Month: August 2011

looting and fires

Dept. Asst. commissioner of Met Police says they are sad, selfish individuals taking advantage to loot. So far lots of coverage regarding what is happening. And very sad stories from those caught up in the rioting, but no analysis of why beyond accusations of thuggery.

Is it that simple? Why are some young people so ready to riot and loot? What is their experience that has created a moral and socio-political context that makes it easy for them to tweet and riot? They are a minority but are they just the tip of a very very disaffected group, how many young people feel no connection to society but do not riot? The promises have been broken, the social contract is being torn up and maybe some feel then it is acceptable to riot? Maybe the question is not why is this happening but why it has not happened before in greater numbers? A consumer society that puts great store on having stuff which then closes down opportunities to get that stuff in a context of growing inequalities and social divisions? Plus the psycho-social impulse for excitement through the release of sublimated desires?

It will be interesting to see the analysis, thanks that few are really hurt yet.

why are they doing it?

ok, so why are they doing it? The young out on the streets smashing windows, setting fires, stealing consumer goods? I guess you have to ask them, and of course you will get some answers that way. However, as always there are usually deeper issues within the current social milieu that results in this public issue. What are the ‘personal troubles’ experienced by youth at this point in history that result in this very public mess?

Guesses: ‘Individualism’: a society that continues to value the individual over the collective good. More than just value it, but promotes it as the only way to orientate to society, so we have come from ‘no such thing as society’  to fires on the streets.

Consumerism: the goal of society is to accumulate stuff, the only point of work and education is cash, identity  is achieved through ‘things’. The youths on the street do not look that poor, most seem clad in logos. So the impluse to loot is partly fuelled through the fleeting chance of taking part in overt consumerism.

A youth culture that emphasises excitement, thrill and individuality, hedonism without responsibility, the triumph of identity over substance, a widenning intergenerational divide, promises of sex and drugs and glamourous lifetyles based on being famous for fames sake,  and little delivery of that promise, or if it does then the shallowness soons sets in.

Broken social contract: Work hard, get an education and you will then be able to but a house and raise kids: Now pensions are under threat, jobs being divided into two categories – ‘good jobs’ with prospects that allow holidays in Tuscany, and ‘MacJobs’ that hardly pay enough to enable one to rent one’s own place. The country does not care…you are on your own so get what you can in the context reducing social welfare and rising educational costs.

Uncertainty over male futures: a perception of no opportunities in the traditional male spheres of activity, poor role models and dysfunctional fatherhood?

A background context of economic turmoil and uncertainty over western futures and the rise of competitor economies such as China? A loss in the certainty of the USA, the UK and the eurozone to provide a future in the face of massive employment structural changes. Thus no stake in society.

Residual anger at ‘finance’ for getting bonuses leaving the crumbs on the floor for everyone else.

Video gaming and porn changing social and cognitive functioning resulting in social disclocation and poor social skills especially among young men.

Increasing social inequalities that are beginning to be widely felt, a visible priviliged class who unwittingly flaunt their wealth and priviliged access to the good jobs and opportunities.

Each factor on its own is probably insufficient to get people on the streets but together they may form a toxic mess involving several spheres of human activity. Any explanation ought to examine: technological developments (e.g. social networking), social relationships (as outlined above), mental conceptions (their world views, how it all works), production and labour process issues (gissa job?), administrative and institutional forms (e.g. reducing pensions), our relations to nature (a disconnect from the importance of green healthy space?) and the reproduction of daily life (absent fathers?). These spheres of human activity give rise to particular forms of society, are dynamic and interdependent. They form a co-evolutionary process of social development.

In short, get past the simplistic knee-kerk ‘they are thugs’ response.

Or, perhaps they are just c**ts.

New mental conceptions please

Religion is not only the opiate of the masses it is also unable to deal with the various spheres of human activity that co-exist to create our social world. Therefore it cannot provide an accurate critique of current arrangements or posit an alternative to this vale of tears beyond calls to blind obedience and deference to a non material super natural being. A spiritual ‘being’ (oxymoron) who has so far proved his (and mostly it is a he) irrelevance in the sphere of human affairs by total absence when it really mattered – Auschwitz, the Asian tsunami and now Somalian politico-famine.

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