we seem to have is the exact opposite!

Why are there riots in London (and Birmingham and Liverpool)?

Is it the world economy teetering on the brink? Is it the Metropolitan Police being in chaos after the discovery that they were in bed with Mr Murdoch? Is it Captain Clegg being left in charge of the country?

It seems inexplicable to me.

At least with the riots of the Eighties (Brixton and Toxteth, 1981; Broadwater Farm, 1985) and the Nineties (Poll Tax, 1990) you could UNDERSTAND, if not condone, that there was a HISTORY: crushing poverty, callous disregard, racist policing, negligent government, years of build up. How have we got to this level of anger so FAST?

It seems almost impossible NOT to link the chaos on the streets to the chaos overtaking the world economy.

How can we expect ordinary young men and women to continue to soldier on under the yolk of the system when the news portrays the "gods" of our capitalist society chucking money away with abandon at the deeply undramatic news that America may have somewhat overextended her credit and that countries in southern Europe have been overspending for the last several decades.

On the one fluffy foot we hear the "markets" calling for a trillion Euro bailout fund; on the other we the same markets burn up a trillion Euros as the stock exchanges around the planet topple into freefall.

How can we expect people to behave responsibly when they see the world come within hours of total meltdown because the Replutocrats and the Tea Party want to play chicken with the debt ceiling?

(Look "let's not borrow any more" is not an unsound policy, but there's a time and a place, just as it's too late to say "let's not hit the ground" when you've ALREADY jumped off the forty-fourth floor. "Let's not hit the ground" ISN'T AN OPTION; all you've got is "let's not hit the ground YET".)

In a sense, this HAS been building for years.

The first crash, the 2008 global near-annihilation that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers was an inevitable result of many years of party good-times fuelled by cheap borrowing. A global Ponzi Scheme in which MANY were complicit that wiped out huge swathes of the economy when it burst.

The actions (of governments and companies) taken in response to that crash and the deep and long recession that followed have resulted in FOUR YEARS of stagnant and falling living standards in the face of escalating inflation caused – at least in part – by an implicit devaluation when we printed all that money.

Portraying the Coalition's (actually very tiny) rowing back from deficit spending as a massive, savage attack that has fundamentally changed the attitude of government from loving, open-handed generosity to cruel and selfish denial, has poured petrol on a pyre of resentment and stoked a fire of fear and anger.

In fact the coalition's cuts are just one more straw on the camel's back. But are they the straw to break it?

But when you are told day in day out that your poverty is all the fault of "the bankers" or "the Tories" or "the foreigners", seeing them "do it again" is one heck of spark tossed onto that bonfire.

If AVARICE can do so much harm, RAGE and ENVY seem only logical in response.

But they are NOT.

You don't burn your neighbour's house down to protest the behaviour of bankers; you don't steal a plasma telly to register your disapproval of America's credit rating.

It seems, in the end, that these riots are an EXCUSE to go looting. They aren't protesting the GREED of our age; they're another expression of it; they are the outcome of a generation where some people (at the BOTTOM just as at the TOP) are just SPOILED ROTTEN.


The riots are contained to what can only be described as "places where there are things to nick".

So we could also do with a bit less irrational coverage from the commentariat. Homes and businesses burning are AWFUL but rerunning the footage 24/7 on rolling news makes it seem a LOT WORSE; a storm on Twitter is still only a Twitterstorm.

And, frankly, calls for the ARMY to be sent in are the SILLIEST form of PANIC.

We need to STRENGTHEN communities not INVADE them!

We don't need water cannons or rubber bullets; we need a sense of perspective.

Calls for "leadership" are, I think, overrated. You don't need "leadership" to not go rioting and looting. You don't need "leadership" to not go rubbernecking and getting in the way of the police doing their business.

You need to GROW UP.

This has been (another) huge blow to the High Street. Shops like HMV are already pressed to the wall by online competition and may well just retreat into cyberspace. Shops that can't go onto the web may just disappear altogether. That's few jobs and more empty spaces in the middle of our towns.

So we need to think of ways to reinvent the high street. Free public wi-fi, better access and transport, places to sit, places to go to the loo would all be a start. Government, and local government, can do a lot to make these places attractive again.

And after the high-street shop, young people are the ones who are going to be made to suffer most for these riots. And our young people are the politest hardest working, most long suffering they've ever been. From the unfairness of the minimum wage to the ASBO to those wretched mosquito buzzy things to the stories of binge drinking to the cut in EMA to the misinformation about student tuition fees young people have been made to feel like second class citizens.

So we need to rethink our strategy of focussing money on the old, because frankly, the baby boomers HAD their turn. We should think first about investing in the NEXT generation, not funding the comforts of the LAST.

The extraordinary thing is that these events ARE extraordinary.

London isn't Beirut or Los Angeles. We are one of the safest, cleanest cities anywhere in the history of ever.

We need fewer headless chickens calling for leadership and a bit more Keep Calm and Carry On.

1 comment:

JohnM said...

hug a hoody!?!