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  1. Natalie
    Natalie August 9, 2011 at 8:41 am |

    Austerity is categorically NOT an excuse for the mindless, senseless, opportunistic violence and looting that has occurred in London over the past few nights.

    These riots are NOT about the cuts. These riots are, as a friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning, the results of a denegration of society by successive governments over the last 30 years.

    Many of the people doing this looting are not doing it because they ‘desire’ these goods, they are taking an opportunity to make some money on the sly. People’s houses are being broken into, smashed up. People’s livelihoods, family businesses, homes, are being burned.

    Don’t even make a suggestion that these riots are in any way understandable or jusitified.

    They aren’t.

  2. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar August 9, 2011 at 8:45 am |

    The “great contraction”, the period of least economic inequality in the US, peaked almost forty years ago, and we’ve reached a period of historically high inequality and concentration of wealth. These situations are inherently unstable. It does not matter that the US is, on the whole, more prosperous than other countries, because opportunity and the perception of wellbeing are overwhelmingly relative. The feeling of unfairness in the face of vast disparities cannot be permanently salved or papered over (sadly, it can often be temporarily redirected toward infighting between disenfranchised groups). What the Randroids and conservatives don’t and will never understand is that, even if (and I dispute it, but arguendo, even if) inequality is the route to the greatest total production of wealth, that doesn’t matter.

    Equitable distribution matters more than overall material standard of living, and anyone who doesn’t accept that doesn’t understand anything about people or human history. We have to have a more equitable distribution, or we’re going to have violent convulsions. That’s just the way it is.

  3. Stella
    Stella August 9, 2011 at 8:51 am |

    Exactly right and thanks. I live in Milwaukee, and I’ve been thinking about exactly these two things too. This is the most segregated city in the country, and the decades of institutionalized racism and poverty plus recent cuts are as big an issue here as they are in London. I don’t want to see riots like that here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they happen.

  4. Stella
    Stella August 9, 2011 at 8:56 am |

    Natalie: Don’t even make a suggestion that these riots are in any way understandable

    I’ll suggest that. Not justified, but absolutely understandable. It’s a response to decades of racism, poverty, oppression, police brutality, and yes, austerity. Rioting is a self-inflicted wound, a chaotic and self-destructive way to make an unformed political point, but to view it as mindless, senseless criminality entirely misses the point. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

  5. Natalie
    Natalie August 9, 2011 at 8:58 am |

    Sarah: What do you think causes the “denegration of society” if it isn’t cuts to social services and systemic racism?

    Erosion of civil liberties, increase of the nanny state, neo-liberalist economics, things which I cannot put my finger on right now (my brain is full of microfinance). I don’t deny that systemic erosions to society over the last 30 years haven’t played their part in the violence of the last few nights, but to suggest that the immediate austerity agenda is a direct cause of it is not only wrong, but validates the actions of a minority who have set about destroying communities. It also takes away from the actions of those who choose to protest peacefully, and risks further erosion of civil liberties in the UK.

  6. Brigid
    Brigid August 9, 2011 at 9:02 am |

    You can see who still has any reason to believe that peaceful protest, that voting, offer them any sort of way out.

    … I can’t condemn the outrage. It’s real and it’s justified. Our political system (and the UK’s) is there to be an outlet for our anger, a way for us to express a desire for change. Yet across the US I see attempts to suppress voting by just those who most need change–the poor, people of color. I see concerted attempts to keep any tools of peaceful change out of the hands of the desperate.

    Yes. Thank you for writing this. I would add that rather than counting on the class discourse and struggle in Wisconsin to spread on its own, we should consider making a concerted effort to spread it. The concepts of class warfare, economic equality, and redistribution of wealth have become shameful in the United States and much of the Western world. But class war is already being waged — by the rich. There’s nothing shameful about fighting back.

  7. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 9:03 am |

    As someone who is in the UK and not seeing what is happening over the pond via news and selected writings by some people who have an agenda I will tell you this:

    These kids are rioting because they think it is a laugh. It’s not a bloody political statement.

    Natalie is right. There is no justification of the tearing up of communities, the beating up of 60 year old men, the destruction of other poor family homes, the denegration of a 87 year old mans barber shop. I could list more and more. Young women are being interviewed on the TV, tweeting about it, on facebook admitting that they are doing it for kicks, for fun, to get clothes that they can’t afford. That isn’t justifiable. That isn’t a political, intelligent statement.

    This is not rich vs poor. This is not racially motivated. This is not a protest against my countrys shit government and 30 years of inequality. This is a group of youths who think that they are above the law.

  8. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve August 9, 2011 at 9:12 am |

    As with all these incidents, the ones who will suffer the most are the honest members of the community who will find themselves ignored and disregarded as soon as the fires go out. People who live in these areas, like the woman in this video http://www.twitvid.com/4JTZH are the real victims here, not the shop owners who will have to fill out a few extra insurance forms.

  9. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date August 9, 2011 at 9:13 am |

    These kids are rioting because they think it is a laugh. It’s not a bloody political statement.

    Yes, but. If so, I assume that they also thought last week, or last month, or last year, that it was a laugh. Which leads to two questions, for me:

    1. Why do these particular kids, who are rioting, think that it is a laugh?
    2. What’s different today, when they’re rioting, from last week, or last month, or last year, when they weren’t?

  10. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 9:15 am |

    Last thing – I appreciate that my post and the link I posted may seem contradictory, but they are not if you look at them at a deeper level.

    The kids are the way that they are (not caring, doing it for kicks) because of the wider societal problems, but their direct reason for doing so is not due to their own political motivations and want for change.

    As Natalie points out, the recent Tory government austerity changes have not caused this – it has been bubbling under for a good while.

    I just hope that tonight doesn’t herald more, worse violence. I fear it will, if only because there will be anti-rioter vigilantes out there now too. The UK isn’t a nice place to be right now.

  11. Stella
    Stella August 9, 2011 at 9:17 am |

    I was just about to link to that too, emotionalc. From that article:

    “It’s not one occasional attack on dignity, it’s a repeated humiliation, being continuously dispossessed in a society rich with possession. Young, intelligent citizens of the ghetto seek an explanation for why they are at the receiving end of bleak Britain, condemned to a darkness where their humanity is not even valued enough to be helped. Savagery is a possibility within us all. Some of us have been lucky enough not to have to call upon it for survival; others, exhausted from failure, can justify resorting to it.”

    I completely agree with you that the brutality and destruction is terrible, but how is that not rich vs poor, not protest of the most inarticulate kind?

  12. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 9:22 am |

    Past my expiration date

    It kicked off in Tottenham due to a man being shot there by police. There were peaceful protests and then a group got out of hand and used that as an excuse.

    The policing in this country isn’t great right now, and the Tottenham riot showed other groups just how easy it would be to do the same themselves. It’s pure opportunism. This has been bubbling under for a long while after all.

    The link I posted to that Independent article answers your other question. Both myself and my partner work with disaffected 16-18 year olds and I can tell you – from my point of view and experience at least – that they are no different from the ones that were in the same/a similar position 5/10 years ago, other than the fact that they feel that they are entitled to take what they want if there is the opportunity to do so.

  13. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 9:27 am |

    Stella

    It’s not rich vs poor because these kids (and sadly, the majority of them are 16-18) are destroying their own communities – they are torching the homes of fellow townspeople, smashing up the shops of their neighbours. This is not getting back at big businesses or the rich. This is destruction of everything in their path.

    At the very root, yes, there will be shades of rich vs poor because that is why these people are in their situations in the first place, but the riots are acts of mindless violence against anyone, anything that stands in their way.

    Labelling it as any kind of protest is at best naive, at worst a way of trying to justify what is just nasty, mindless and pointless violence

  14. Stella
    Stella August 9, 2011 at 9:27 am |

    emotionalc: The kids are the way that they are (not caring, doing it for kicks) because of the wider societal problems, but their direct reason for doing so is not due to their own political motivations and want for change.

    I guess that depends on your definition of political. I don’t think activity needs to be articulate or directed in order to be political, and I have a hard time believing that the riots aren’t a sign of wanting change, even if it’s expressed so chaotically.

    Of course there are a variety of motivations, too. I’m sure there are some hangers-on who jumped in because they thought it would be fun and they could get away with it, but there are also those who explicitly see it as taking on the “ruling class,” as quoted in this article for example.

  15. DammitJanet
    DammitJanet August 9, 2011 at 9:36 am |

    A friend of mine from the UK said she feels that this generation (the teens and early twenty-somethings currently breaking shit) has not lived through a recession as adults. They’ve lived in a disposable culture and don’t conceive that the damage they’re causing will not be repaired.

    As someone from the US, I can’t say that I fully understand what’s happening in London, but my UK friends are uniformly unimpressed with the motives of the rioters.

  16. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 9:36 am |

    Stella, with respect, linking me to an article from a US newspaper isn’t going to tell me things I don’t already know – being a UK citizen who is in the middle of all the shit that is going down! the linking of this rioting to the student protests of earlier this year shows how out of touch that journalist is – the two events

    Believe me. I work with the disaffected youth of today in the UK. Some of them may have political motivations on a subconscious level, but the majority of this is opportunism pure and simple. It’s a small band of aggressive, silly youths with nothing else to do (*why* they have nothing to do is a political problem!). As they are reporting on the BBC right now (in the background as I type) that this is essentially ‘recreational vandalism’

    We could discuss why they are like this, which is definitely something to do with the UKs current politics and policies, but that is not why they are rioting.

  17. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 9:38 am |

    weird that it cut some of my words out then! It should have said

    “the linking of this rioting to the student protests of earlier this year shows how out of touch that journalist is – the two events are very different. One was a peaceful protest that got a little out of hand and the other are swathes of rioters across the country”

  18. Natalie
    Natalie August 9, 2011 at 9:40 am |

    A good majority of the people perpetrating these riots wouldn’t have a clue about politics, change, demonstrating, rich vs poor. They don’t vote, they aren’t interested, they are disaffected because they are the instant generation – if it isn’t served up to them on a plate they are disatisfied. I’m a local politician here in the UK and I see even the most intelligent and articulate of our young generation (and I’m not much older than them myself, hence my utter disbelief) not wanting to engage in society, because, you know, what does it offer them? Standing on a doorstep trying to explain to someone the social responsibility of voting as the flip side to having some of the most well established rights in the world is really difficult, let me tell you!
    Furthermore, it isn’t just the economically disadvantaged young people who feel this way, it is young people from all social classes and groupings.
    Pharmacies, doctors surgeries, ambulance people and the fire brigade have all been targeted. That isn’t about rich vs poor, that is just mindless violence.

  19. bfp
    bfp August 9, 2011 at 9:41 am |

    emotionalc: Young women are being interviewed on the TV, tweeting about it, on facebook admitting that they are doing it for kicks, for fun, to get clothes that they can’t afford. That isn’t justifiable. That isn’t a political, intelligent statement.

    emphasis is mine.
    Getting things they can’t afford and don’t need is only a hair’s breadth away from getting things they they can’t afford and can’t survive without. but either way, both actions are deeply political and stem from exactly the same place: the political decision by those in power to deny and *regulate* those without power. what those who take sparkly shoes or fairy dust from busted out stores right now are saying is “You can no longer regulate me or my desires.”

  20. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 9:44 am |

    Stella

    One last thing. I do agree that the youths that are rioting do want change (although I still question as to whether that is the motivation of them choosing to riot), but sadly they are going about it the wrong way and a lot of them also want change without having to work for it. We have a very odd undercurrent of people in this country who want everything for nothing. I doubt it’s a UK-only problem.

    Before I get accused of privilege I say this as someone from a single parent family who had to work very hard to get myself out of the poverty that my family was in while I grew up. I know these kids because I was like them once. I was lucky enough to get out and that is why I work with disaffected youths now, I want to help them as much as I can. This is why this rioting upsets me so much. There are better ways.

  21. Natalie
    Natalie August 9, 2011 at 9:48 am |

    bfp – i think it is a bit more than a hair’s breadth… even a relative poverty argument would struggle to explain the need to loot Debenhams for a new party frock.

    And whilst it may be a subconscious statement of bucking the system, if this continues it will lead to a breakdown of the social contract, and the consequences of that are far reaching, and more than likely violent.

  22. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 9:48 am |

    bfp

    They are not only robbing big shops, the looters are taking stuff from their own people – their own communities, their neighbours, other poor people. How is that a stand against being ‘regulated by those in power’?

    Read what Natalie has to say. She knows what she is saying.

  23. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 9:51 am |

    Two thousand Black youths had a peaceful protest, a march on Scotland Yard two months ago, and the media and everyone else did not notice, care, or report on it. No one was interested until youths started setting shit on fire.

  24. Stella
    Stella August 9, 2011 at 9:55 am |

    emotionalc: We could discuss why they are like this, which is definitely something to do with the UKs current politics and policies, but that is not why they are rioting.

    I’d say that in the bigger picture, why they are like this and why they are rioting aren’t really separate questions. It’s just a question of immediate and underlying causes. But I’ve said enough — thanks for your perspective, emotionalc, and of course you know the situation there better than I do. I will continue to be very wary of the “mindless violence” story though just because it does so much to obscure the underlying situation (and just to be clear, I’m talking about certain strains of the media, definitely not you, emotionalc).

  25. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 9:56 am |

    Sheelzebub

    As is the way of our utterly crap press I am afraid. Peaceful protests get little coverage, no matter how worthy the cause. It’s depressing.

  26. emotionalc
    emotionalc August 9, 2011 at 10:01 am |

    Stella.

    Thanks for the discourse. What Natalie has to say makes a lot of sense also. I agree with a lot of your points, but having seen many of the rioters bragging on TV/twitter/Facebook about their exploits and being in the immediate vacinity of what is going on, I find it hard to see the wider motivation behind this and think that a lot of it has already been explained well by Natalie.

    We do need change in this country. That much is true, and it is also true that this would not happen if people were not disenfranchised/in poverty/out of work etc etc. But that isn’t an excuse for the shit that has been going down though, as we both agree.

  27. Catherine
    Catherine August 9, 2011 at 10:02 am |

    There are a lot of clothes I cannot afford. Busting into a shop to take some is not a “hair’s breadth” away from an act of class warfare.

