Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Random thoughts

It is holiday time in Greece so all is quiet on the rioting front, not so in my other home of Salford. I found what was happening there disturbing. National Greek rioting followed the shooting of a teenager in December 2008. It was aimed at the police. Riots and demonstrations have taken place against the austerity packages. They were aimed at the government. But Manchester and Salford? What was going on?

Obviously, riots like these are not the sign of a healthy society or of an economy that is functioning smoothly, but I am sorry I cannot see this as an uprising, a proto-revolutionary movement or even an outburst of inchoate rage at the Tories. What was on view in my other home was something that is very familiar to all who live there, seriously screwed up young people. Only this time there were more of them in one place. Not that many, a few hundred perhaps, but enough to be effective.  Unlike in Greece, where much of the nation was broadly in sympathy with the protests, if not their methods, the people of Manchester and Salford seem horrified.

Here is Martin Bright:
I remember talking to Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company in the aftermath of the killing of Damilola Taylor and she said she was concerned that some children in her project had become “suicidally uncaring”. She meant that there was a group of young people who were so damaged that they had no empathy for others. Many of them were effectively homeless. Most disturbingly, they had developed their own parallel morality. This was over a decade ago. 
You can read more from her here. From my former work in adult and community education I can recognise what she describes and think back to the really tough minded activists who work hard to overcome nihilistic, destructive alienation and the wonderful projects that can do so much to rescue people. I would also argue that the best work is not done by the state, its role is ambiguous as it is an enforcer as much as an enabler, it is done by the voluntary sector, doing difficult work with difficult people. It is just that the state is the only viable source of the necessary funding and this is being stripped away, leaving only the parallel world. This is no liberation.

I don't see a just society emerging from the ashes of a fully insured Miss Selfridge, but there was a thought that I couldn't let go as I watched the pictures and read the feeds of what seemed more like a systematic exercise in looting than a riot. Immature and damaged children, and yes they are children, were the ones who will appear on the CTV footage and later on in the courts. What of the fences who take the goods off them, the ones who make the money, the ones who hawk the stolen goods around? They aren't on the streets or the cameras. This was no heroic uprising, it was exploitation of the already exploited, of the vulnerable and immature. It was child abuse.


Will said...

There is no better value critique than looting and burning! Make a t-shirt into a mask and get on with it…

The Plump said...

Burning out Asian shopkeepers, trashing gay bookshops, attacking firefighters? Three dead Asians in a what appears to be a deliberate hit and run? Some fucking critique.

This builds a consensus for repression not for action. And in the meantime we have the ruined lives, not least of the riot fodder, the fucked-up kids who will be fucked-up further by the criminal justice system and who will feed back into the drugs gangs in an endless cycle of exploitation.

Poverty and inequality will be noticed, earnest editorials will be written, fuck all will happen. And on the last point I hope that I am wrong. I hope that cuts are rowed back and action taken. I hope that resourced, grass roots organisations can grow and organise and that at least something can save at least some of these kids. But what I fear is that any regeneration that may result will just mean the plonking of a retail park in a deprived area to wipe out local businesses and provide a few crap jobs.

In the meantime the working class activists building alternatives have been set back by the general revulsion in their own communities at the actions of the rioters.

This is no proletarian uprising, this is no critique, it is self-harm on a grand scale.

Will said...

you seem to be under thye impression i disagree

by the way -- if you are out rioting tonight get me a size 9 and a half Adidas Superstars.

Will said...

do you 'get' me now Peter? I hope you do, because i do not want you to be my ENEMY.

The Plump said...

a) I haven't read it yet.
b) We have always come from different directions, yet often ended in the same place.
c) Disagreement is not enmity, especially if you admit that I am right.

Will said...

All this seems to prove that if you do not understand the commodity and value, you end up as fodder

Anton Deque said...

"This was over a decade ago."

My partner told me some of her juvenile cases claimed the really seriously violent on the streets were younger than they. If true that would mean under the age of criminal responsibilty. She left her employment a decade ago.

There is no one single cause, nothing that could be neatly encapsulated in a clever phrase (and thereby distanced from necessary action). There are several strands, many contradictions. It is truly depressing to see people going backwards, to be among those powerless to stop it.