Not the event matters. Its spin is what counts.
England’s riots have earned much deserved publicity. A trend is discernible behind the occurrence that does not stop at national boundaries. The impressive pictures created by the rioters and the well-formulated reactions of PM Cameron have guaranteed the world’s attention. At the time of this writing, it seems that the event –not the government’s reaction- finds imitators. At least on this level, the individuals that form criminal gangs demonstrate an ability to be creatively enterprising. Some of the interpreters that are telling us what “really” happened fall into the same category. You are urged by them not to believe what you see but the contrary of it. Here we detect a remarkable PR construction. The more so, since some will go along with the fact defying pronouncements manufactured in the PC factory. These people would sell left shoes to left leg amputees. Even worse: they pander their product without any remorse.
Initially, the shock of the senseless destruction and the comportment of the protesters that were only looters, determined the reports. For a moment, one could be astonished by the medial rendition of the occurrence. Then the condemnation of the mob’s action was replaced by a rewrite in “newspeak”. As this artificial media image shows, the shock wore off. Disapproval dissipated its vigor on the thick armor of liberal prejudices. True to the pavlovian instincts of opinion makers, the attention is shifting from shock to a search of the “real causes”. They are found in the hat out of which the magicians of spin pull out their white rabbits. So now, in the sources that bring us “the news fit to print”, the theses fitting, if not the concrete situation but the norms of PC, are dominating. “Gotcha”, we have caught the responsible one and he is –what a surprise! - the victim, such as the stores stupid enough to locate in neighborhoods with “tension”. And, of course, “society” is responsible. So are the cops that represent civility. Supposedly, these contributed to the breakdown of civilization by not being numerous enough and coming ill equipped. Naturally, once the police are out in force to do battle with instruments that are conform to the challenge then we get “police brutality”. The winner and the loser is always the same and the castring is independent of guilt and innocence, of action and response.
A few aspects of the disorder deserve examination. The theses of the apologists that live far enough from the outbreaks so as not to be affected, insinuate that people with no hope took part in the demolition derby. The exploited analogy tends to be the “Arab Spring” for which many of us have sympathies. Let us begin with that comparison. Admittedly, the participants’ faith and origins might suggest a relationship between these events. Nevertheless, the essentials do not only fail to mesh but they actually contradict each other. London is not Libya, Egypt, Morocco or Syria. London is still in England whose system differs fundamentally from Arab standards. To be less discreet: England offers its inhabitants what the Arab world can only dream of. What is appropriate in situation “A” might be –and is in this case- totally unfitting and in case “B”.
For the writer, his personal experience is part of the perspective to judge self-immolation in London. It is possible to feel convicted to live a life that makes no sense because the system is committed to policies that keep the ruled in misery. Such an assessment can have an objective content. Those that make the valid claim have reasons to attribute their misfortune to unfair governance. However, it does not follow that those that cover up unadulterated criminality by calling the perpetrators kids at the end of their rope, are feeding us the truth.
The truly abused that are forced to exist below their potential get angry. That anger can mute into violence. Likely is that this violence will turn against the institutes of oppression. It is untypical for such outbursts that aim to obtain justice, to seek redress by abusing phantoms -as did Nazis, Leninists, Maoists and other movements of mass murder. It is equally untypical for such resistance to be converted into a time of lawlessness that is exploited as an opportunity to rob, torch and to kill. Justified discontent does not sail under the slogan “Give me brand-name goods or give me death”. Genuine and creative discontent does not crave the opportunities inherent in profitable lawlessness that prevails once civilization’s rules are suspended. Accordingly, the Arab Spring did not produce an orgy of robbery. Such movements crave the rule of law and mean thereby the rule of just laws. These allot citizens what is due to them according to a rational standard. These traits are missing from the picture from Britain.
The rioters have not demanded “space” to unfold their talents. They rather concentrated on demolishing what others that shared their origins, have created. Instead of demanding equal opportunities to succeed through their societal contribution, the marauders endeavored to grab advantages. What the plunderers wanted were brand-name luxury articles. Shoes, clothing and the like “went” well. While traveling in France your correspondent saw a graffiti: “A color TV for every revolutionary”. In England, the demand became reality. So was the right to computers and upscale goodies without which a life in dignity for hooded hoods is unimaginable. No, this was not an uprising of the needy. What we saw was an action propelled by the craving for display quality consumer goods. This appetite could not be stilled legally due to a lack of ability to earn its object. So, it was not the “hungry” that engaged in violent robbery. The unruly were frustrated cravers of flashy consumption. They exploited the collapse of order to feed their desires for what they coveted without mounting the effort to earn these objects. Two numbers underline the point. In England, they identified 352,000 households whose members have never worked. Two thirds of those involved do not wish to work.
One last thing. Reports tended to note that many looters were illiterate. The English of these people betrays that they are the product of the local school system. The trait describes criminally inclined sub groups in other countries. Ergo, the following point is also a general one as it transcends Britain’s boundaries.
In a country in which education is obligatory, universally available and for free, it takes an effort to remain illiterate. Given this circumstance, illiteracy is an expression of an attitude supported by the willful avoidance. It demonstrates a decision that expresses the worst of an imported culture. The lack of labor-market relevant skills that follow from the avoided education are, therefore, not an expression of an imposed disadvantage. This condition is an expression of the rejection of the ways of modern society and a refusal to participate in its value-creating process. Once this choice is made, the predisposition to reallocate wealth by looting is not a consequence of oppression but of an alternative life style. It endeavors to participate in the consumption of goods but refuses to acquire the tools to contribute to the envied plenty of others.
Finally, behind the lacking skills we detect the bankruptcy of the philosophy of “modern” education. It is permissive, unwilling to “educate” and its lack of standards are expressed by its struggle against excellence. In doing so, it produces under skilled persons from the kindergarten to PhDs. Unemployability and –resented - functional under employment are the upshot. Add the fashion of questioning individual responsibility for anti-social acts. Now you have the context in which criminal violence, stylishly packaged as social unrest, can thrive and spread across national boundaries.