  28. Yeny
    Yeny August 9, 2011 at 10:02 am |

    Just because the kids in London that are rioting and looting don’t have an overt political cause or a slogan to easily categorise their actions, does not rule out underlying political motivations. For example, before I was an out-and-out feminist I felt deep resentment and anger towards people in general for the way I was being treated as a girl, but if you had asked me to explain the anger I felt I would not have been able to properly articulate why I was angry. It was only after I became a feminist that I could properly direct my anger towards a productive rather than destructive end. I believe the same can be said of our youth.
    Just because I understand where these youths are coming from does not mean I, or anyone else, thinks that their actions are right. Rather, we believe that the underlying motivation behind those actions could be directed to a better end if we addressed their concerns instead of treating these youths as born criminals.

  29. Momentary
    Momentary August 9, 2011 at 10:08 am |

    I’m in London and I agree with emotionalc. I don’t work with kids like she does but go back 25 years and I used to hang with kids like them, who could have and would have done this kind of thing if circumstances like these arose (and did do things like grave robbing, gay bashing for pocket change, and fighting with machetes over simple insults). They were feral, is the best word I have for it. Not above the law (I think that would be more the Bullingdon Club types), but outside the law. And when you knew them it was never hard to see why they thought that way, based on their life experiences.

  30. bfp
    bfp August 9, 2011 at 10:20 am |

    emotionalc: They are not only robbing big shops, the looters are taking stuff from their own people – their own communities, their neighbours, other poor people. How is that a stand against being ‘regulated by those in power’?

    Read what Natalie has to say. She knows what she is saying.

    Mm, I disagree with Natalie, more vehemently than I disagree with you, so I guess it’s better that I keep civil and talk to you.

    I am actually a very very long time critic of rioting–on an individual level since I saw blackbloc (who are citizens and protected by that privilege) years ago inciting police anger against immigrant protestors and on a community level since I learned about the riots in Detroit (which is my community). My thoughts are too extended to detail here–but suffice it to say, my critiques extend far outside the realm of judgement calls on what right rioters have to take nice things from stores.

    The fact that people can only focus on the unjust theft of unnecessary clothes rather than the unjust regulation of desire or the unjust ghettoization of specific people or the unjust blaming of those specific people for their ghettoization or the unjust methods of regulation by the ruling classes (i.e. murder/incarceration by cops) says to me that whether anybody in a riot intends to or not, they are pointing to exactly how little their lives are valued are respected. When the theft of a dress is more outrageous of a thought than (for example) opening an honest dialogue with those doing the rioting–I understand that to be an indictment against those who are outraged over the dress rather than those who are burning down their own houses. I’ve lived in those houses that are being burnt down–and no, I don’t want my house burnt down, and no I don’t appreciate any fucker who would burn me out of shelter (see: previously mentioned critique of riots)–but you know what? It also means something to me that my rat and cockroach infested house that nobody has felt the need to update or fix in the past 60 years is only valued when my neighbor decides to burn it down–rather than when I sit in an office and at meetings for years demanding it be cleaned up.

  31. Mick
    Mick August 9, 2011 at 10:23 am |

    You can tell that the individual who wrote this is privileged in the way she views the world. If she was forced–through circumstances beyond her control–to live in one of these “communities” that’s being destroyed, I think her viewpoint on the whole situation would be different. If you want to talk about hard times, you should look at England after World War II–Civilians dead, cities destroyed, and great unemployment. Times were much difficult then, but the country–or groups of people–did not set the country ablaze. Come on..this isn’t an instance of a group of the underclass standing up to perceived inequalities and racism; it’s a group of scum destroying the livelihoods of several thousand decent individuals. It just seems to me that the author of this post is an Upper-Middle Class twat who knows nothing about economic hardships…seems like someone who has no ties to the working class… but is only looking to fetishize its existence. I think the saddest result of the carnage may be the ability for (real) racist nationalist movements to recruit more members.

  32. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 10:32 am |

    Look, sure, there are better ways to do things. But when no one takes notice or rouses themselves when a community does things the “better” way, the “peaceful” way, are we really surprised when people start getting violent?

    I mean, yeah, I have my skepticism around riots–people do get hurt and killed, a lot of the violence that is visited upon people is visited upon women, children, and other marginalized people within the community, etc. BUT–but–people get hurt and die in a system that lets the infrastructure of these communities fall to shit, that shrugs off things like unemployment and food insecurity, that seems terribly sanguine about the violence that people in the community face every day when there are no riots. Do things the “right” way to bring attention to this and to make change, and nothing changes. Throw some shit and set stuff on fire, and whoo! suddenly you matter.

    I mean, look, telling people there’s a better way to do things rings hollow when those ways have been tried and tried and tried again only to be ignored. After a while, you realize you have nothing to lose.

  33. Momentary
    Momentary August 9, 2011 at 10:42 am |

    Sheelzebub:
    I mean, look, telling people there’s a better way to do things rings hollow when those ways have been tried and tried and tried again only to be ignored.After a while, you realize you have nothing to lose.

    I pretty much agree with you and bfp and suspect emotionalc does too (although she can speak for herself!) with the small clarification that I don’t think it’s the same set of people doing the trying and trying, versus the rioting. I think there’s a set of people who are the community organizers and the activists who are trying and trying and keep trying and eventually because no-one listened to them, now everyone has to deal with the ferals that resulted. And now if we had any sense, we’d listen to those people who are still trying, and not just focus on how stupid or unjustified the actions of the ferals are.

  34. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve August 9, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    Some of the ‘kids today’ comments in the UK media are unbelievable. Why on earth would you complain that kids aren’t learning table manners, when there are kids out there growing up without tables?

  35. DammitJanet
    DammitJanet August 9, 2011 at 10:55 am |

    “I don’t think it’s the same set of people doing the trying and trying, versus the rioting.”

    This, exactly.

    Also, if this is part of a class war, it’s not a victory for the poor.

  36. Yeny
    Yeny August 9, 2011 at 10:56 am |

    Mick- I disagree with you completely. As a working class young person from an immigrant family living in north London, I can tell you what it was like going to a shitty inner city school with no real hope for a better future. The fact that I made it to university without getting pregnant was a major accomplishment and not the norm in my neighbourhood. So I feel like I know what I’m talking about: when I hear outright condemnation of these actions without an attempt to listen to the underlying reasons, it pisses me off. Because, frankly, racism and poverty were and are real issues for people like me and those rioters. And I’m angry that people don’t give a shit and just want to paint the rioters as lost causes. They are not, they are acting out in one of the few ways that our society has allowed them to actualise themselves. It’s shit, and they are behaving like utter arseholes, I agree, but there is always a reason for that kind of behaviour, and I believe it is a reason that can be remedied if the government and middle class knobs pulled their heads out of their arses and treated them like real citizens with inherent worth and importance within our society.

  37. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 11:03 am |

    It’s shit, and they are behaving like utter arseholes, I agree, but there is always a reason for that kind of behaviour, and I believe it is a reason that can be remedied if the government and middle class knobs pulled their heads out of their arses and treated them like real citizens with inherent worth and importance within our society.

    THIS.

    Look, this isn’t a bunch of middle-class wankers throwing shit and setting cars on fire because their team lost (or won, in the case of Red Sox fans several years ago). These riots have gone off periodically–they come out of the same circumstances, and I hear the same rhetoric every time. And it’s not like we learn anything from this or strive to do better as a society.

  38. cleo
    cleo August 9, 2011 at 11:54 am |

    It’s not rich vs poor because these kids (and sadly, the majority of them are 16-18) are destroying their own communities – they are torching the homes of fellow townspeople, smashing up the shops of their neighbours. This is not getting back at big businesses or the rich. This is destruction of everything in their path.

    At the very root, yes, there will be shades of rich vs poor because that is why these people are in their situations in the first place, but the riots are acts of mindless violence against anyone, anything that stands in their way.

    Can I point readers to this audio clip, of three girls involved in the riots last night, as recorded at 9.30am this morning?

    http://audioboo.fm/boos/434411-leana-hosea-speaks-to-croydon-looters-on-bbcworldservice

    I’m currently really struggling with myself about whether the violence as perpetrated by some is mindless, whether it’s entirely political, or a combination of both – when I hear this clip, I question whether their motivations are political. They don’t seem to understand politics (governmental) at all, and though they know they’re bored and broke (political also), they don’t seem to have any appreciation or empathy for the positions of others.

    As someone living in the middle of the violence right now, here in Camden, London, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

  39. cleo
    cleo August 9, 2011 at 11:57 am |

    …if the government and middle class knobs pulled their heads out of their arses and treated them like real citizens with inherent worth and importance within our society.

    I wish I could say with confidence that the UK would get behind this, but in causing so much violence and disruption, I fear that they have not proven their cause but further encouraged large swathes of the UK population to see them as exactly that – unworthy of effort, time and care. That’s one of the saddest things about this whole sorry situation.

    Sorry about the two posts, I’m new to this.

  40. Momentary
    Momentary August 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm |

    cleo:
    As someone living in the middle of the violence right now, here in Camden, London, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    When I listened to that I thought they were posing. I wouldn’t assume that what they said in that circumstance is necessarily what they would say under other circumstances. They sounded excited and along for the ride and talking tough.

  41. Brigid
    Brigid August 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm |

    emotionalc and others:

    An important point of the above post, as I read it — which I realize may or may not be as Sarah intended it — is that these rioters may, in fact, be “just” disaffected kids; they may have no intention of engaging in politically meaningful ways; they are clearly engaging in wantonly destructive behavior. BUT — and the “but” is the point — the rioting is political because political conditions contributed to it. Why are these people so disaffected and so disinterested in engaging with politics in more constructive ways?

    When real riots happen, you can see the ridiculousness of calling peaceful protest “riots.” You can see the difference between activists occupying a store and sending a Molotov cocktail through its window. You can see the difference between resolve and rage.

    You can see who still has any reason to believe that peaceful protest, that voting, offer them any sort of way out.

    People become disaffected when they believe that voting and peaceful protesting do not work. When they become disenfranchised, whether because of police brutality or economic brutality or outright tyranny. The point is that disenfranchised and disaffected people are easily moved to destruction. We don’t have to condone violence — or assign motives where they don’t exist — to recognize that violence such as this is born of injustice. It is those circumstance of injustice, which are hardly coincidence, that make these riots political.

  42. BHuesca
    BHuesca August 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm |

    Sheezlebub- people die in riots too.

    All- remember the thousands of discussions here re: harrassment and letting people be arbiters of their own experiences, to defer to those with firsthand knowledge? Am I the only one who sees the UK commenters calling this violence and the USian commenters telling them that what they’re REALLY seeing is a protest? Personally I like to defer to those who are there…

    Stella- you said you’re from Milwaukee. I’ve heard a lot about the Black youths specifically targeting and savagely beating White children, youths, and adults at the WI state fair. While Milwaukee is an exceptionally segregated city, and as you’ve been weighing in on a lot here, I ask: do you think the juries of the (alleged, but videotaped and pretty well corroborated) explicitly-racially-motivated assault perpetrators should receive protest leniency or hate frime enhancers???

  43. Florence
    Florence August 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm |

    BHuesca, I don’t think either point in your last comment is fair.

    BFP/Sheelzebub/etc are arguing that a political lens is completely justifiable when looking at the violence because political factors contributed to said violence.

    No one is arguing for “leniency” based on whether or not this is “just protest” or “just looting”. It’s pretty clear the argument is on behalf of a frame of trying to understand roots of the violence, and lending more meaning to it other than the entitlement of snotty teenagers.

  44. BHuesca
    BHuesca August 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm |

    *hate crime*

    And I apologize, Stella, I don’t mean that as a personal attack. I’m sorry. I get a little too animated, I guess, when children are pulled from cars *and their carseats* and beaten, and then I hear people use segregation as a mitigating/justifying factor for all the violence that’s going on…

    …I wish that someone would be on this thread pointing out that many, such as Quakers, espouse nonviolence in all circumstances and maybe that could be discussed as an option here??

  45. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |

    Sheezlebub- people die in riots too.

    Good thing I pointed that out in my post. Sheesh. To repeat–the only time anyone seems to give a fuck about people getting hurt or dying in communities like these is when it’s during a riot.

    Am I the only one who sees the UK commenters calling this violence and the USian commenters telling them that what they’re REALLY seeing is a protest?

    Yeny is from the UK, lives in the UK, and is a working-class person whose parents come from another country. Why do you think it’s just privileged Americans telling working-class British people what’s what?

  46. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm |

    And you know, BFP and I were both pretty clear that we’re skeptical of rioting and acknowledged that it’s not okay and that it hurts people in the communities. BFP also lives in a community that’s been affected by riots, and is hardly privileged. I find it telling that her voice–and the voice of Yeny–is being ignored. We can do that at our peril.

    Don’t like riots? Neither do I. As long we don’t change what’s been causing them, they’re going to happen.

  47. Yeny
    Yeny August 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm |

    BHuesca – Um, HELLO? I’m a born and bred Londoner, I’m here in the thick of it and saying that I see it as political, although, not overtly so. I’m saying that I can see where they’re coming from even if I have never and would never condone their actions. I don’t think anyone is saying this isn’t violence, but there are REASONS (again, not overt) for that violence that are political (poverty, poor education, a lack of any real prospects for a better future, to name a few), which has led to the kind of attitude of ‘I don’t give a shit about anyone or anything, because no one gives a shit about me’.

  48. Yeny
    Yeny August 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm |

    Thanks Sheelzebub. didn’t see you post before I wrote mine.

  49. Esti
    Esti August 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    Can’t these riots be both the result of politics and yet apolitically motivated? That is to say — isn’t most/all large scale action at some level a product of politics? That fact does not, to me at least, mean that people looting for a new stereo or a designer bag are secretly acting with political motivations. I still haven’t seen any reason to believe that there is a political motivation for anything beyond the smaller outbreak of violence targeting police on the first night. And yet there are a lot of people not involved in these riots, the majority of whom are outsiders to these communities, ascribing political *motivation*–not simply describing potential political causation–based solely on the fact that the people rioting are from poor neighbourhoods. Not everything that poor people do is a political statement about their socio-economic status, even if they would be less likely to do it if they had more money.

    And even if these riots are politically-motivated, “political” is not synonymous with “justifiable”. I don’t think that writing off the *people* perpetrating this violence as worthless or iredeemable is either productive or just. But that conclusion doesn’t mean that you can’t reject the *actions*. I agree that the current situation should spark a conversation about the societal and political conditions that create a space and a desire for this type of destructive violence. But discussing causation is very, very different from providing justification, and I’ve read too many people (not necessarily here, but certainly elsewhere) doing the latter.

