Originally Posted by Diva
Bobby, I think the disconnect between you and Andrew (and myself) is that you seem to think (correct me if I'm wrong) that people trying to understand the context of the situation or why someone would participate in this is somehow condoning their actions. There is not a single person in this thread who has said that the rioters and looters behavior is ok. It's not. They are doing horrible, horrible things. We can all agree on that. What we can't agree on is why these people are doing these horrible things. And I think its a cop out to just label these folks thugs. Yes, there are some thugs who are participating. But when you look at how many people across the board are involved and on such scale (various cities, not just the community the guy who got shot lived in), you can't just boil it down to thuggery. People who wouldn't ordinarily be involved in this type of behavior, are doing so. Why? This questions holds important answers about what sort of fixes need to be made on a socio-political level.
I don't think what you said about why we're disagreeing is true at all. I understand the context of the situation. Again, with respect, I live in the British Isles so I'm not "trying" to get my head around it from the outside looking in.
I'm sure a lot of the people involved in this feel like they're marginalized (or were convinced to join in because someone told them they were), but why did the need suddenly strike them to act out then? What momentous, Earth-shattering change came about that caused this pandemonium? They seemed to be getting on with life until very recently. Was conscription suddenly reinstated for some new war? People are killed all the time and it hasn't led to this before. Spike's points about opportunism get right to the nub of this. What you're seeing is the initial volatile outbursts in London spreading when one set of criminals inspires another. "Look at what they're getting down there! We've not got anything up here! Let's do what they're doing!" Some people are crying foul about poverty and so on, yet they managed to arrange to meet up for a smash and grab high street dash via Blackberrys and iPhones? I'm sorry, but I still don't think you get it, Diva.
There may well be more to it than just mindless destruction and criminal indulgence for some of those involved, but it seems unlikely it's any substantial amount. If it was, they would have achieved what they set out to do after night one. Attention: gained. What was to be gained by repeating it for purely, obviously personal gain night after night? Violence isn't the best way to solve a problem. If there was any kind of deeper "controlling idea" or ethic behind this, then surely that would have been told to those who took it too far on the streets of some of Britain's biggest cities? I didn't see anything approaching organization on that kind of level. This isn't Demolition Man with some unseen Denis Leary figure coordinating careful strikes from the underground. This is more like This is England with people who don't know better seeing what they can get away with or doing what they think is "acceptable" because of their warped morality.
However bad your circumstances may be or how alienated or oppressed you may feel, it doesn't justify chaos on this scale. It just doesn't. I'm angry about things I'd like to change and it affects me on a day-to-day basis as well, but I don't think that entitles me to vent my frustration by looting the local electronics superstore or attacking the police. Nor do I think that would entitle me to call it "reactionary" or some other half-baked justification. If you or Andrew (or anyone giving a thumbs up to your comments) can explain to me where stealing the biggest TV a human body can carry fits into revolutionary behaviour, I'd love to hear it. Or a "cry for help" or however else people clamoring to justify it want to put it. If these people were as misunderstood as some of the posters in this thread are suggesting, wouldn't they understand they're going about their "mission" all wrong (if they, indeed, have one?)
You find a peaceful way to solve what's bothering you or you don't bother at all. At least, that should be the way it's done.
When I suggested that anyone who thinks it's alright to destroy a city or endanger lives or steal from innocent law-abiding citizens isn't a very nice person, it was suggested to me that I was some sort of wannabe Judge Dredd calling for heads to roll. And I didn't appreciate that too much since it felt pretty obvious to me that what I was saying seemed fair enough.
Originally Posted by Spike Marshall
I think the response from the intelligentsia is telling in how they're straining to correlate this to any kind of salient point. Speak to a dozen commentators, from both the left and right, and you'll get a dozen reasons about why this happened. But once again they're not sure of who is to actually blame, who is at the heart of the riots, and so there commentary is like trying to fill in negative space.
I think the response from the rioters themselves, who aren't just kids and oppressed minorities but represent opportunists from a variety of economic and social background, makes the intelligentsia and the government seem even more quaint. Because there repsonse either boils down to 'why not', 'or it looked like fun'. The few people trying to corral this into a legitimate political statement have largely been drowned out. Whilst community leaders and more progressive political groups (like Solfed) have attempted to either calm the troubles down or disassociate themselves.
As much as I want to look at the lots of the people involved in the riots, I can't help but feel more sympathy for the three young men who were run down defending their community, the woman who had to jump from the second story of a burning building, the Malaysian student with a broken jaw who was helped to his feet and summarially robbed, the hundreds of privately owned businesses and homes destroyed.
I think you're equating these rioters with people you've interacted with in America, and I think that it's unwise to make such direct correlations.
I couldn't agree more with all of this. Very well said, sir.
Originally Posted by Spike Marshall
The banking crisis, the expenses controversy, the economic downturn are all screws that were tightened but I guarantee that what made these communities riot wasn't a concept as opaque as that, although they are part of the overall malaise.
And again, excellently phrased. Your point about "middle class posturing" is so perfect; it actually reminds me of the lyrics to "Hunting for Witches" by Bloc Party, a song I listened to again the other day after all this kicked off. It resonated a lot with this discussion with lines about "middle class indecision" and calls for "accountability."
I resent the fact that this discussion has almost been turned into an election where you're either in the liberal nice guy camp where there must be some deeper reason to people rioting (has every riot in human history needed some sub-textual meaning to get going?) or the "LOCK 'EM UP!" camp.