The Joy Of Rioting
I haven't taken much notice of the riots, down here in the country an "Enfield Vigilante" isn't a concerned citizen of a North London borough who just waves their hands in the air at the horror, the question is only which Mark and whether or not bayonets are fixed.
But as I am being asked by readers in our ex-colonies WTF is going on, is it Al-Qaeda, Al Gore or Alcohol? I thought it worth looking into.
The shocking acts of looting may not be political, but they nevertheless say something about the beaten-down lives of the rioters
Alex Hiller, a marketing and consumer expert at Nottingham Business School, points out that there is no conflict between anomie and consumption: "If you look at Baudrillard and other people writing in sociology about consumption, it's a falsification of social life. Adverts promote a fantasy land. Consumerism relies upon people feeling disconnected from the world."
At the other end of the authoritarian-liberal spectrum, you have Camila Batmanghelidjh's idea, movingly expressed in the Independent, that this is a natural human response to the brutality of poverty: "Walk on the estate stairwells with your baby in a buggy manoeuvring past the condoms, the needles, into the lift where the best outcome is that you will survive the urine stench and the worst is that you will be raped . . . It's not one occasional attack on dignity, it's a repeated humiliation, being continuously dispossessed in a society rich with possession. Young, intelligent citizens of the ghetto seek an explanation for why they are at the receiving end of bleak Britain, condemned to a darkness where their humanity is not even valued enough to be helped."
Between these poles is a more pragmatic reading: this is what happens when people don't have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can't afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it.
Millions of trees are going to die as this sort of guff is spewed out.
As far as I can see no one seems to be pointing out the essential cause of all these riots. Rioting is fun, exciting and you get to pick a prize at the end. Even young bloods at Oxford have been known to smash stuff up for the hell of it. It relieves the tedium of it all.
The reason you and I don't do it is that the penalties outweigh the rewards. Penalties that are worn as badges of honour by some would be the end of our careers and our social standing.
The long term solution is about enabling people to have personal respect and ambition, freed from the serfdom of the council ghettos.
Make them more boringly middle class like us.
Immediately the balance between risk and reward needs to be tilted to disincentivise the behaviour.
And how to rebalance that cannot be understood unless it is acknowledged the sheer bloody thrill of being a rioting looter.
(Al-Qaeda, Al Gore or Alcohol? A bit of all three actually, hot weather, some illegal hooch and a soupçon of radicalisation are all in the mix of why now and why here.)