  50. Stella
    Stella August 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |

    BHuesca, as I said in my first comment, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same things happening in Milwaukee as are happening in London; as you alluded to, smaller things along those lines have been happening already. I see the events here in the same way: a destructive and unformed response to decades of marginalization. It’s entirely possible to both recognize that and condemn assaults on innocent people. Apparently it needs to be said many many times: acknowledging underlying causes is not the same thing as justification of specific actions.

  51. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm |

    That fact does not, to me at least, mean that people looting for a new stereo or a designer bag are secretly acting with political motivations.

    Esti, I don’t think anyone here has said that the rioters have acted with political motivations. Just that political factors have fueled this.

  52. Esti
    Esti August 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |

    @Sheelzebub

    I wasn’t referring specifically to people here, but I think Stella, Yeny, and even you have said that politics are a motivation, not simply a cause, of the rioting. For example:

    I mean, look, telling people there’s a better way to do things rings hollow when those ways have been tried and tried and tried again only to be ignored. After a while, you realize you have nothing to lose.

    That very much sounds like you think the riots are a frustrated attempt to gain attention for a cause that has been otherwise ignored. All I’m saying is that I haven’t seen any indication that the riots are an expression of “stop ignoring us!”

  53. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm |

    Black, child of immigrants, British born, Liverpool raised, living in the US. Parents ran youth clubs in Liverpool in white working class areas. Sister lives in Woolwich Arsenal where they are currently burning police cars and chasing police down the street.

    Credentials established.

    This is not a protest, it is not political. These are thugs. Opportunistic thugs being protected by a liberal media who would rather take potshots at the Tories than condemn the feral monsters who’ve taken control of the asylum. If the police are so bad, why are they not doing anything? They are watching these teenagers destroy homes and lives and businesses because they don’t want to confront them. They don’t want to spill blood. This will only damage Labour. Good. Today Labour took the side of these hoodlums instead of the rest of us.

    They are beating and robbing BLACK PEOPLE. BLACK AND AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS. Sorry, Sheelzebub. I know it’s inconvenient in your victim narrative.

    Why are no white working class people rioting? Because when white working class people who feel dispossessed and economically deprived turn to to anti immigrant rhetoric, they get shouted down as ignorant racists. But when a black youth sets fire to a police bin, he’s just expressing himself.

    It’s a disgrace. I feel ashamed to be black today. I feel ashamed to say the word diversity and put myself in the same category as these “diversity consultants” on British TV encouraging and defending violence. Look at the charlatan pastors on the sideline in their shiny suits. I will never vote Labour again. I will never vote Liberal. I’m done. The next vote I cast will be Tory or nothing. Because I refuse to defend this behavior. I refuse to feel sorry for these people. I am Black British. These thugs belong in prison.

  54. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm |

    Btw, if anyone wants to – ask the moderator to email me and I will email her my real address and name and establish everyone of those things I stated above.

    I’m just disgusted. Britain is not the US. It’s not the same. What is holding people back is a toxic combination of class and racial perception, not reality. I grew up in Liverpool and with black people who were convinced that they could go nowhere. The strength of the class system in Britain is that people dream small. It’s not like the US where people rage against their constraints. Here the door has been open for years. If the EMA is the cause, then why under 18 years of Labour funding, did nothing happen? They poured millions into these estates! They set up programs like EMA. Nothing has changed!

  55. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    Sorry, Sheelzebub. I know it’s inconvenient in your victim narrative.

    How about you read what I fucking wrote? On second thought, don’t bother, since nuance seems to escape you.

  56. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm |

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14456050

    My sister’s house in in this video. Look at that crazy police violence. Look at that American style police brutality. The average Brit wants the army out and the violence stopped. These kids have been coddled. It’s time for prison.

  57. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm |

    They are beating and robbing BLACK PEOPLE. BLACK AND AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS. Sorry, Sheelzebub. I know it’s inconvenient in your victim narrative.

    Case in point:

    And you know, BFP and I were both pretty clear that we’re skeptical of rioting and acknowledged that it’s not okay and that it hurts people in the communities.

    AND

    I mean, yeah, I have my skepticism around riots–people do get hurt and killed, a lot of the violence that is visited upon people is visited upon women, children, and other marginalized people within the community, etc.

    Stop misrepresenting what I’ve said. FFS.

  58. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm |

    Are you even British? No. Do you even know anything about growing up there? No. Do you even care about how this isn’t just a one size fits all America lite riot? No.

    Nuance may have escaped me but at least I still have my common sense. You don’t speak for me or for most of London, I can tell you.

  59. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm |

    Do you even care about how this isn’t just a one size fits all America lite riot?

    Yeah, Watts, LA, Newark. . .America lite riots. That common sense you claim to have? You seem to have misplaced it. And don’t make this about the Yanks vs. the Brits since there are British people who live in these communities who don’t agree with you and who’ve posted as much.

  60. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm |

    Yeny, I can answer you point for point if you put some substance in your post. That’s what is driving me mad about all the “it’s racism” responses. It’s the mealy mouthed ness of them. Well, you know, it’s tough. NO. These are the same thugs who killed Damilola Taylor and destroyed these estates. For the last 18 years they have had money thrown at them. Poured on them. So go on, what should they have gotten? Free education, check. Money for nothing (EMA), check. Benefits, homes, youth clubs, community funding, check. Social services IMPROVED DRAMATICALLY over the past 20 years.

    I am just so angry. They are destroying my home. My country. They are burning it to the ground. You can be as hypothetical and abstract as you like. This is my home and I feel such rage. And the police do nothing. They are standing around and letting it happen so that people like you, Sheelzebub, cant accuse them of overpolicing.

  61. pseudodeviant
    pseudodeviant August 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm |

    Well, British Born, I’m British too and living in Birmingham (which too is suffering riots) and watching this and I agree with Sheelzebub & Yeny’s views.

    These people are angry & disaffected enough to risk prosecution and jail time just for the ‘thrill’ of looting some phones and smashing some windows. I don’t buy for a second that people do that kind of thing with out some form of social (and therefore political – given the way our society is shaped) root cause. Erasing motives and refusing to acknowledge the reasons that these people think making the decisions they have are a ‘good’ option does nothing to ensure the same thing won’t happen again.

    Left Foot Forward have an interesting blog article on crowd psychology with regards to the riots that makes interesting reading; http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/08/a-crowd-psychology-analysis-of-the-riots/

  62. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    They are standing around and letting it happen so that people like you, Sheelzebub, cant accuse them of overpolicing.

    Stop being disingenuous. I never said any such thing. FFS. (And BTW, in those “America-lite” riots you scoffed at, there were the same complaints about police inaction.)

    I realize that it’s taxing for you to actually read what people wrote, and that it’s easier to pull strawmen out of your ass, but it doesn’t make you much of a debater.

    Also–if the best you can do when I’ve already shown how you’ve misconstrued my posts is to say, “you’re not British so STFU” I can’t take you seriously.

  63. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    Sheelzebub, soft backpedaling when you’ve just justified something is not a critique. Why don’t you stop your doublespeak and just be honest – you agree with them.

    Everyone has justifications. That Norwegian guy had “justifications”. If I posted saying, you know what, killing kids is bad BUT multiculturalism is difficult, you’d be rightfully condemnatory. Hey, rape is bad BUT patriarchy is tough for men too.

    The rioting is wrong and bad. FULL STOP. FULL STOP. No ifs, no buts, no fighting the system, no justifiable backlash. No nothing.

  64. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm |

    Sheelzebub, soft backpedaling when you’ve just justified something is not a critique. Why don’t you stop your doublespeak and just be honest – you agree with them.

    I never said any such thing. You goddamn well know that, and I even copied and pasted the parts where I condemned the rioting–hell, I bolded them since they seemed to escape your attention.

    Thank you for showcasing to all who’ll read this thread that you are a liar. You’re not worth engaging, and I’ll save my energy from now on.

  65. Catherine
    Catherine August 9, 2011 at 3:33 pm |

    Just a clarification I’d like to make–from several photographs I’ve seen on the Daily Mail’s website, a number of those rioting are white, or appear to be. The general perception in this thread seems to be that we are talking exclusively about minorities as the rioters, and I’m not sure that’s accurate. That said, I’m in the US and looking at the internet, so I might be wrong.

  66. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 3:37 pm |

    I’m getting incoherent I know but I want to get on a plane right now and go home and do violence to these kids. I’m that angry. And watching people fall over themselves to defend them and the police stand around and do NOTHING doesn’t even fit with the victim narrative being championed.

    Does anyone think that in America, the police would retreat and not even use *plastic* bullets? They are allowing the criminals to win and showing that there are no consequences for these actions. That is why it is continuing. My sister has stayed home to protect her home.

    My parents ran youth clubs. these are the kids who have to be begged to come in and begged not to ruin the place and want to start violence all the time and are rude and disrespectful to everyone. The govt has thrown money at them and anything else “community related” for 20 years and none of it has changed the fabric of these kids. they are feral. Feral. But only minorities are rioting because liberals only sympathize with them. LOL. Look at Liverpool. The poorest areas are not rioting, only the black areas. Let me say that again. The POOREST AREAS ARE NOT RIOTING. Why? Because the poor whites know they will not be forgiven. Graudian reading morons won’t jump onto their story. Diversity consultant/youth workers won’t get cuddly newsnight spots. Only poor blacks are rioting.

    The white working class should riot. They should riot about immigration. Like those vigilantes in Texas who shot a child. Because alienation always justifies violence, right? Robbing an injured child – just poverty talking. Great.

    Attention White working class people of England, I have a plan.

    1. Go beat up some minorities and smash in their homes and vehicles
    2. Explain it’s because of social exclusion and Tory cuts.
    3. Be sure to steal high value goods and try to sell them on ebay. Do it on blackberries because nothing shows economic deprivation like expensive electronics.
    3. Watch as bleeding heart liberals fall all over themselves to help you.

    Awesome.

  67. Esti
    Esti August 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm |

    pseudodeviant: These people are angry & disaffected enough to risk prosecution and jail time just for the ‘thrill’ of looting some phones and smashing some windows. I don’t buy for a second that people do that kind of thing with out some form of social (and therefore political – given the way our society is shaped) root cause.

    I’m not saying that the situations are the same, but I think Vancouver’s recent riot is pretty solid evidence that people without any real grievances do in fact loot and smash and burn without any social or political reason.

  68. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm |

    Sheelzebub.

    You and Diane Abbott did the same thing. Tiny disclaimer then tons of rationalizing. There is no excuse for their behavior. Full stop. It’s like saying “I’m not a racist but”, it doesn’t act as a magic shield for the rest of your comments.

  69. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm |

    Actually in the same vein you seem to be acting as if it’s impossible or somehow unheard of to imply meaning from placement of words rather than outright statements. I assume you are being disingenuous for effect (and are not just stupid).

  70. Momentary
    Momentary August 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm |

    Catherine:
    Just a clarification I’d like to make–from several photographs I’ve seen on the Daily Mail’s website, a number of those rioting are white, or appear to be. The general perception in this thread seems to be that we are talking exclusively about minorities as the rioters, and I’m not sure that’s accurate. That said, I’m in the US and looking at the internet, so I might be wrong.

    Yes, the rioters are not specifically minorities. See the Metropolitan Police Flickr page here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/metropolitanpolice

  71. Momentary
    Momentary August 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm |

    I’d like to also add that all of the kids I described in my comment at #31 were white.

  72. bfp
    bfp August 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm |

    British born, living in America: The white working class should riot. They should riot about immigration. Like those vigilantes in Texas who shot a child. Because alienation always justifies violence, right? Robbing an injured child – just poverty talking. Great.

    Except that many of us who are do not think further criminalization and violence in reaction to these riots are the answer *also* have worked for many many years to complexify and work with working class white folks. I personally have done a *ton* of work dealing with working class white folks and immigration. I’ve also stood against the death sentence of the leader of the murder of Brisenia Flores and called for a real justice that will ultimately end the violence against all communities rather than inflict more violence against people for doing what the government encourages them to do.

    I am sorry, really and truly sorry that things are scary for you and your family right now. I sincerely hope your family is ok–and that your city makes it through this ok.

  73. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm |

    You know what, none of you have a clue.

    Go to Anfield, it’s one of the poorest places in Liverpool. It’s full of boarded up houses and empty shops. Terrible, right? Capitalism at work. Shame on the rich. Shame on white people. Shame on the West.

    EXCEPT for years and years and years, people have tried everything to regenerate that area. They don’t want it. They refused to leave homes in the buildings so they stayed. Empty condemned buildings with one tenant which couldn’t be pulled down. Park designs – vetoed. Everything – vetoed. Non profit after non profit has tried. Begged. New schools (academies), new money. They poured money and help into the area.

    The response – they smashed cars, they stole money, they organized break ins, they refused to attend any services – alternative schools, classes, anything – they don’t want it. Parents encouraged kids to stop coming to things. They don’t want it. You know why, because they are happy.

    Really. Now they are cuts, they are unhappy but for the last 15 years, they’ve been fine. They work black market, they get benefits, they go to the pub, they go on holiday to Ibiza/Magaluf, they shop in the city centre. Really. They’re fine. They haven’t taken advantage of any of the billions of govt services to improve their lot offered to them for 20 years. It’s not America. They weren’t homeless, they weren’t immigrants, they had homes and money – money they felt entitled to despite doing zero to earn it. Yet they complained to anyone who would listen about how terribly hard done by they were. Why? They all wore designer clothes and had nice phones. My parents who did the youth work they had crappy phones. We had cheap clothes. We took one holiday a year, they took three. We were forever being offered stuff off the back of a lorry, “come down Scotty Road and we’ll do you a deal!” (Scotland road is a street in the center of Liverpool where there are some markets). Seriously, they were rich. Everyone was on benefits and everyone worked – on someone’s building site, driving a taxi, whatever.

    They had money. Tons of money. That’s why they are rioting. They don’t want jobs. They don’t want education. They want money from the govt and the police to leave them alone. The recession has devastated the black market and suddenly they are vulnerable. The fact that they have spent the last 20 years spitting on any help given them is their own fault.

