On the Riots


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.