What Happens When The Riots Reach Mayfair?

That’s the headline from Wealth Briefing, an online magazine for bankers to the obscenely rich. Perhaps a more pointed question might be, Why doesn’t it happen?
Perhaps we should answer that question with another one? If you had the plague, would you treat it by squeezing the spots?
Spot the connection? Well, maybe it’s not that obvious. Perhaps another question will make things a little clearer. What happens when you decide to stop governing society and hand it over to ‘the markets’, the police and the tabloids? Feed everyone with a constant diet of titillation, exploitation and deceptions? Encourage everyone to jump on every get-rich-quick bandwagon? Has this led to the advertised tidal wave of liberation, creativity and ‘wealth-creation’? Well, it’s easy to find out – just leave this potent recipe to ferment for three decades, and – suddenly it explodes. Slapping down the rising mass and thinking you are getting at the underlying cause will only make a still bigger mess.
This is something we have spent 30 years preparing. On the one hand, we have created a culture of false promises, fantasy expectations and entitlement, and on the other bred a generation of politicians who have long since abandoned any pretence at managing society in favour of handing every problem over to their business pals, cowering before red-top newspapers and abandoning every serious political concept and programme as ‘ideological’ in favour of ‘common sense’. (But as Gramsci once said – I think – common sense is the practical ideology of the ruling class.)
How about a little history? In 1981, we had the Brixton riot in London, the Handsworth riot in Birmingham, the Chapeltown riot in Leeds and the Toxteth riots in Liverpool. Although initially popularly denounced as race riots or ‘mindless’ violence’ and ‘copycat’ events, it soon became clear that brutal conditions in the inner city, maintained by heavy-handed policing, were the real cause. But it never went further than riots – the victims of social brutalisation turning on their immediate neighbours. Now, 30 years on, things are perhaps taking a marginally different turn. As Wealth Briefing put it, ‘Last night the King’s Road in Chelsea, Notting Hill and the iconic Sloane Square were all targeted of terrifying indiscriminate violence.’
Indiscriminate? I suspect not – and certainly no more so than the occupation of Fortnum and Mason by anti-cut’s demonstrators (in which, I am proud to say, my son took part) earlier this year. It’s just that today’s rioters – unintentional demonstrators – are a lot less politically conscious, but a lot more ready to use violence to express themselves, even though their lack of political consciousness means that they are incapable of expressing themselves through anything else. To quote Wealth Briefing again, ‘The events may be characterized by mindless so-called “rioting-meets-shopping”, but the last three days have exposed serious undertones. According to a report on the BBC, two 17-year-olds told police that they were rioting because they were “showing police and rich people they could do whatever they wanted”.’
Interesting turn of phrase – apparently rioting isn’t serious to the rich – just as long as it’s happening to the poor. But as for these ‘serious undertones’, Wealth Briefing can breathe a sigh of relief: only when the rioters are more politically conscious and organised will they prove a threat to their rich readers. As long as that is the case, it will be possible to denounce them as looters and feral youth – because, in many cases, that’s what they are. But how much more would it take to move them a little farther along towards informed political action?
More of RJ Robinson at http://richardjrobinson.blogspot.com/

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