    But sure, yeah, lets cut the NHS in a recession because we’ve got to make sure Tracey Towerblock doesn’t lose her cigarette money.

  74. Momentary
    Momentary August 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm |

    bfp: Except that many of us who are do not think further criminalization and violence in reaction to these riots are the answer *also* have worked for many many years to complexify and work with working class white folks. I personally have done a *ton* of work dealing with working class white folks and immigration. I’ve also stood against the death sentence of the leader of the murder of Brisenia Flores and called for a real justice that will ultimately end the violence against all communities rather than inflict more violence against people for doing what the government encourages them to do.

    I am sorry, really and truly sorry that things are scary for you and your family right now. I sincerely hope your family is ok–and that your city makes it through this ok.

    Well said, bfp, on several counts.

  75. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm |

    For everyone who’s attempting to frame what’s going on in London as “those kids are just bad people!”, I just wanted to throw in this little nugget of reality.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mzDQCT0AJcw#at=257

    Warning though, it might make you cry. It did for me (I love Darcus Howe, and he’s one of the reporters I miss most now that I don’t live in the UK any more). If you’re a journalist it may also make you despair for the future of our profession (seriously, when the BBC anchor asks “Does this mean that you condone what happened?”? Rage.)

  76. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    bfp: sonally have done a *ton* of work dealing with working class white folks and immigration. I’ve also stood against the death sentence of the leader of the murder of Brisenia Flores and called for a real justice that will ultimately end the violence against all communities rather than inflict more violence against people for doing what the government encourages them to do.

    This. Seconded.

  77. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm |

    Sorry, bfp – I didn’t see your message. I’m not trying to be rude but this is killing me. I’ve seen this – I GREW UP HERE. They DON’T WANT HELP.

    They want
    1. police to leave their areas so they can go back to perpetrating acts of violence against their neighbors.
    2. Free money.

    THAT’S IT.

    Honestly. Can someone explain why all the reforms and acts of the last 20 years did nothing to help these kids. Why the money poured into Peckham and other areas, into these estates and places like Toxteth did nothing? They don’t care. They don’t want help. I spent years working in Toxteth and the biblical phrase “stubborn and stiff necked people” comes to mind. They refused everything. They didn’t want it. I’m not being facetious. I’m not lying. I’m not embellishing. They DIDN’T WANT IT.

  78. Momentary
    Momentary August 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm |

    CassandraSays:
    For everyone who’s attempting to frame what’s going on in London as “those kids are just bad people!”, I just wanted to throw in this little nugget of reality.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mzDQCT0AJcw#at=257

    Warning though, it might make you cry. It did for me (I love Darcus Howe, and he’s one of the reporters I miss most now that I don’t live in the UK any more). If you’re a journalist it may also make you despair for the future of our profession (seriously, when the BBC anchor asks “Does this mean that you condone what happened?”? Rage.)

    OMG rage indeed. Argh. Thanks for that link. She’s disgusting.

  79. Angel H.
    Angel H. August 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm |

    Maybe they don’t the help that is being offered because it’s not the help that they need.

    If someone from the outside is saying, “This is what we’re going to give you; take it or leave it” whether finding out what the priorities are for the people in the community, that could be a reason not to acccept what’s been given. For example, I’ve been homeless for a year. Recently, the shelter installed a new light for the parking lot. Yeah, okay but how about using that money to give us toilet paper in all of the bathroom stalls instead of rationing it scraps out to everybody? How about bread that isn’t stale? What about soap in the bathrooms?

  80. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar August 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    British Born, I remember hearing virtually the same story during the Reagan Administration: rhetoric about the women in fur coats driving cadillacs on welfare; rhetoric that justified the white flight migrants who moved from the cities to the suburbs in suddenly declaring, “well, we tried. Now it’s their fault.” Rhetoric that was racist bullshit. And the “they” looked a lot like the “they” you’re talking about.

  81. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm |

    Argh, Cassandra. It’s reminiscent of the conversations about the riots I’ve read and heard today. And it’s reminiscent of the LA riot–pointing out that it didn’t happen in a vacuum (while not condoning it) got the same response the reporter gave. OMG YOU’RE TOTALLY CONDONING THE RIOTERS!!!11! Heaven forbid anyone listen and maybe take this stuff seriously.

  82. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm |

    Oh btw, I’m African, not West Indian so that may be coloring some of my comments. People like Darcus Howe don’t represent me and never have. But African immigrants are the ones whose shops and homes are being destroyed while people like Darcus Howe defend the arsonists and looters. I have personally met Darcus Howe. I remember him from being in town hall meetings in Liverpool when he shouted and screamed at everyone who disagreed with him. I remember being told we weren’t black/did the white man’s work and him encouraging everyone to rise up against their opressors/calling everyone white a racist and then leaving.

    Of course, he left and we had to do the work in the city with the kids he told to rise up (presumably against us doing the white man’s work) but oh, well. I guess it’s more fun to be a radical firebrand of a journalist than to be a social worker or youth worker.

  83. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm |

    So all the West Indian people in the UK are somehow not worthy of having someone to speak for them? Well, isn’t that lovely.

  84. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    @Thomas
    Yeah, that’s why it’s good to remember that not every incident in the world is an America-lite experience (remember that comment earlier!) America has always run itself like a gladiator pit – kill or be killed. I live here now and I feel anxiety every time I get sick, or read a newspaper. Even though I have insurance, even though I have a job. It’s that tough. Britain is not like that. Never has been. I went on benefits for two weeks once between jobs. Was fine. Here, just getting my SSN, I was made to feel like a criminal crossed with a pedophile. They are mean, nasty and go out of their way to humiliate you – I have no idea why. I still don’t know what “out of network doctors” means. The UK is waaaaayyyyy nicer. It really is.

    @ Angel

    They’re not homeless. They have govt provided homes for life. They also had EMAs, home redecoration grants, healthcare, child benefits and other things. This isn’t America. There was no TANF, no health insurance, no need to work.

    Most of these people have lives that the poor in America would kill for. And I have no doubt that if you swapped them around, the American poor in Britain would be successful and the Brits in America, dead.

  85. james
    james August 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm |

    “Two thousand Black youths had a peaceful protest, a march on Scotland Yard two months ago, and the media and everyone else did not notice, care, or report on it. No one was interested until youths started setting shit on fire.”

    Was it this march, or was it another one with less the 15.2m hits on google and links to sky, bbc and the evening standard on the first page?

    http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&source=hp&biw=947&bih=525&q=smiley+culture+march

    “I mean, look, telling people there’s a better way to do things rings hollow when those ways have been tried and tried and tried again only to be ignored.”

    Yeah, they should listen to the people. I don’t believe the first protest – against the police carrying out drugs searches because a coke dealer killed himself to avoid arrest – was ignored. I know, what’s wrong with the world when you can’t be left alone to sell quarter of a million pounds worth of coke without the feds breaking your door down. Similarly, how could people not be upset that a hard working crack-dealer was shot by the po-po whilst on his way to murder a rival. You tell it Sheelzebub, it’s fucking outrage that the nanny state wants to stop you settling your own scores with your own illegal firearms. I can really see why this had got people’s blood boiling.

  86. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm |

    @ CassandraSays 8.9.2011 at 4:37 pm

    So all the West Indian people in the UK are somehow not worthy of having someone to speak for them? Well, isn’t that lovely.

    He can represent them. Represent away. It’s more that the African people in the UK are not deemed worthy of being represented by anyone. Darcus Howe likes to pretend that the only black people that exist in the UK are Afro-Caribbean boys. In London.

  87. Sara
    Sara August 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    When violence is ongoing, regardless of its causes or motives, I think it is a perfectly valid response to say that violence is wrong, period, and to keep saying that until it fucking stops.

    It’s also probably OK to say there might be political causes, because (NEWS FLASH) political conditions influence every single thing human beings do.

    There seems to be a discussion over whether the rioters are “good” or “bad” people. Seriously? Who gives a flying fuck? Trying to find ways to stop the violence in the short term – and to reduce the likelihood of more in the long term – is important regardless of whether they are “good” or “bad” or whether it even means something to describe a person rather than a behavior as “good” or “bad.”

  88. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    Also, just because a bunch of poorly educated teenagers who’re currently in the middle of a huge messy event may not be able to articulate the political grievances that are underlying their actions right at this moment in time does not mean that those underlying grievances don’t exist and aren’t part of what’s motivating them.

    Hopelessness is an awful thing, and it’s endemic in working class communities in the UK even among white people. Add racism, and the kind of shit that the Met commonly pulls on black citizens, and some sort of spark to set things off, and you have what’s happening now. It’s happened before, and it will keep happening as long as the underlying issues remain unaddressed.

  89. Brigid
    Brigid August 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm |

    Sara: There seems to be a discussion over whether the rioters are “good” or “bad” people. Seriously? Who gives a flying fuck? Trying to find ways to stop the violence in the short term – and to reduce the likelihood of more in the long term – is important regardless of whether they are “good” or “bad” or whether it even means something to describe a person rather than a behavior as “good” or “bad.”

    Agreed. I don’t see anyone in this thread seriously arguing that violence is good; and I so far haven’t seen anyone actually support an argument that the riots (regardless of rioters’ immediate motives) aren’t political.

    More importantly, arguments about whether the rioters are good or bad are distractions from any meaningful discussion about how this violence arose, and how to end the violence — the violence of riots, and the violence of racism and classism — against all people involved.

    It seems to me that bringing the discussion back to a superficial argument over who is good or bad is just another way to privilege the suffering and humanity of some people over the suffering and humanity of others, and to maintain the racist, classist status quo.

  90. bfp
    bfp August 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm |

    British born, living in America: They want
    1. police to leave their areas so they can go back to perpetrating acts of violence against their neighbors.
    2. Free money.

    Hm. This sounds a LOT like what people say about Detroit, where my community is. Welfare queens just want their money and their gold teeth. Drug dealers just want their hood ornaments. And yet it was teen mothers that were arrested and held for protesting the only school in Detroit that services young mothers being shut down. and it was those thugs who put forth the excellent question that nobody could answer: when unemployment is between 15% (the worst in the nation for over 30 years) and 50% (fucking devastating) in Michigan, why on earth does it make more sense to go to school (and thousands of dollars in debt) *when there are no jobs to get upon graduation*, then to join street economies?

    The ONLY thing that has worked in Detroit has been for activists and organizers to check their baggage at the door and recognize that their jobs are NOT to fix things *for* people–but to empower people to fix things in their own ways for themselves. Nobody came to the free dental clinic and nobody could figure out why–until somebody had the relationship built up enough with community members enough to finally hear–oh, there was no where to leave their children while they went and got their teeth fixed. And most of the mothers would’ve rather had their *children’s* teeth fixed instead of their own.

    The answers Detroiters have decided are most appropriate for them involve a lot of rethinking the idea of middle class prosperity as a sign of success. They involve rethinking the idea that people *want* to get the fuck out of the ghetto (which is really their home and their families). They involve rethinking that success is individual achievments rather than community health, communal food systems, or community owned media–even as they do not identify or subscribe to marxism or communism and often have explicit critiques of these ideologies.

    When organizers or 501c3’s or NGOs subscribe to liberal agendas that reinforce capitalism and individualism–and they refuse to rethink or remodel those agendas based on community feedback–there is *of course* going to a ton of head butting and LOTs of frustration for those organizers.

  91. Angel H.
    Angel H. August 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm |

    BFP, I love it when you comment here!

    1. Cara
      Cara August 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm |

      The times when bfp comments are the absolute greatest times. Though I think we all can see why they are infrequent …

  92. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm |

    I know, what’s wrong with the world when you can’t be left alone to sell quarter of a million pounds worth of coke without the feds breaking your door down. Similarly, how could people not be upset that a hard working crack-dealer was shot by the po-po whilst on his way to murder a rival.

    Oh, good Lord. Each of the two cases involved protests from people who wanted in an inquiry and investigation into their deaths.

  93. james
    james August 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

    No. There were already inquiries and investigations underway when both protests were held. Much of this is about criminals objecting to completely reasonable law enforcement activity.

  94. Natalie
    Natalie August 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm |

    Some more information about the rioters arrested over the weekend has emerged as a result of the court hearings taking place today.

    Amongst these people were a university graduate, a guy who had just signed up to join the army, several people who have good jobs. In short, people who should know better than to loot and vandalise. Do you want to keep insisting that this is a class war? It isn’t.

    Sure, I’ll agree with the point that politics is in everything we do, I try to get people to understand that all the time (quite often successfully) but that doesn’t make this riot a product of the politics.

    I heard some interviews with protesters today and the sense of entitlement is unbelievable. Someone somewhere suggested that the 2 girls interviewed were posing – while there may have been some posing going on, the amount of people I have encountered who have that attitude convinces me that it was for the large part real.

    I am gobsmacked at the level of entitlement – I don’t understand why these young people feel they have the right to behave in this manner, to be so lawless. I honestly cannot comprehend it, because I am only 10 years older than these kids, I come from a family with a working class background, I grew up in one of the most deprived areas in Europe. I do not understand the mentality that these young people have that they deserve a whole load of things that the rest of us have had to work for.

    The social contract is breaking down in a major way and it is absolutely heartbreaking to watch.

  95. Yeny
    Yeny August 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

    British born, living in America: Yeny, I can answer you point for point if you put some substance in your post. That’s what is driving me mad about all the “it’s racism” responses. It’s the mealy mouthed ness of them. Well, you know, it’s tough. NO. These are the same thugs who killed Damilola Taylor and destroyed these estates. For the last 18 years they have had money thrown at them. Poured on them. So go on, what should they have gotten? Free education, check. Money for nothing (EMA), check. Benefits, homes, youth clubs, community funding, check. Social services IMPROVED DRAMATICALLY over the past 20 years.

    I am just so angry. They are destroying my home. My country. They are burning it to the ground. You can be as hypothetical and abstract as you like. This is my home and I feel such rage. And the the police do nothing. They are standing around and letting it happen so that people like you, Sheelzebub, cant accuse them of overpolicing.

