I came across the following point in an article by Kenan Malik, where he charts the development of Christianity. A lot of ideas from Christianity (which in turn come from blends of paganism) filter through into our general discourse. This is an obvious statement, yet it is of course difficult to imagine an alternative.
I particularly enjoyed the following part:
The story of Adam and Eve was initially, then, a fable about the attainment of free will and the embrace of moral responsibility. It became a tale about the corruption of free will and the constraints on moral responsibility. It was in this transformation in the meaning of the Adam and Eve’s transgression that Christianity has perhaps secured its greatest influence, a bleak description of human nature that came to dominate Western ethical thinking as Christianity became the crucible in which that thinking took place. Not till the Enlightenment was the bleakness of that vision of human nature truly challenged.
Erich Fromm wrote deeply about the darkness of human nature that Christianity leads to. I often wondered about the negative effect that teaching young children about ‘original sin’ leads to. I suspect it is tremendously dis-empowering.
Maybe I’m wrong here.
If unpolitical means ‘lack of political structure’ and political means ‘political structure’ – in the sense that the student protests were political. Then the combination of greed, criminality, political apathy (perhaps because the left have forgotten about the poor), opportunism, arson, looting and the inevitable suffering of some innocent people – including the horrendous video of a mugged teenager – do the riots then count as ‘apolitical’ in the same sense one is agnostic rather than athiest. Someone like myself who always tries to find an intellectual reason behind everything (those who know me will probably agree) is at a loss here. Political motives and ideological motives make sense to me, chaos and disenfranchisement less so. As Kenan Malik pointed out ‘there is a generation (in fact more than a generation) with no focus for their anger and resentment, no sense that they can change society and no reason to feel responsible for the consequences of their actions. That is very different from suggesting that the riots were caused by, a response to, or a protest against, unemployment, austerity and the cuts.’ So I am sorry to any of my friends if I reached for the ‘old left’ argument of ‘this is a response to the cuts’. I ask that this comment is treated as it is merely an attempt to understand, rather than an attempt to justify.
A friend of mine commented about ‘human responsibility’, as people have observed we are largely policed by consent. We’ve seen what happens when some sections of society no longer agree to a social contract. This is more therefore than what those on the right say is ‘sheer criminality’. The disenfranchisement that we’ve seen in England, is more complicated than a sheer opposition to a political power. It concerns me that the Left have ignored the poor for so long, and so have the establishment. Community is dead, and a helpless lot have pursued power in the most horrendous fashion. There are more serious problems here than we realise, and our democratic tools don’t seem good enough for the moment. The context of these riots can’t be ignored.