Everyone can be a riot expert if they only try!

There’s been a spate of people on TV reminding us that not all large scale public disorder events are mindless, looting fests; sometimes they are politically motivated.
 
Whilst this is of course true, it’s wrong to infer that because there are people in the UK with urgent and legitimate complaint, the recent UK riots are some sort of expression of anything other than smash and grab on a large scale.
 
People can tell the difference, you can tell the difference.
 
If there is some great divide between the rioting class and the working class, it has only been better defined by the riots. 
 
The targets have been the weak, the defenceless and shops where local people earn their money in order to afford the things that the looters just took.  No government offices were destroyed no benefit offices or job centres we’re razed to the ground.
 
I saw a picture of a young man setting out his ‘loot’ on the table for a facebook picture.  His choices weren’t those of a man trapped in poverty.  In order to enjoy the many Blu-Ray discs, he would need to already own a blu ray player and an HDMI TV.  I would need convincing of his motives being anything more complex than a want for free stuff coupled with a reduced likelihood of capture.  He didn’t look “angry” and he certainly won’t be bored now.
 
By not discriminating, by judging all riots to be equivalent, we are justifying mindless, childish rampages and weakening real protest.  Look at the behaviour and policing of the student protests verses that of the riots – who should have been ‘kettled’ and who should have been allowed to roam through the streets?
 
The desire to believe that we not just apes, that civility and reason are ingrained in all of us is confusing a lot of commentators.  The want to see hidden meaning in actions, such as the idea that the boredom that comes from having a youth centre closed is some sort of justification for arson and burglary, is just political opportunism.
 
The elitism of self appointed social commentators is obvious and equally underhanded.  Seeing experts within hours of the riots starting to pronounce on the underlying issues and solutions should arouse suspicion instantly.  Complicated sets of motives aren’t things that unite large numbers of individuals.  Simple motives and basic desires can though.  That’s why there was no organisation; it wasn’t needed.
 
What the government should do is to apply the law as it currently stands and apply it to all; from tax dodgers to looters..  No draconian punishments or new laws.  If you want these people to ‘join in’ more and vote and get jobs and get involved in society of any size then don’t make prisons harsher, make freedom more pleasant.  Make joining in more rewarding than choosing exile from the rest of us.  Treat actual protests like free citizens protesting their government and stop believing you’re there to achieve anything other than the best for your constituents.

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Tags: London, UK, riots

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Comment by Steph S. on August 11, 2011 at 10:15pm
Thanks for the post.  Rioting can be caused by other reasons other than mindless looting fests, (like you said).  I remember the Rodney King riot that happened because of police brutality. And I agree that sometimes they are politically motivated. Also, Andrea has a good point about riots caused by losing championship games in sporting events.
Comment by Darren Taggart on August 11, 2011 at 12:58am
Totally - and yet you never hear the commentators saying that the post sports riot must be due to some underlying social cause beyond the our entirely over-evolved herd mentality! "He started it" is the only one that beats "Well everyone else was doing it..." in the list of human group action. Political parties wouldn't get started without it.

I think that the only way to beat it is to accept that it's a driver in all of us; American and Briton alike, and then learn to control it as we have with all the other 'selfish genes', to paraphrase the great man himself.
Comment by Atheist Andrea on August 10, 2011 at 7:11pm
The worst is rioting after a championship in sports is won. For example, the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in Canada and then Bostonians have the urge to upturn cars and smash windows in their own city. It doesn't always need to be about government outrage as we have seen. It is mass robbery and theft because the odds are good that someone else will be captured and beat with a billie club.
Comment by Daniel W on August 10, 2011 at 8:13am
The probably uninformed impression that many Americans have about UK is that it's so civilized - rampant breakdown of social mores just isn't conceivable.  Now it seems like people in London are acting like Americans - seems pretty shocking.  Makes me wonder which is worse - my stereotype of Americans being lawless narcissists, or my stereotype of Europeans being law abiding ideal citizens.  Both, of course, are flawed generalizations.

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