    Frickin ‘eck, had to go to work and I come back to this. British born, with all due respect, you have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. How much do you think kids were getting on the EMA? Because I’m pretty sure it was only £30 a week. When I was doing my a-levels I was entitled to apply for EMA, but I didn’t, because if I started receiving it, the govt would have stopped giving my mum working tax benefits. And since I was living with her, and she was paying the rent and all the bills, I didn’t think it would be fair that she would no longer be entitled to any help even as she was working 12hours (at least) everyday to give us a decent life (and yet I still used to go without lunch everyday at school, just so I could save up £20 to buy myself a tshirt). She has and still works so fucking hard everyday cleaning up after entitled pricks, so don’t tell me that we had money pouring in from the state, because that is the biggest insult to my mum and everything she fucking went through so that I could get into a decent Uni. Living in London aint cheap, £30 amounts to nothing, especially if you’re between 16-18 and have to get the tube everyday to get to school. Also, no kid wants to feel like the poor kid.
    So what have these kids actually gotten from the state: a poor education in which none of the teachers expect them to amount to much- check; EMA which cuts any benefits their family might be receiving for them creating a boundary between a hard-up single parent and her child- check; Having various male members of one’s family arrested and possibly do time in prison while the others are frequently being intimidated by the police (so much so the police had to apologise, in writing, to one of my mate’s for the outrageous behaviour of one of their constables)- check; … I could go on and on, but I’m bored just writing it so it must be hell to have to read.
    This is where I live, have lived all my life and most probably will continue to live, so of course I care what happens in my neighbourhood, and that’s why it’s so important to understand the causes of this behaviour- to prevent it from continuing to happen in the future. It’s way too easy to just label what has happened as the actions of mindless louts than to look at how we as a society have contributed to their formation as the lawless youths we are seeing on the streets. So much easier to avoid looking at the classism and racism that is rife in british society, the way so many look down those of us for whom benefits have been a necessary part of life. And yet, you want us to treat you with the kind of respect we aren’t considered worthy of. I, luckily, now have a degree under my belt, so I can see hope at the end of the tunnel, and other ways of letting out my frustrations, but the rest of my friends with whom I played in my neighbourhood as a little kid don’t have that, and so for them there is no real prospect of anything other than menial jobs, benefits and a lack of any fucking respect in our society.

    (also, Natalie, there were close to 600 arrests last time I checked, are you trying to tell me that the majority were either in university, the army or had good jobs? because I’m calling shenanigans right now)

  96. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

    I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face or apparently until someone listens. This IS NOT AMERICA. Everyone nods along but can only draw from US racial lore. Look, no one would choose to be poor in America. Plenty of people could choose to be poor in Britain.

    I know! Regan! Welfare queens! American ghettos! LA Riots!

    It may sound like Detroit… but it’s not! Gasp.

    Please keep naming examples in the US which don’t fit the UK. The biggest difference is the “working poor” issue. People in the US HAVE to work for benefits. People in the UK get benefits and don’t have to. So many don’t. This is not because they are lazy feckless losers. It’s because the jobs they would get would be so low paying/humiliating etc, it’s not worth it. No one is faulting them for not working. But it makes a difference. People in London have free dental care and time to go BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT WORKING. They are not doing working three jobs to make ends meet. They get their money FREE. And guess what, free education and in many cases, free or subsidized childcare. Oh, and healthcare. And transport money. And local job centres. And no war on drugs. What else, I can go all day.

    If you get benefits money for free, you have time to do other things. You have time to work on the black market. You have time to GO TO THE DENTIST.

    The thing is that it’s nice to imagine that everything in the world is identical to the US. But it’s not. London is not like Detroit and never has been. And you think you are the only person who has ever worked at an NGO to wonder why people don’t make use of their services. Congratulations. It’s not true but lets pretend. People listened and listened and listened. The thing is, people didn’t think their lives were bad. Really. They had their lives and they had their role models. People knew when their giro was coming and LIKE I SAID they were not WORKING. They were not trudging into McDonalds to take shit from a bunch of lippy kids or cleaning toilets. They were not working 65 hours a week in unstable jobs or showing up to find there was no work. They just got a cheque in the mail.

    Guess who was doing the grunt work, the bitch work – Poles, Somalians and any undocumented immigrants. In other words, PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR BENEFITS. Not Black brits, not white brits.

    Also, the class notions of “that isn’t for me” were almost impossible to overcome. Class roles are much more ingrained than in the US, I think. People in the North seemed afraid of university, afraid of the South even. It’s way more than some vague American dream crap. Class is all Britain has and it does it well.

    I know you think we’re all stupid (every non profit in the history of the NW of England, apparently) and you’re so smart. That’s fine. But the thing is, whenever we had conferences or symposiums or sharing sessions, we’d always get some hotshot American who also couldn’t understand that it wasn’t the same. So your ignorance isn’t new, at least.

    I should probably give up but I’m a try-er by nature.

  97. British born, living in America
    British born, living in America August 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm |

    Yeny

    You wanna critique British society, fine. How many of the people around you receiving benefits ACTUALLY WORKED?

    Not just picked up the cheque, worked. Your mom worked, so did mine. Now we have 2. And the rest?

  98. Steve
    Steve August 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm |

    The people who are rioting, those you say “need it most”, they are the cause of the problem. These people are too lazy to work for anything. I will not continue to justify my tax dollars that can build roads and schools, be used for some lazy breeding welfare babymaker. These people disgust me. Get off the couch, get a job, go to school, start a business.. Anything, except cry about the government not giving you any more free cheese. GDP is measured in the producing goods, not being a consumer. Start producing something of tangible value, because its really hard to sell babies in the free market.

    1. Cara
      Cara August 9, 2011 at 9:05 pm |

      WHOA. Steve, “lazy breeding welfare babymaker” gets you banned. The end. Goodbye.

  99. Natalie
    Natalie August 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm |

    No I’m not saying that the majority of the arrests and looters were university graduates etc, but I believe it is a misnomer to label all the looters and thugs as poor disadvantaged people as well.

    Consideration of your fellow man doesn’t require a school education, doesn’t require a university education. It doesn’t require anything other than a shred of humanity and the ability to think beyond your own circle of existence about the consequences of your actions. The fact that these people cannot even do that blows my mind.

  100. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm |

    Um, British Born? At least 2 of the people who are really not agreeing with you in this thread (myself and Yeny) are in fact British. So enough already with the argument that we’re just too American to understand the UK.

  101. Yeny
    Yeny August 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm |

    British born, do you think my mum works cleaning offices and toilets for the love of it? If all you saw in your future was a life of cleaning toilets and streets then I’ll readily admit you’re a better person than me if you feel motivated to work. But here’s the thing, most of my mates and their familys who are on benefits have worked in these shitty jobs, but it’s difficult to make a career out of something that makes you feel humiliated each day you do it.

  102. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 9, 2011 at 7:51 pm |

    “but it’s difficult to make a career out of something that makes you feel humiliated each day you do it.”

    It’s also difficult to build a career out of something where the pay is as shitty as the stuff you’re cleaning off the floor, and there are no propects for promotion to a position that pays better.

  103. bfp
    bfp August 9, 2011 at 7:59 pm |

    British born, living in America: I know you think we’re all stupid (every non profit in the history of the NW of England, apparently) and you’re so smart. That’s fine. But the thing is, whenever we had conferences or symposiums or sharing sessions, we’d always get some hotshot American who also couldn’t understand that it wasn’t the same. So your ignorance isn’t new, at least.

    Actually–I said your *arguments* about what poor people want sound like the same thing they say about Detroiters. I did not say the systems were the same or the situations were the same or that london was the same. People saying the only thing poor people want is money and the right to kill whoever they want is a fairly similar sentiment across the board. So are NGO’s deciding that they know what is best for poor people.

    Anyway. Thanks for the exchange.
    *leaves*

  104. Yeny
    Yeny August 9, 2011 at 8:17 pm |

    ‘It’s also difficult to build a career out of something where the pay is as shitty as the stuff you’re cleaning off the floor, and there are no propects for promotion to a position that pays better

    Precisely. I respect and admire how hard my mum has worked throughout her lifetime for a minimum wage, but seeing her in such poor health now as a result (and she’s still working to make ends meet) is not something I believe anyone should have to do or aspire to do.

  105. Angel H.
    Angel H. August 9, 2011 at 8:19 pm |

    British Born, I may not have been born and raised in the UK, but elitism is elitism.

    And you’re soaking in it.

  106. Frank
    Frank August 9, 2011 at 9:54 pm |

    Not that I agree with Scott Walker on anything, but I am very uncomfortable with the idea of recall elections. They seem especially prone to capture by special interests. The documentary “The Smartest Guys in the Room” had a segment discussing how energy companies like Enron were partially responsible for railroading Gray Davis out of office in California. Watching the fight unfold in Wisconsin doesn’t leave me with any assurance that similar machinations were not occurring there.

  107. Natalie
    Natalie August 10, 2011 at 3:38 am |

    One thing that struck me when I was trying to fall asleep last night was the feeling I’m getting from some of these posts that working in a menial job is degrading and humiliating.

    I’ll admit, its been a while since I’ve done a manual job for minimum wage, but I don’t get how it can be humiliating to be earning a living rather than having your money handed out to you? This is an honest question – I was brought up to believe in work, and that the shittiest job is better than no job at all.

  108. Momentary
    Momentary August 10, 2011 at 4:14 am |

    Natalie:
    One thing that struck me when I was trying to fall asleep last night was the feeling I’m getting from some of these posts that working in a menial job is degrading and humiliating.

    I’ll admit, its been a while since I’ve done a manual job for minimum wage, but I don’t get how it can be humiliating to be earning a living rather than having your money handed out to you? This is an honest question – I was brought up to believe in work, and that the shittiest job is better than no job at all.

    It’s been a long time for me too. But I think it makes a huge difference whether you perceive the system that you are within as basically fair. If you do, then doing that kind of work is doing your part, and something to be proud of. If you perceive the system as corrupt and out to screw you, then doing that kind of work is just part of getting screwed.

  109. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 10, 2011 at 4:36 am |

    “There were already inquiries and investigations underway when both protests were held.”

    And neither family was getting any answers–that was their complaint. In fact, Duggan’s family stayed outside of the Tottenham police station for hours because they wanted some answers, some information, anything–they wanted to speak with a senior officer–and they were basically blown off.

  110. petpluto
    petpluto August 10, 2011 at 4:42 am |

    Natalie:
    One thing that struck me when I was trying to fall asleep last night was the feeling I’m getting from some of these posts that working in a menial job is degrading and humiliating.

    I’ll admit, its been a while since I’ve done a manual job for minimum wage, but I don’t get how it can be humiliating to be earning a living rather than having your money handed out to you? This is an honest question – I was brought up to believe in work, and that the shittiest job is better than no job at all.

    I don’t have a menial job, so let me state that right off the bat. And yes, a shitty job – in theory – is better than absolutely no job at all. And I think part of the reason it can be degrading and humiliating is what Momentary said above. But there’s also this: people have a tendency to degrade and humiliate those who they see as below them. In my office, a lot people make fun of the cleaning staff and kitchen crew, mistrust them, and generally insistently ignore them even when they are almost impossible to ignore. I’m talking about physically bumping into or almost bumping into them, and staring off into space and not saying anything. Not acknowledging their existence. So, here they are, cleaning up after us and in some cases feeding us, and most of my office treats them as if because they make minimum wage, they are actually beneath us as human beings. It doesn’t help that a lot of these people are Latin@s or other minorities.

    So there’s that. You do a shitty job, for subpar pay. You probably have to have another job, as some of the cleaning staff I talk to does. You probably are suffering some kind of physical ailments from a physically taxing job – for subpar pay – as Yeny’s mother does. And at the end of it, someone who’s making AT LEAST twice your salary takes all that and decides you’re somehow less for it.

    As I said, I’m talking about this as an outsider, but it still doesn’t seem like a working condition I could be even remotely fulfilled doing. I’m not saying people shouldn’t do that kind of work. But there are many contributing factors to why some in a community would decide that it really wasn’t worth it. The amazing thing is, so many people decide it is worth it, and come to work even though it is breaking their bodies; and they are, in my experience, at least pleasant to those they interact with throughout the day.

  111. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 10, 2011 at 4:43 am |

    Yeny, BFP–thank you for your posts. Seriously. I wish I could say that I’m surprised to see your words misrepresented, but I’m not.

  112. matlun
    matlun August 10, 2011 at 5:09 am |

    Sheelzebub: And neither family was getting any answers–that was their complaint.

    Whether this was a valid complaint is another question. It is not clear that the police had any answers to give them (yet).

    However, I think focusing too much on the Duggan case here is a distraction. It may have been the spark that set everything off, but by itself it is not that important for the vast majority.

    It is pretty clear that the dysfunctional culture of a part of society is the main problem here. The underlying reason for why this culture has evolved is a complex discussion, but trying to defend it is misguided at best.

  113. Momentary
    Momentary August 10, 2011 at 5:09 am |

    Agreed, petpluto. I still think of it as the “if you can lean, you can clean” divide. When I was working those kinds of jobs, it was clear that there was one set of jobs where you would be pressured to simulate working even when there was no work to do. Usually this also correlated with not being allowed to sit down even when the work could be done while sitting. In the next higher rank of jobs, it was okay to sit around and talk when there wasn’t any immediate work to do. I originally taught myself to touch type because I could see that was the fastest ticket out of the “if you can lean, you can clean” rank. But I was privileged in that I had the social capital to be able to do that.

  114. Momentary
    Momentary August 10, 2011 at 5:17 am |

    matlun: Whether this was a valid complaint is another question. It is not clear that the police had any answers to give them (yet).

    It is absolutely a valid complaint that a family who has just had a member killed by the police should have someone from the police, or the government, immediately and continuously in contact with them while the investigation occurs. It might be that it should have been someone from the IPCC rather than the Tottenham police directly, for procedural reasons. But that they would be left not knowing what was happening, not knowing when they would get answers, or even when they would get to see the body, I believe is unacceptable.

    It is pretty clear that the dysfunctional culture of a part of society is the main problem here.

    No, that’s not clear at all. Unless by dysfunctional part of society you mean neoliberalism, reckless and predatory banking, and the current coalition government. But I doubt you do.

  115. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 10, 2011 at 5:22 am |

    It is not clear that the police had any answers to give them (yet).

    It wouldn’t have killed them to say so.

  116. Natalie
    Natalie August 10, 2011 at 5:42 am |

    I don’t actually think the current coalition government has much to do with this situation… they have only been in power for little over a year. The breakdown of society has been happening very slowly over at least 30 years, fuelled by the want want want mode of operation of capitalism, especially inspired by the Reagan administration.

