Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Riots: Explaining, not Excusing

Before I start, let me very slowly and carefully explain the difference between understanding something and condoning it, because judging by the amount of shit I seem to land myself in, it's something that needs clarifying in advance. For the purposes of this article, here are some words you can group together in terms of excusing something:
  • liking,

  • pretending it's acceptable,

  • agreeing with,

  • condoning,

  • supporting.
And now, let's look at some words that you can group together with explaining something:
  • comprehending,

  • knowing,

  • understanding.
So when I say I understand the reasons the rioters have, that means I understand, I don't condone: I explain, but not excuse. The thing is, instead of vilifying the rioters, how about looking at the banks and government that pushed the people this far? Looters may have dragged it out for what they see as fun, but you've got to look at the reason the riots started - a government that keeps pushing it's citizens harder and harder, and they're not willing to put up with it anymore. Maybe it is undereducated and impressionable idiots that are currently looting, but it doesn't help that they're under the schizophrenic pressures of a hypocritical austerity drive and a consumer culture that is incredibly practiced at making people want more possessions. Combine that with government after government cutting educational funding and voila; you have an impressionable population that are easily led and get suckered in by consumer demand, but have no money to acquire any of it. The ingrained impressionability has served the purposes of advertisers and the alcohol industry, and the government has been happy to accept tax money from the sales of alcohol. But look at the list of symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome: Poor impulse control, poor personal boundaries, poor anger management, stubbornness, intrusive behavior, poor judgment, information-processing disorder, poor cause and effect reasoning, disrupted school experience, trouble with the law, inappropriate sexual behavior, alcohol and drug problems, dependent living, problems with employment... it's like a person specification for a rioter. So they're happy to take money from the alcohol industry but are unable or unwilling to deal with it's aftermath. I just think we need to remove the social situation that causes people like this to exist, instead of wasting time on punitive finger-pointing. And the horrifying thing is, there is nothing we can do, at least not within the system. We've seen the austerity drive go ahead with no vote, a government elected using the votes of a party who explicity didn't want the conservatives in power, and bankers still going unpunished and claiming bonuses for having fucked the economy.

Look at how much the looters have cost the corporations and local councils, and then look at how much the banks have cost the taxpayer. When a government doesn't play by the law, why should we? This whole thing started with a peaceful demonstration, marching on a police station, and quickly got out of hand thanks to a minority who hear 'demonstration' and regardless of the cause, see it as an opportunity to vent aggression. But Boris Johnson, giving a statement on BBC News earlier, walked away when people started demanding answers instead of sitting listening to a pre-prepared statement that doesn't address their issues. And that is the heart of the issue. There is a greater view of the 'reality' of the situation than the immediate view that it's 'just chavs' that are to blame here. I am saying it is more important to view this as an incredibly dangerous symptom of an ill that has allowed British citizens to grow into the people who have been looting the past two nights. I'm not saying for one second that their actions weren't incredibly dangerous, irresponsible and that the individuals responsible shouldn't be charged with manslaughter to the fullest extent of the law. But if we're going to target one cause of this civil disturbance we should be targetting them all equally, and that goes right to the top of government. I just think that when we have rioting on the streets of the UK, it's time to blame the system which has profited from allowing things to get to this point rather than the people trapped within it. The people are rising up, but it's amazing that what we celebrated in Egypt and Syria is damned in our own country.