As the disorder continues and the moral condemnation grows, Roy Ratcliffe challenges the hypocrisy of our politicians.
‘UNACCEPTABLE’ – ‘NO EXCUSE’ – ‘COMPLETELY IRRESPONSIBLE‘.
Since Sunday UK politicians of left right and centre have been queuing up to spout their venom, using vigorous language, such as that above. They have been using it to condemn what they consider as ‘opportunist criminals’ who have been pronounced guilty of ‘deplorable looting‘. These politicians have promised to pursue these ‘criminals’ with all the force of the law. Their targets for such unanimous outbursts are not the bankers who looted billions from the tax-payer, who evicted hard-working families from their homes (repossessed) and who opportunistically granted themselves ‘unacceptable’ bonuses. The targets are not futures market speculators who have criminally forced up the prices of raw materials and food supplies causing shortages often with fatal consequences. Nor are the targets the credit rating agencies who ‘irresponsibly’ downgraded the status of whole peoples and threaten the looting of national assets. The private companies who for the last 30 years, have removed production from the UK and set up in low-wage countries in order to obtain more profit and left unemployment in their wake have failed to attract any comparable condemnation. Such words have not been used in relationship to those who have unfortunately died by the hands or guns of the UK law enforcement agencies. Nor for that matter has the obscene violence, demolition and looting by the Israeli government against the Palestinians attracted such heartfelt condemnation. All these well-funded, powerful and calculating ‘criminals’ have escaped such venom and resolve for their actions, by the political class. Instead it has now been directed this week at the youth of deprived, under-resourced, communities in the UK capital, London.
For over thirty years, the UK government has ‘fiddled’ (literally and metaphorically) whilst a large section of working people have been ground down by unemployment, poverty and official, bureaucratic oppression. A whole generation of adults (in many cases the parents of the rioting youth) have grown up without any hope of improvement from the status forced upon them as welfare benefit recipients. In reconciling themselves to this permanent, low-status, low income, existence, many have also been unacceptably classed as ‘scroungers’ with all the disrespect and prejudice that such a label attracts. Their offspring have in general inherited a similar or identical status and their future looks even bleaker than that of their parents. Under the present regime of public spending cuts, even the few scraps granted them, such as youth clubs and educational support grants have been removed. These young people are well aware that the government can find billions to pursue wars of intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya, but can find little or nothing for them. They are also quite aware of the ‘fiddling‘ and ‘looting’ of the rich against the poor and they are also well aware of the double standards of justice between the rich and the poor. On top of all this, they daily experience, the oppressive forces of the state, in the form of bureaucratic social services, and the law enforcements agencies, which is also endemically racist.
So what else should people have expected than when an opportunity came along and a particularly outrageous provocation, sparked the smouldering pent-up resentment, that a riot of the disadvantaged would occur? What else should be expected than that symbols of their oppression should be set upon and damaged? Is it any surprise that those with very little wealth might take advantage of an opportunity to loot or that even those better off would join them? The financial speculators seize an opportunity on a daily basis, even when many of them are already well-heeled. Of course, the sporadic violence and looting will not solve the problems facing young people, nor will such actions ensure their futures improve. The political crisis, facing the UK and other European countries, is a symptom of the global economic crisis and this will not go away. Indeed it will yet get worse. The interests of these young people, as well as the adults facing this unfolding situation, will be best served by becoming a responsible, disciplined part of a movement to change the system. As the youth of Spain declared ‘The problem is the system’ and the solution is to join together and work for a new system which will treat all human beings as people, not as economic units to be exploited at work or some left to rot on the dole.
Whilst in a Guardian piece, Looting fuelled by social exclusion, John Pitts, who must wince at being called a youth culture expert, is called upon to give his views
“Many of the people involved are likely to have been from low-income, high-unemployment estates, and many, if not most, do not have much of a legitimate future,” said criminologist and youth culture expert Professor John Pitts.
Unlike most people, some of those looting had no stake in conformity, he said. “Those things that normally constrain people are not there. Much of this was opportunism but in the middle of it there is a social question to be asked about young people with nothing to lose.”
A generation bred on a diet of excessive consumerism and bombarded by advertising had been unleashed, he added. “Where we used to be defined by what we did, now we are defined by what we buy. These big stores are in the business of tempting [the consumer] and then suddenly these people find they can just walk into the shop and have it all.”