    How it has come to the point where the basic tenets of the social contract have been obliterated I don’t know, and I suspect that is one thing we’ll all be scratching our heads about for a long long time.

    Most violent conflict has relatively identifiable causes, be they greed or grievance.

    Thanks for the replies about menial jobs, attitudes like that are not ones that I have ever experienced in my life time – I, and the people around me, were brought up to respect each other, regardless of percieved social class (which is a construction in itself, it isn’t a concrete). Down here in the South West of England where I grew up and still live, class divide and struggles aren’t so obvious. I live on a council built estate which now, as most estates do, has mixed ownership. There are still people living here who do live in poverty, who do struggle. But I cannot for one minute imagine that anyone would kick off in their own back yard.

    Maybe the region I live in still has antiquated views of the world. Maybe that is a good thing.

  117. Natalie
    Natalie August 10, 2011 at 5:45 am |

    The family of Mr Duggan have distanced themselves from the violence – they were taking part in peaceful protest, which was their right and totally understandable under the circumstances. What has followed is nothing to do with that original protest.

    A friend pointed out something interesting today – most of the looting and violence seems to be directed at electrical manufacturers, not government buildings.

  118. Momentary
    Momentary August 10, 2011 at 5:46 am |

    Natalie:
    I don’t actually think the current coalition government has much to do with this situation… they have only been in power for little over a year. The breakdown of society has been happening very slowly over at least 30 years, fuelled by the want want want mode of operation of capitalism, especially inspired by the Reagan administration.

    I agree the current coalition government didn’t create this situation, and that this is really not a reaction to current austerity (although the sense that the bankers/thieves at the top have got away with billions does seem to be part of it). But for where we are now, if they’re not part of the solution then they’re part of the problem, and I haven’t been too encouraged by what they’ve had to say so far.

  119. matlun
    matlun August 10, 2011 at 6:13 am |

    Momentary: It is absolutely a valid complaint that a family who has just had a member killed by the police [...]

    Yes, obviously the death matters a lot to the family. But to the rest of the community? My point was that the situation in the community was already such that a lot of different events could have triggered the riots, and the triggering event itself may not be that important in the larger picture.

    Momentary: No, that’s not clear at all. Unless by dysfunctional part of society you mean neoliberalism, reckless and predatory banking, and the current coalition government. But I doubt you do.

    I meant the alienation from and revolt against mainstream culture that exists in these sub cultures. There is a normalization of a criminal life and breakdown of community that is very dangerous.

    You can search for the ultimate root causes for why this culture has evolved and find imposed structural problems (eg racism, classism, poverty, unemployment, …), but this does not change the fact that the culture itself is very destructive and a huge problem.

  120. Momentary
    Momentary August 10, 2011 at 6:48 am |

    matlun: Yes, obviously the death matters a lot to the family. But to the rest of the community? My point was that the situation in the community was already such that a lot of different events could have triggered the riots, and the triggering event itself may not be that important in the larger picture.

    The triggering event is very reinforcing of the belief that the system is corrupt and set up to screw people like the victim’s family. It’s very reinforcing of the belief that the police are your enemy and that striking back against them, proving that they don’t actually have power to control you, is deeply gratifying.

    I meant the alienation from and revolt against mainstream culture that exists in these sub cultures. There is a normalization of a criminal life and breakdown of community that is very dangerous.

    You can search for the ultimate root causes for why this culture has evolved and find imposed structural problems (eg racism, classism, poverty, unemployment, …), but this does not change the fact that the culture itself is very destructive and a huge problem.

    There is a long history of theories of “culture of poverty” which I think is mostly discredited, although of course it will never die. This notion of “the culture itself” does not match anything I have ever seen when I was connected to people like that. I don’t believe there’s any such thing as “the culture itself”. I was close someone who would have done this, because his entire life had reinforced that he wasn’t really part of mainstream society. That had nothing to do with “the culture itself” and everything to do with knowing he was more likely to be hurt by the police than protected by them, with knowing that the ways he’d had to teach himself to be in order to protect himself had made him pretty much unemployable, with being turned away from four emergency rooms as a pre-adolescent with a 17-stitch gaping wound in his leg (admittedly this was in the USA and not the UK, to the USA’s everlasting shame).

  121. matlun
    matlun August 10, 2011 at 8:19 am |

    @Momentary: I am not talking about a “culture of poverty” here. This is not purely a class question and poverty by itself does not explain it.

    As someone much wiser than I once said

    “There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.”

    Independent of why you have this situation, it is very dangerous and a big problem for society.

  122. Momentary
    Momentary August 10, 2011 at 9:03 am |

    Matlun, I can’t make sense of what you are saying. You seem to be asserting that it is important to recognize that it is “dangerous to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in it”, independent from the society we have actually built. What does it mean to recognize something as important separate from what it is? My brain cannot compute this.

  123. LC
    LC August 10, 2011 at 9:11 am |

    I just want to join the chorus of people thanking bfp for posting.

    All this discussion of the social contract and feeling part of the community has me thinking about the banksters and global elite. A fair part of their sociopathic behaviour seems to stem from a belief they are not part of the community and owe nothing to it. (All the while insisting everyone else adhere to the social contract they want to rip up.)

  124. matlun
    matlun August 10, 2011 at 9:39 am |

    @Momentary: It is very possible that this is me failing to make my point in a clear manner.

    I am saying we have this type of situation and the current riots is a reflection of exactly this type of situation. We have a significant number of people who do not see themselves as part of society.

    Extremely simplistically, there are two stereotypical interpretations:
    [A] These people are just feral scum.
    [B] They are oppressed people lashing out in their desperation.

    No matter which side you are on here (or if you take a middle ground position):
    That “culture” (is this a semantics issue? This “segment of people”) is a problem for society that we need to address. They may (like many other criminals) also be victims, but they need to be addressed as a problem anyway.

  125. Natalie
    Natalie August 10, 2011 at 10:20 am |

    I get you matlun. I think…

    I think what you’re saying is that it is important to recognize this society within a society, but that it is distinct and different from the notion of society as perceived by the majority in the UK.

    I find it interesting how everyone is so quick to blame the bankers (who i do not deny have perpetrated some of the worst structural violence in the Western World). Actually they are really similar to the looters, except they didn’t really break any laws – the financial regulations were lifted by politicians, to allow growth.

    I still blame Thatcher though. And Reagan. And Tony Blair for finishing what they started.

  126. kristenmchugh22
    kristenmchugh22 August 10, 2011 at 10:28 am |

    There hasn’t been much made of the fact that Mark Duggan was found NOT to have fired at the police before he was killed.
    People seem to forget that that was the spark that lit the fuse on London. A firearms’ officer stopped the cab he was in, and without apparent cause, killed him. I love the UK, and I am horrified that there has been so much destruction and harm to people who have nothing to do with the socio-economic disparity and the classism (which operates differently than in US,) but there is a huge problem when mob mentality takes over in the public. Calling for blood, when the riots kicked off because of blood being spilled, only perpetuates a vicious circle that never addresses the problems.

  127. Natalie
    Natalie August 10, 2011 at 10:57 am |

    I think the reason that not much has been ‘much made of the fact that Mark Duggan was found NOT to have fired at the police before he was killed.’ is because a) that isn’t confirmed yet, and b) the riots have very little to do with the shooting. The rioters are just using it as an excuse to justify their actions and quite rightly I believe, the press are doing their best not to fuel that vindication.

  128. Natalie
    Natalie August 10, 2011 at 11:01 am |

    Don’t forget that we don’t have gun culture here in the UK, and anyone found to be carrying a firearm in a city is likely to find themselves in hotwater, let alone someone who raises suspicion in the middle of a targeted police sting.

    The IPCC have not ruled out that he fired his weapon – they have said that the bullet lodged in the police radio is police issue, but have not determined whether or not the gun in Mr Duggan’s possession was fired or not – that information requires further tests which could take another week.

    I don’t think anyone should be speculating on the shooting of Mr Duggan until the official report is published by the IPCC. Then the dissection and examination can begin. With any luck, it will be better than the Stephen Lawrence report.

  129. LC
    LC August 10, 2011 at 11:13 am |

    Nathalie, I threw in the bankers comment for a reason tied to what Matlun is saying… there are large segments of society that don’t feel bound to the rest of society. This is a problem, no matter how we got here.

  130. bfp
    bfp August 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    Natalie: One thing that struck me when I was trying to fall asleep last night was the feeling I’m getting from some of these posts that working in a menial job is degrading and humiliating.

    I’ll admit, its been a while since I’ve done a manual job for minimum wage, but I don’t get how it can be humiliating to be earning a living rather than having your money handed out to you? This is an honest question – I was brought up to believe in work, and that the shittiest job is better than no job at all.

    That’s interesting. You know, the United Farm Workers (a pro-immigrant/migrant worker union that organizes mostly immigrant/migrant farm workers) union just did a campaign inviting US citizens to come “take their jobs” in the fields. Because, as we’ve been repeatedly told, “illegals” are ‘taking the jobs of citizens.”

    Only a handful of workers followed through the entire process and went to work–and only a few of those handful of workers didn’t quit within weeks.

    It *matters* what job you work–just because some populations of people are *used* to generationally working unfulfilling, dangerous, low paying, dead end jobs, doesn’t mean that those jobs are better than no jobs at all.

    The best thing I ever did was quit the low paying job that I was getting sexually harassed and violated at and having constant asthma attacks at and go on welfare. Those “handouts” helped me to support my kids while I went to university so I could get a job that didn’t require me to work 80 weeks and through asthma attacks so that I could keep my health insurance and rat infested apartment.

    Do you understand what it means for a person and a community of people to know that those temp jobs that some people start with (or quit after 2 weeks because welfare is better than 100 degree heat, no bathrooms, and a wage that hasn’t increased in 30 years) are the jobs they will be working their entire lives? And that their children will be working at (and probably already have been since they were five or six) their entire lives?

    And please, I don’t want to hear about how “hard work” will get us out of working these jobs. In my community, an entire generation of parents *literally* gave up their lives so that the next generation could do something as simple as go to school. They *literally* worked themselves into the grave. I don’t think that’s nobel, I don’t think it’s a moral “value” that we should all admire–I think it’s violence that was committed against that generation, and the next generation who now feels like they have to work *themselves* into the ground to pay back blood of their parents.

    I’ll take welfare any day of the week and Sunday’s too to have my community’s health back, to have them all alive, all in one place, all safe, an all allowed to be who they want to be without fear that their children will go hungry.

  131. Natalie
    Natalie August 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm |

    bfp, you seem to be harbouring a lot of anger. I apologise if I am reading something where there is nothing, but all I did was ask a simple question because I was curious about the answer. I have a right to be treated with respect.

    You’re right bfp, what your community has experienced is violence. Structural violence is worse than direct physical violence because it is insipid and hidden. The USA is one of the worst offenders in the world for invisible structural violence.

    I appreciate that in the USA the welfare and social support situation is entirely different and I know very little about it.
    In the UK there is childcare support, health care, employment legislation. I apologise for not directing my question about work being degrading to specifically UK peeps, maybe I should have done because I’m not sure the impact of the labour market on the social contract is the same in the USA as in the UK, which renders some general theory impractical.

    (and why do people keep putting an ‘h’ in my name when it is written in front of them without one? It happens at work all the time!)

  132. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar August 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm |

    This perception Americans — white, middle class Americans — have about the possibility of upward mobility through hard work as a lot to do with historical cycles in the American experience. The US share of the world’s resources consumed rose pretty much continuously from the Civil War for more than 100 years. In that environment, while opportunities for upward mobility were always overstated, it’s a lot easier for people to find opportunities for material success through hard work, even while there remain social forces that thwart that path for many. In an environment where our position in the world is waning and the relative prosperity of the US against the world is declining, there’s no reason to believe that will be the case. There will always be a few Horatio Alger stories, but that’s not a basis for making public policy.

  133. DammitJanet
    DammitJanet August 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm |

    “I think it’s violence that was committed against that generation, and the next generation who now feels like they have to work *themselves* into the ground to pay back blood of their parents.”

    I just wanted to see this on the screen again because it’s brilliant.

    (Also, I see no disrespect in bfp’s response. Firm, yes. Impassioned, yes. Disrespectful? Come on. Don’t ask a “simple question” on a complicated subject if you aren’t prepared to listen to the answer.)

  134. bfp
    bfp August 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Natalie: bfp, you seem to be harbouring a lot of anger. I apologise if I am reading something where there is nothing, but all I did was ask a simple question because I was curious about the answer. I have a right to be treated with respect.

    I’m sorry, could you point to me where I was being disrespectful?

  135. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm |

    I have a right to be treated with respect.

    Well, it’s a good thing BFP wasn’t treating you with disrespect. Disagreement–even vehement disagreement–isn’t disrespect.

    I am saddened but no surprised that BFP’s and Yeny’s actual points haven’t been engaged, that they’ve been attacked and that BFP’s been treated to tone arguments.

    (And honestly? “You sound angry?” You sound like a lot of privileged dudes who try to shut down women who react to sexism. Maybe she is angry–has it occurred to you that it may be well justified given her experiences? And that maybe you’re coming off as somewhat patronizing?)

  136. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm |

    bfp for the win, as usual. Got. Damn, but you bring the truth.

    Also, kudos to LC for #127.

  137. Dawn
    Dawn August 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm |

    Could US folks please remember that the UK isn’t the USA.

    BFP,

    Do please explain to me then why I and others can’t get a job that immigrants turn down? I was willing and able to do it but was refused. It was a good job, accommodation, food, transport and wages and reserved only for immigrants (I had been homeless and could have used a job like that to get my life back on track). But apparently it was not good enough for the people supposedly so desperate to live here.

    I understand it can be hard for you and those around you, but as much as I agree with you that most American’s will not take a labouring job and thus nobody is taking jobs from them, those of us who will in the UK aren’t given that opportunity and the jobs are much better here.

  138. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 10, 2011 at 3:07 pm |

    Could US folks please remember that the UK isn’t the USA.

    There are people posting on this thread who are working class and British who are in agreement with BFP.

  139. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm |

    Also, BFP (as well as British commenters) answered a question about “what is so terrible about menial jobs” (something Yeny–who is British and lives in one of the neighborhoods affected–also addressed before the question was asked) and also addressed the poor-bashing rhetoric that got trotted out here–rhetoric that was used by UK commenters, and that US pundits use quite a lot as well.

