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10 Aug 2011

On looting, gangsters and fisting

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For the past four nights, a number of cities in England have seen widespread violence, arson and looting. Journalists, commentators and the general public seem unanimous in their condemnation of what is being called senseless and mindless criminality.

But this is not the first time that antisocial criminals have taken control and ransacked the country. 2 years ago, the Labour government conspired with bank bosses to loot the entire economy and in doing so mortgaged off the future of all young people in this country. As a reward, these gangsters, whose excessive greed ran the economy into the ground in the first place, have this year received billions in bonuses.

While the "feral rats" are simply not playing by the rules when they pick on innocent people and businesses, the banks are getting away with crime on an unimaginably huge scale. While the hoodies' actions are "mindless", the bank bosses are very deliberate, knowing all-too-well what they're doing. And when supercilious disgust is poured upon the underclass for not having more respect for their environment and community, the current government are cutting public services because they've spent too much money on opportunistic wars and securing the interests of big business.

They're laughing AT YOU

But it is wrong to suggest parallels between these two events, because they are one and the same. They are both symptoms of the same malaise. The teen hoodlum who takes what she wants from JD Sports because she can is the suit-wearing CEO who worries more about their bonus than the health of the economy. They differ only in that the latter crime is greater and conducted with full knowledge of the consequences.

Greed and opportunism lie at the heart of both actions but, more importantly, the system within which we all operate and contribute to positively endorses such behaviour. Of course, we'd rather the rioter buy their material symbols of status, not steal them. Or, at least, we'd rather they dress smartly, speak properly and know the right people before they try such a stunt. But essentially this seemingly anti-establishment bender is born ironically out of an aspiration to the status quo.

Stuff and money; it's our only measure of worth. So who, with good conscience, can solely blame those people who succumb to the temptation of grabbing as much of both as possible, when our cultural message is emphatic and unrelenting: YOU ARE WHAT YOU OWN.

When Crunch came out, we wrote:

"It's all very well going after the fat cat bankers of the world, but blaming those people for the shortcomings of capitalism is like blaming a dancing bear for the cruelty of the circus."

Similarly, blaming "parents" or "sheer criminality" or "organised gangs" for the UK riots is to show equal unwillingness to understand the underlying causes. Just as 30 years of rampant "free" markets genetically engineered today's risk-loving, profit-motivated banker, so these teenage yobs are the product not just of their environment but of their parents' environment too. And that's a product of decades of apathy towards the poor and underinvestment in the areas that need it most.

And just a reminder for any off-piste Daily Mail journalists who at this point may be choking on their own indignant froth, saying someone is a product of their environment isn't exonerating or excusing criminality - especially when people are getting hurt and killed. But it does suggest we look at the society that produces kids that smash shops up and at the system that encourages bankers to trade immorally and recklessly. These are the symptoms and our country is the sickness. All of which is as absent from the current debate as serious, critical evaluations of unchecked capitalism were from analysis of the credit crunch.

Of course, we'd rather the rioter buy their material symbols of status, not steal them What can help us come to terms with these bigger questions? Well, for starters, we need to get used to the idea of multiple, ongoing causes and effects. Until we learn to see events as a continuum, instead of isolated political soundbites, we will never have an honest or meaningful debate.

We live in a cult of immediacy, ginned up by politicians shaping news to exploit a neatly-packaged message and exacerbated by rolling 24 hour news channels and constant, mobile updates. We demand instant explanations, categorisation and rapid action. We are addicted to delineation. Nuance and grey area are the casualties of such a system and the most marketable, uncomplex ideas effortlessly rise to the top.

In this version of reality, we have no hope of tackling the really big problems such as climate change, social divides or the gross injustices inherent in our economic system. Being able to discuss these things in context requires not just a wider view, but a different philosophical outlook; one that acknowledges a greater degree of interconnectedness, that sees everything as a cause of everything.

And that's where fisting comes in ("Finally!" I hear you cry). I can think of no video that better demonstrates our incapacity to deal with continuum and the long-term view than Alan Watts talking about Time & Change. (It's ok, the fisting is safe for work). Grab yourself a cup of (herbal) tea, take 40 minutes out of your day and enjoy:

Posted by Andy S on 10 August 2011 - 6 comments

Comments so far:

  2. People like you are what's wrong with this coutnry, not the looters. These criminals are having a laugh, killing pensioners and burning down poor families businesses for their own amusement. They're nothing but thugs. But there's always do-gooding lefties like yourself who can be relied on to jump to the defence of any dictator or criminal who doesn't fit your agenda. Meanwhile, the country (and continent) is overrun with radical Muslims who want to impose Sharia law. Where's your blog about that? Cowards!Rohan from Nottingham - 15 August 2011
  3. Yeah guys, can't you see all those radical Muslamic fundamentalists sitting in the Houses of Parliament imposing their Sharia laws, and standing outside the Lapland Embassy, ready to ban Christmas? Cowards!Chris Cisne from Londontown - 16 August 2011
  4. It concerns me not at all that for-profit, hierarchically-run businesses that exploit workers and consumers are being burned down. The bourgeoisie / middle class bears a large share of the burden for this sorry mess called capitalism. It is regrettable when innocent people (if you can find them) are hurt, but this is just "collateral damage" according to the terms of engagement established by the ruling class capitalists and its hired thugs that make up the police and military. My hope is that these so-called hoodlums will organize with the rest of the working class and oppressed and come up with a strategically organized resistance that will involve direct action beyond just violent tactics. When violence is called for, it should be focused and productive toward achieving the goal of true freedom for the Proletariat / Working Class majority of the population and all those who want to live in peace as equals. No Gods, No Masters! Workers of the World Unite!Joseph Waters from North Carolina - 16 August 2011
  5. @Chris are you taking the piss? the problem is, the rate we're going, we will have radical muslim fundies in parliament, because we're so obsessed with PC and equal opportunities. The tolerance that makes this country great will also be its downfall. Multiculturalism is an experiment that everyone knows has failed, but liberals like you can't face the difficult truth and admit it. (by the way I'm a liberal too; just one who's read a lot on the subject). When we designed multiculturalism, we didn't factor in a group of people so driven by hate, violence and intolerance. It won't work and someone has to have the balls to say so. Yeh I know and now you call me a racist. Fine.Rohan from Nottingham - 16 August 2011
  6. Rohan - how the hell did you go from looting and Zen to fundamental Islam ruining the country? Clearly our "tunnel vision filter" isn't working at the moment. Seriously, I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to say, although I recognise it's heartfelt. Are you suggesting that we're ignoring a problem that is posed by intolerant viewpoints by being ourselves of a tolerant disposition? If so, I wonder if you think that being intolerant to intolerance is any more productive? I have a feeling you're touching on an interesting topic of debate (and co-incidentally a mantra of the right - what specifically is all this reading you've been doing?) but I'm not sure how to relate it to the riots, or capitalism, or bankers or Zen philosophy.TerrorBull Games - 16 August 2011

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