London Riots: Combing Through The Aftermath
Riots And Looting Are Symptoms Of Deep Societal Problems, But What, Exactly, Is The Malady
London Road after the riots ended. Image by GeorgeRexTA and used under terms of Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0 License.
By John Monahan
Special For Modern Times Magazine
Aug. 17, 2011 — When masses take to the streets in big cities, something is wrong.
The difficult part, though, is knowing exactly who is at fault and how to fix it.
In the aftermath of the 2011 London Riots last week, there is a lot of finger pointing going on. The polarizations of the times have again come to the fore on this issue, which is especially ironic since that might be one cause of the riots. On one side stood those who claimed the events in London last week are a manifestation of the degradation of the society that won World War II. British Prime Minister David Cameron identified the "slow-motion moral collapse" as the cause. Interpreted, Cameron is saying that the loss of a Christian, god-fearing moral attitude defined by the attitudes of the 1950s spurred heathens to take to the streets.
"Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face," Cameron was quoted by the BBC. “Now, just as people wanted criminals robustly confronted on our street, so they want to see these problems taken on and defeated. Our security fightback must be matched by a social fightback. We must fight back against the attitudes and assumptions that have brought parts of our society to this shocking state."
Ironically, those who tried to defend the looters also cited morality as the cause for the breakdown that caused of the riots. The masses, though, are claiming the Christian, god-fearing attitudes of the past have spurned hypocrites of biblical proportions: folks who claim to take a Christian, moral high ground while at the same time fleece whomever they can for as much as they can.
That perspective might have been best summed up by a posting from fan of the trip-hop duo Massive Attack.
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war ... our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off,” the post read.
While that post brings to mind the rantings of Tyler Durden in Fight Club, Massive Attack was a bit more blunt, blaming corrupt governments and corporations for destroying the middle class way of life that was a hallmark of British and western civilization.
“With the complicit support of the government, the banks looted the nation’s wealth while destroying countless small businesses and brought the whole economy to its knees in a covert, clean manner, rather like organised crime. These kids would have to riot and steal every night for a year to run up a bill equivalent to the value of non-paid tax big business has ‘avoided’ out of the economy this year alone. They may not articulate their grievances like the politicians that condemn them but this is absolutely political… It’s mad, sad and scary when we have to take to the streets to defend our homes and businesses from angry thieving kids, but where are the police and what justice is ever done when the mob is dressed in pinstripe?” the post read, in part.
Although Massive Attack was talking about the events in the UK, it is arguable that viewpoints expressed both by Cameron and Massive Attack — as examples of the two dominant viewpoints on the riots — are firmly held on the other side of the pond as well.
The only difference between what happened in Britain and the current situation in the U.S. is that the discontent is still simmering here and has not exploded into the streets. But the culture war has also been festering in the U.S. — just as Cameron said about his nation — for decades.
The U.S. is now split politically and those political barriers are becoming more and more based upon moral and religious lines. The republican party has become the torch bearer for elimination of all social programs enacted in the last century as well as the protector of what they see as Christian morality. You either believe in the party and religious line or you can get the hell out and be a democrat.
Democrats, on the other hand, are a generally unorganized rabble — much like the rioters in London — and fewer percentage of them would align themselves with hardcore religious groups.
The bottom line, though, is that opportunity is waning. Younger generations are faced with not achieving as well as their parents and that the gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen.
Until that trend is stymied, uprisings will become more and more likely.
How much is enough?
John Monahan is a freelance writer living in Connecticut.