  140. Yeny
    Yeny August 10, 2011 at 6:03 pm |

    Natalie- I don’t see where bfp is being disrespectful, honestly, I think she was a lot kinder to you than I would have been.
    I don’t feel the need to fully answer your question because a) bfp put it so much better and respectfully than I could and, b) your question is disingenuous to start with. ‘I don’t get how it can be humiliating to be earning a living rather than having your money handed out to you?’ Did you completely miss the part where even with my mum working 12 hours a day she still qualified and relied on benefits (or handouts as I’m sure you would prefer we called it) because the pay was that shit?! So in many cases it’s not a question of either/or, but rather doing a shitty job only to still have to rely on benefits.
    And for the love of all that is good, can we put to death the idea that here in the UK money is pouring down on people who need benefits!

  141. WestEndGirl
    WestEndGirl August 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm |

    bfp

    Ok, throw me in with the chorus of UK =/ USA

    “And please, I don’t want to hear about how “hard work” will get us out of working these jobs. In my community, an entire generation of parents *literally* gave up their lives so that the next generation could do something as simple as go to school. They *literally* worked themselves into the grave.”

    That is horrific.

    But it’s just not true in the same way for the UK. We have things like public health care, minimum wage legislation, mandated breaks as part of health & safety legislation, top up benefits. It’s just not as hard as system. I’ve seen the workers in NYC and I’m not too ashamed to say I couldn’t hack it there. It would be beyond me to work three jobs with no medical care, or childcare or anything. But the UK is not the USA.

    I’m a 2nd/3rd generation immigrant. My Bengali neighbours to the immediate left of me are arrivals (shop worker and council worker, their 1st gen children an opthalmologist, accountant); the neighbours to the immediate right of me, Indian arrivals (restaurant worker, then owner; 1st gen kids, one at a law firm, one at uni).

    Down my street mentally scanning, apart from the Indigenous Brits, Jews, Italians and some early Indian immigrants – everyone here is an arrival or first generation immigrant. Sri Lankan, Korean, Vietnamese, Iranian, Pakistani, Afro-Caribbean, Turkish Cypriot, African (Nigerian, Cameroonian), Russian, Taiwanese, Hong Kong, Polish, Bulgarian, Turkish Kurd, Greek Cypriot and etc etc.

    My Grandma beaded in the sweatshops of the East End til her eyes and her back went. My step-Grandpa got presser’s lung and died in his 50s. Back-breaking work is not always a dead end, it’s not even frequently a dead-end in London. Otherwise my street would be empty. And I wouldn’t be living on it either. And it’s a middle class street in a middle class neighbourhood, the vast majority owned, but also rented.

    ‘Menial’ work, back-breaking work is not noble or uplifting, but the idea that it *necessarily* gets you or the next generation nowhere – is just not true here. And the beautiful diversity of my neighbourhood is a thankful testament to the fact that that work can and does get paid back.

  142. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm |

    Thomas MacAulay Millar: This perception Americans — white, middle class Americans — have about the possibility of upward mobility through hard work as a lot to do with historical cycles in the American experience. The US share of the world’s resources consumed rose pretty much continuously from the Civil War for more than 100 years. In that environment, while opportunities for upward mobility were always overstated, it’s a lot easier for people to find opportunities for material success through hard work, even while there remain social forces that thwart that path for many. In an environment where our position in the world is waning and the relative prosperity of the US against the world is declining, there’s no reason to believe that will be the case. There will always be a few Horatio Alger stories, but that’s not a basis for making public policy.

    Its also based in Christian exceptionalism. Have you ever read a book called The Family. Very interesting and also disturbing.

  143. bfp
    bfp August 10, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    I am going to reiterate–I never said once that the UK, London, or anything outside of the US was like the US.

    What I *did* address is the highly negative attitudes towards poor people/working class people which has ranged from them being called “feral animals” to the incredulity that anybody could be happier getting handouts rather than working the worst jobs in the world on this thread and/or the other thread on the riots.

    The US and my situation in the US is not the same in the UK. But these attitudes–“how could you enjoy living on handouts?” and “feral animals!” and “why would they be complaining they have *everything*!” and “all they want to do is get money and murder people!” and “THEY THEY THEY THEY” never “us” or “we” and “you’re a *good* poor person, *our* poor people, on the other hand, have *everything* and *still* don’t want to work!” and “I’ve never had to live off of “hand outs” but it has to be *soooo* easy!” and “they won’t go to school! even tho we showed them! and we listened! and we helped!”–yeah, those are beliefs that seem to be everywhere about poor people.

    I don’t believe that there is a profoundly ungrateful lazy feral population of poor people in the UK any more than I believe that there is a Welfare Queen drug using lobster eating Thug population of poor people over here.

    I DO believe that the violences that poor people must live through are not easily solved by neoliberalism or conservatism of any kind. In a global system that requires poor people so that there can be rich people, things are vastly more complicated than “our poor people are treated too well!” or “our poor people are so ungrateful!” And those complicated problems are NOT going to be solved by calling people feral animals and then complaining when those feral animals don’t do what you tell them to do.

  144. Yeny
    Yeny August 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm |

    ‘‘Menial’ work, back-breaking work is not noble or uplifting, but the idea that it *necessarily* gets you or the next generation nowhere – is just not true here. And the beautiful diversity of my neighbourhood is a thankful testament to the fact that that work can and does get paid back.’

    Except for the many for which that is simply not true.

    How do I know it’s not true? Because I am the only one in my family and the all the neighbourhood kids I played with that got as far as going to Uni. But I guess it must just be because they’re all a bunch of lazy babymaking freeloaders, amirite?

    Or, you know, maybe it’s that you live in a better neighbourhood where there are better job opportunities, better schools, less teen pregnancies, less street crime,…etc.

  145. Yeny
    Yeny August 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm |

    Brilliant post bfp.
    My short reply to Westendgirl is in moderation, but I just wanted to point out how telling it is that so many know-it-all Brits have come on here to have a go at commenters like bfp and rant on and on about how the US isn’t the UK, but are unable to actually direct anything at me, the one Brit on here with actual experience of what it’s like living on benefits in a shitty neighbourhood, being intimidated by the police, having had racial abuse hurled at me and getting pregnant in my teens.
    It’s like I’m invisible. Funny that, considering that’s exactly the problem with our very British, very racist and classist society.

  146. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm |

    “How do I know it’s not true? Because I am the only one in my family and the all the neighbourhood kids I played with that got as far as going to Uni. But I guess it must just be because they’re all a bunch of lazy babymaking freeloaders, amirite?”

    In the neighborhood in which my cousins on my mother’s side grew up, the number of kids of our generation who went to university is zero. And there are neighborhoods like that all over the UK. In my extended family (so out of about 30 cousins etc), the number of university graduates in my generation is 2. I’m 37. If you include cousins who’re so much younger they’re more like nieces or nephews, it’s 4. And yet going back at least 3 generations that I’m aware of, most people in our family have been very smart and often at the very top of their class right until they left school. Like my dad did, at 15, to go work in a coal mine.

    So really, people like British Born, don’t give me this shit about how people from working class areas in the UK who don’t make it out are just lazy. Most people don’t make it out. A few people who are both exceptionally smart and exceptionally lucky do. But acting as if anyone could if they just tried harder is ridiculous.

  147. cartooncoyote
    cartooncoyote August 11, 2011 at 12:57 am |

    @55:

    I feel ashamed to be black today.

    Wow–I’ll bet other black people reading that are none too pleased to have you in the “club”, either. Especially when there are PLENTY of faces in the photos of looters evincing a distinct lack of melanin content.

    I will never vote Labour again. I will never vote Liberal. I’m done. The next vote I cast will be Tory or nothing.

    Why stop there? If you’re really “ashamed to be black”, get a skin bleaching and vote BNP. Go for the gold, I say!

  148. Natalie
    Natalie August 11, 2011 at 4:50 am |

    Yeny: Natalie- I don’t see where bfp is being disrespectful, honestly, I think she was a lot kinder to you than I would have been.I don’t feel the need to fully answer your question because a) bfp put it so much better and respectfully than I could and, b) your question is disingenuous to start with. ‘I don’t get how it can be humiliating to be earning a living rather than having your money handed out to you?’ Did you completely miss the part where even with my mum working 12 hours a day she still qualified and relied on benefits (or handouts as I’m sure you would prefer we called it) because the pay was that shit?! So in many cases it’s not a question of either/or, but rather doing a shitty job only to still have to rely on benefits.And for the love of all that is good, can we put to death the idea that here in the UK money is pouring down on people who need benefits!

    It was an open question without prejudice thank you very much. Your experiences are the experiences of 1 person. Of 1 neighbourhood. You can no more speak for the social system as a whole in the UK than I can, which is why I am not. And have not. I have merely put across my opinion which is based on the experiences around me, as I alluded to in a later post, and the education I have had and still have.

    I say I don’t get it, because I don’t. I would like someone to explain to me. Surely it is not disingenuous for me to want to expand my knowledge beyond my own basis of experience through the input and opinion of others? Otherwise how will I learn?

    I have a curiosity about the assertion that doing menial work is humiliating and degrading, particularly in the UK, where, as WestEndGirl says, we have employment legislation, health care, etc. Not because I believe there is a ‘feckless underclass’ as suggested by 1970s Conservatives, or that everybody who lives on benefits ‘enjoys’ that situation, but because the environment I grew up in, working was always the preference to being on benefits.

  149. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 11, 2011 at 5:25 am |

    I say I don’t get it, because I don’t. I would like someone to explain to me. Surely it is not disingenuous for me to want to expand my knowledge beyond my own basis of experience through the input and opinion of others? Otherwise how will I learn?

    You’ve had three people–two of them British and living in those communities–explain it to you. And they’re putting forth their opinion based on their personal experience. And you completely discounted it, told Yeny it was only ONE example, and sniffed that she can’t speak for the whole social system. Look, either you want to hear what people have to say or you don’t, but don’t ask for answers, declare they aren’t good enough when you get them, and then say with wide-eyed innocence that you’re only trying to educate yourself.

  150. Ashley
    Ashley August 11, 2011 at 6:07 am |

    The stuff about the UK not being the same as the US strikes me as sort of similar to arguments from Americans about how poor Americans shouldn’t complain because it’s so WONDERFUL to be an American, and they just lack perspective on how lucky they are. Whenever racism or class-based oppression is pointed out, we hear about someone poorer somewhere else, not here. When we complain about sexism, we hear about the women somewhere else, not here. Somehow this is meant to negate any suffering that isn’t the WORST suffering. It’s a rhetorical trick, designed to avoid the truth being told.

    I’ve lived in the UK. I’ve lived in the US. I’ve lived in Ireland. Capitalism is capitalism. It is more out of control in the US, but I still saw a lot of lives wasted and destroyed by poverty and a lack of class mobility in Ireland and the UK. And the overt racism in Europe blew me away. It was far beyond what I’ve seen in America, and America is pretty racist.

    Extremely simplistically, there are two stereotypical interpretations:
    [A] These people are just feral scum.
    [B] They are oppressed people lashing out in their desperation.

    I’ve often thought that the basic difference between pro-oppression arguments and anti-oppression arguments is that people who are against oppression wonder why people do things, and why things are the way they are, and we think that all actions have causes. Those who think kyriarchically think people accomplish things, fail to accomplish things, do violence, become drug addicts, or whatever it is, because of some innate quality within them. People are viewed as these concrete, unchanging entities who are permanently “good” or “bad.” I think that’s why they freak out whenever we try to figure out why someone did something bad. So even if we repeat a million times that we think rioting is a bad thing to do, they think that by trying to understand rioters, we’re trying to put their actions, and therefore the people, into the “good” category. That’s disruptive to their entire worldview in what I imagine is a pretty disconcerting way. But people who aren’t thinking kyriarchically generally think of people in more subtle terms, and are capable of thinking rioting is bad while simultaneously thinking that rioting may have a variety of reasons behind it. I can’t speak for others, but I think of everyone as basically good, and I think people do bad things for reasons. If we want to stop people from doing bad things, we need to understand their reasons for doing them.

  151. matlun
    matlun August 11, 2011 at 7:02 am |

    @Ashley: I would say both [A] and [B] in my original comment are so overly simplified views that they are pretty much useless.

    I do not believe that everyone is basically good. (For example: Can you really make this argument for the guys discussed in the “race card” post?)

    IMO some people are just “bad” beyond any practical possibility of rehabilitation. Even for these people there are often identifiable reasons, but they should be removed from society and locked up.

    I think the big factor is not whether you are “thinking kyriarchically”, since many feminists also have an exaggerated belief in group dynamics and analysis. Whether you do exaggerated generalizations for “chavs” (right winger) or “men” (feminist) is in principle the same problem. In many cases group analysis can be useful to understand society, but it is a simplified model that does not give the full picture.

    The critical factor IMO is whether you are prepared to accept complexity and uncertainty. Do you feel comfortable admitting that you often do not fully understand the world around you?

  152. Yeny
    Yeny August 11, 2011 at 7:02 am |

    I’m grateful that there are people like Sheelzebub, CassandraSays and bfp on this thread. and apologies to you CassandraSays for erasing your voice in my last comment. I’m pretty sure I would have given up on the this thread if it weren’t for you guys and others who have approached this topic with some nuance.
    Natalie- I know you want to believe that the laws in place in the UK protect workers from any kind of exploitation, but my mum worked for 8 years in a company in which she never got to have a day’s paid holiday leave, and since english isn’t her first language, and I was too young to even know about what her rights were, she never complained.

    Also petpluto’s comment (no. 114) is an incredibly accurate account of what it’s like for cleaners like my mum, but I would add that many (not all) of the people my mum is cleaning up for who see her everyday and know who she is just throw rubbish on the floor because the cleaner will deal with it, they pick their nose and wipe it on the wall, because the cleaner will deal with it, they spit into cups and leave it, because the cleaner will deal with it, they wipe their shit covered hands on the wall when they run out of toilet paper, because the cleaner will deal with it. These same people are frothing at the mouth to call rioters feral animals.

