Monday, 8 August 2011

the resurgence of the "me-riot"

It’s tragic that a man has died in an incident with police in Tottenham, but we need to divest ourselves of any illusion about the subsequent riots there, which have spread to unconnected parts of London: they are not about that incident. Furthermore, blaming the police for these riots is like blaming doctors for illness – it just won’t wash.

After similar disturbances in the 1980s, criminologist Jock Young’s analysis was that the days of the bread riot in Great Britain were over. The then violence, he said, grew from frustration on the parts of individuals who didn’t have mobile phones or computers, as primitive and unnecessary as those technologies then were. The looting we see presently indicates that the days of the "me-riot" have returned, and the phenomenon is now prosecuted by those who want iphones, ipads and the like without working to pay for them.

In the 1980s we had a Conservative government, and now we have a Coalition in which the Conservative Party is the senior member. In between, we had three socialist governments in capitalists’ clothes who twisted the lessons of life to create an air of of entitlement among young people: on a playing field where competition had been banished and therefore nobody lost, everybody had a right to expect the iphone and the ipad. Now that life has refused to bend to their expectations, they’ve gone on a ruinous tantrum that reveals both their immaturity and the danger they pose to normal working people living beside them.

My thesis is this: those who think they have a right to take what they want without earning it need to learn what real life is like at the hands of the police and judiciary if we, the silent majority, are not to make our own roar heard.

Tony Urquhart
300 words

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