  153. Dawn
    Dawn August 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm |

    @Yeny,

    Thanks for discounting me, only difference between us is that I didn’t get pregnant. I grew up in a council sinkhole estate, I was poor, half starved, and heavily abused as a child. Just because I disagree with the noble downtrodden poor ideal doesn’t mean I’ve never been poor or downtrodden, in fact it’s because I have that I so disagree with it. Nobody screws over poor people like other poor people, I mean why wait for the rich folks to stomp all over us, we can do it ourselves better than anybody, tear down anyone who wants to leave, if you can’t do that, get em pregnant or drug addicted even if you have to do it via force.

    Dreams? How dare you have them, you’re poor and you’re going to stay that way, so saith the council estate people. If oppression and classism vanished tomorrow, poverty wouldn’t disappear because there will always be people who don’t want to move up and who won’t let anyone else do so without a fight.

    As for everyone else?

    Nobody is saying “X is worse/Y is worse”, just that you can’t apply the situation in the US to the UK. It’s different, comparing the two is like comparing the climate in France to the climate in Brazil. There might be some similarities but there’s going to be more differences.

    The fact is it really doesn’t matter what the motivations of the rioting people are, they’re not going to all be oppressed and suffering, some of them will certainly be the types who revel in being lawless. What does matter is the people they’ve hurt and the livelihoods they’ve destroyed, why should people who already struggle suffer because of these people.

    Since when is the answer to oppression to oppress others? Should disabled people riot, loot and burn houses because of disablism? Should PoC riot, loot and burn houses because of racism? Even if it stopped social inequality, would the ends justify the means?

    Why doesn’t matter really. The real question is what are the social inequalities, how can they be addressed and what should we do about it?

  154. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm |

    “Since when is the answer to oppression to oppress others? Should disabled people riot, loot and burn houses because of disablism? Should PoC riot, loot and burn houses because of racism? Even if it stopped social inequality, would the ends justify the means?

    Isn’t it a good thing that Yeny, BFP, I, and others didn’t condone any of those acts, then!

    Why doesn’t matter really. The real question is what are the social inequalities, how can they be addressed and what should we do about it?

    Which is what we’ve been saying. Which has been roundly ignored.

  155. Yeny
    Yeny August 11, 2011 at 6:22 pm |

    Dawn- sorry that it seems as if I just discounted your view, but it makes me somewhat weary when I hear the well-worn narrative of immigrants taking national’s jobs, considering both my parents were immigrants. I would, however, be incredibly interested in knowing about these jobs that are set aside for immigrants that provide accommodation, food, transport and wages- that’s not sarcasm at all, it would really help some people I know who are having difficulty finding any job that provides even half of that.
    I have to disagree that anyone here is putting forward a ‘noble downtrodden poor ideal’. What we are arguing is that poor people are not stereotypes -i.e, lazy freeloaders, or the more recent- feral animals. We are human beings with all the complexity that brings. Some of us are lazy, and some of us are indeed criminals, but that’s not all we are. And just because mainly the criminality was on display during these riots, it does not mean that 1) all disadvantaged people are in the position they are in because they are like the rioters; or 2) not all disadvantaged people joined in so then it couldn’t possibly be tied to greater social ills.

    The reality is that amoung the people for whom poverty is a reality sometimes even the really hard workers, the kind that put their head down and do the grunt work without complaint until they can barely walk anymore, even those people sometimes aren’t able to make it out. Social mobility isn’t just handed on a plate comprised of benefits. And I object to the idea that if you are poor you have to be perfect in everyway to make it out- something which is not true of many middle class students I met at Uni and their tax dodging parents, some of whom were earning over £100,000 per yr.

    And what I really object to above all is that things like having children when you’re young, or suffering any disability, but in particular an ‘invisible’ disability like depression, or having an addiction, mean that our society believes you don’t deserve a better life for yourself or your children.

  156. Dawn
    Dawn August 12, 2011 at 10:55 am |

    @Yeny,

    One of the big problems is that there are people who meet those stereotypes. I was -hated- on my estate because I didn’t sleep around, said I wanted to go to university, got good grades, and generally kept my eyes on the prize.

    Basically I was targeted because I wanted more than three babies by different men and a lifetime on benefits.

    I am also disabled. That’s why although I made it out of that hellhole of an estate, I’m still poor and struggling with social issues, I get that it’s more complicated but overwhelmingly most of the people I knew in that hellhole were there because they were the stereotype. It didn’t come from nothing unfortunately.

    The jobs thing was a few years back down here in Bedfordshire, basically they set up these jobs for immigrants, that included accommodation, wages, food and transport, it was fruit picking, I used to do it myself and similar jobs before my disability started to really affect me. They were offered to a new group of immigrants who came in, they turned their noses up at it, demanded to be put in a four star hotel and rioted when their demands were not met. Nobody ever took those jobs, so really whenever someone talks about “immigrants do the jobs we won’t”, I think of that first. It isn’t the only example, we had a factory here where the workers were basically told “We’re making you redundant to replace you with cheaper immigrant labour”, most insulting thing was they had to train their replacements.

    It’s true that sometimes immigrants do jobs people here won’t do because it’s dangerous or unpleasant work, but equally well there are times when entire factories are put out of work to be replaced with immigrant labour because it’s cheaper.

    Where I am there’s a major shortage of jobs, and most of the jobs are increasingly being taken by immigrants, migrant workers or students. These are jobs that there are people here willing to work but we simply can’t compete with someone who can work for half of minimum wage because they pay bugger all in taxes to their government.

    There’s more than one side to any issue, and stereotypes don’t always exist in a vacuum.

  157. Yeny
    Yeny August 13, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    One of the big problems is that there are people who meet those stereotypes. I was -hated- on my estate because I didn’t sleep around, said I wanted to go to university, got good grades, and generally kept my eyes on the prize.

    Basically I was targeted because I wanted more than three babies by different men and a lifetime on benefits.

    Dawn, I know it’s shitty growing up in an estate, but I find your characterisation of women living in poverty ‘wanting more than three babies by different men’ to be slutshaming bullshit. Also, I believe it is really important to be sceptical of stereotypes since they are subject to confirmation bias, and as such, they tend to reinforce the reality they supposedly only reflect. I think it should be pretty obvious for a feminist (which I assume you are since you’re on feministe, but correct me if I am wrong) that there have been plenty of steretypes about women e.g., we’re irrational and emotional, that have been used to justify our oppression.

    Where I am there’s a major shortage of jobs, and most of the jobs are increasingly being taken by immigrants, migrant workers or students. These are jobs that there are people here willing to work but we simply can’t compete with someone who can work for half of minimum wage because they pay bugger all in taxes to their government.’

    It seems to me the problem is not immigrants, but rather the unscruplous companies that pay less than the minimum wage. In which case your ire is directed at the wrong people, in fact, it’s directed at some of the poorest people: those earning less than minimum wage. Is this not exactly what you are complaining about- poor people willing to tear each other down? Then, perhaps you should consider the way in which you appear to be living up to your own stereotype.

  158. Dawn
    Dawn August 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm |

    @Yeny,

    Many of them openly said so, personally I think people should be free to be as sexual as they want, I however draw the line when some women beats the crap out of me because I show no interest in men, sex or babies and my lack of interest somehow threatens her.

    I tend to take people at their word so when they say they want babies but not the men because they’ll “get more money that way”.

    I am a feminist, but I also have scars from where I’ve dealt with exactly the type of women who aren’t feminists, the kind who do slut shame and who usually do it to women whose only crime is being different. There is no noble downtrodden poor in hellhole estates, only people wallowing in the mud and the few who head for the ladder, they try to drag back in because their contentment with their lives doesn’t extend to understanding that not everyone wants that life and thus we are a threat because our rejection of that is seen as a criticism of it by them.

    Our immigrants aren’t “poor people”, they’re coming from other EU countries mostly, and they make plenty of money because A: Our minimum wage is higher than the wages in their home countries and the cost of living is much lower, and B: They get absurd tax breaks, that’s why they can afford to work for minimum wage.

    An immigrant can come here, work for a couple of months and make enough to live comfortably for the rest of the year back home, while people who are here and willing to do the job subsist on a far lesser amount and live with higher living costs, our poor people can’t afford to go to their countries to find jobs and even if they did, they would barely make enough to support themselves.

    Why should I champion someone who is de-stablizing our job’s market entirely? There are poor people here who don’t have any opportunities because of these people and the damage being done is long term.

    It would be one thing if the job’s market was able to sustain this undercutting but it’s not and when people here are suffering hardship because it’s being done so much, then I think we have a problem.

    There isn’t just one side to this issue.

  159. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm |

    Dawn, I find it ironic that you spew rhetoric that feeds into racist and classist stereotypes, complain about immigrants, insist that some people live up to these stereotypes, and then lecture us on other threads about intersectionality.

    I don’t care that you knew people who acted like the stereotype. If I said the same thing about a mentally ill person, you’d flip your shit. Yet it seems just fine for you to spew hateful, bigoted, vile garbage (like others on this thread who go off on feral children and ZOMG scary Black people when it turns out most of those rioters were actually well-off WHITES).

    Own your own shit.

  160. Dawn
    Dawn August 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |

    @Sheelzebub,

    Life isn’t a neat series of stereotypes. It’s all very well to talk about social justice but as you and others have proved, social justice requires everyone be willing to give a little, I’ve had more taken from me than most and as a result tend to be rather irked at being asked to give yet more to people who are better off than I have ever been, I see as little give in many of the groups who are designated victims of the system as I do in the big bads.

    If there was the money to give everyone what they want, it would be great but we can’t do that. Yes, there are plenty of hardworking poor people, there are people who deal with racism and other isms in poor areas, there are also thugs who deal out a lot of that shit as well in there.

    As much as I want to take a clue by four to the nearest upper class person responsible for some of this shit, I know that they have plenty of help from the “down trodden” to keep the status quo.

    I never said anything about race, most of our immigrants are white actually. I had no issue with immigration, however the biggest issue is the amount we’re getting, it’s putting pressure on a very small area. Immigration really needs to be more spread out. Immigration can be a boost to an economy, it can also destroy it which hurts many more people than the few turned away to protect the economy.

    What the UK is facing isn’t something we can lay in front of any one type of person or blame on any one issue. It’s a combination of issues spread across all levels of society, it requires an answer from all levels. Somewhere along the way, people forgot that a society is strongest working in concert and everyone started to demand more for their share. Some of us are being ground into poverty by this, I live way below the poverty line, and I’m not alone.

    And then people come in with their nice little boxes and tell us what we can and can’t think about problems we face daily because you all know better, we’ve been facing these problems for decades but someone a thousand miles away clearly knows better than us.

    I don’t pretend to have the answer but at least I know we’re all to blame for the problem.

  161. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |

    Hey, Dawn! Thanks for the hypocrisy. I mean, here you are, spewing more of that bullshit while lecturing women of color in other threads about intersectionality.

    No, people don’t fit into neat little boxes. Yet you act as if they do–as if every woman who disagreed with you had TAB privilege, who is NT or “sane” or who never had to deal with abelism, ever. Yet their opinions don’t count. (I mean, you didn’t like people assuming you were white or middle class.)

    And you’ve had “more taken from you” than most? Oh, holy fucking shit. That, with your immigrant bashing, is just rich.

    Seriously, shut the fuck up the next time you deign to lecture Yeny, BFP, Rare Vos, Miss S., Annaleigh or anyone else about ableism. You’re not willing to own your own shit–you quite blithely made comments that played into racist and classist tropes (about women having children with multiple fathers, people expecting handouts, immigrants getting everything, stereotypes not existing in a vacuum). You’re blaming immigrants and poor people for your poverty? Oh, that’s rich.

    Before you stomp your feet and derail threads and lecture anyone else about ableism or intersectionality, you should check your own fuckups. They are legion.

    Everything you have said can and has been said about the disabled–they get all these benefits, they get all kinds of leeway, they’re dangerous, we’re expected to support them, fakers, etc. I’ve heard people whine that people on disability get all these benefits! And free housing! And they can’t expect me to keep giving to this when I’m struggling myself! Yet you’re fine with spewing this same rhetoric against other people who don’t have a lot of power (despite what you say). It’s not as if Yeny’s mother isn’t an immigrant and working a shitty job (and affected by this kind of rhetoric).

    So really? Given your behavior and your hypocrisy, you have zero credibility.

  162. Dawn
    Dawn August 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |

    @sheezlebub,

    If they don’t then they’re usually the types who’ve internalised oppression, and seriously sometimes people are oppressive towards people they share a group with because those people don’t share a second group with them.

    As I said, I live well below the poverty line, most of the thugs I grew up with are better off.

    It isn’t just the rich folks, the problems spread throughout society, it’s more than just stereotypes and black and white issues. Asshole isn’t something limited to race, ability, gender, sex, class, income or anything else.

    No, I’m blaming a lot of issues including ignorant assholes for my problems. I wasn’t mentally ill until I was seriously mistreated by the same type of people folks like you try to say are victims of poverty. Nobody is ever just one type of person, sometimes victims are the architects of their fate and the fates of others, there’s more to it than extreme right and extreme left views.

    Most of the disabled don’t get benefits, if you knew anything you’d know that most disabled live well below the poverty line and on average receive little to no help thanks to ten years of crackdown on us.

    Well personally I hope that Yeny’s mother finds a better job and gets the support she needs to improve her life, I’m not against immigrants, I’m against bad immigration policy and against amoral assholes who ruin it for the hardworking ones who give our economy a boost.

    My whole point is you can’t boil these issues down to black and white, either version misses the good or the bad in the situation. Ideally yes, everyone who came in would be a hardworking bonus to the community and they’d be spread out enough that everyone benefits instead of work deserts being created which harm all the hardworkers, but this isn’t an ideal world and we need a balance to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.

  163. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |

    If they don’t then they’re usually the types who’ve internalised oppression, and seriously sometimes people are oppressive towards people they share a group with because those people don’t share a second group with them.

    Sort of like how you’ve been on every thread in this blog.

  164. Dawn
    Dawn August 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm |

    @sheelzebub,

    That’s your perspective, mine is the same but in reverse, I have seen so many hurtful incidents on here, that I’m honestly pressed to think of any of you as social champions because your championing seems contingent on “so long as you don’t disturb the privilege/internalised disablism of posters”.

    Problems like the riots aren’t as simplistic as many of you seem to think. I grew up cheek by jowl with the type of people you defend, I saw good and I saw bad. Societies problems aren’t something you can fix with just good intentions, and perhaps a bit of power.

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