Opinion: Only a child would expect the answer that “people are doing this because they’re bad.”
By Sam (NCAG)
According to a well known anecdote, a German officer visited Picasso in his Paris studio during the Second World War. There he saw Guernica and asked Picasso “did you do this?”
Picasso calmly replied: “no You did this!”
Today, when asked “did you do this? did you want this,?” we must respond – NO you did this, this is the true result of your politics.”
– Slavoj Zizek.
A man was killed in London, the next day a 16 year old girl was beated down to the ground by 15 police officers. Then for the next four nights London burned. People stole things, fought between themselves, others and the police, and generally trashed the city they lived in. And there is no doubt that most of the rioters had no political intent in their actions.
While the arguments on Facebook, in the pub, and on the streets was obviously divided and passionate, the arguments in the papers and from the mouths of politicians were all exactly the same formulated phrases.
The politicians answer has the benefit of simplicity. It states that these riots were the result of bad people doing bad things. That there is a class of people who are sad, bad, and nasty to know. These people have to be beaten into line. These people are responsible, the city burns because human nature is bad. But this answer is in no way satisfying. What’s really annoying people is that none of this makes sense. Only a child would expect the answer that “people are doing this because they’re bad.”
If that’s the case we have to ask some questions – why did they start being bad today? Why are we better than them? Are we better than them? If people are bad does it make sense to give certain members of our society guns and call them cops? Also if these people are bad, why have those who are better not managed to improve them yet?
There are so many questions that come from this seemingly simple answer, but the problem is that its completely wrong – people are social, it takes a lot of violence to make people riot.
“When liberty comes with hands dabbled in blood it is hard to shake hands with her.”
– Oscar Wilde
The problem is the fundamental way that we look at these protests. It’s not true to see this as a sudden outbreak of violence in an otherwise peaceful society. Rather this is the most obvious face of the constant violence in society. Not only do the poorest in London live a decade less than the more wealthy, not only do thousands die because of accidents at work that are due to the profit motive, but also alternately the fact that most people have no control over their lives. There ability to pay each months rent is questionable. Their ability to live is dependant on their boss, the police, any number of loan sharks or petty council officials. All of this is an act of violence.
Parents see their children denied educational opportunities, life stolen from them, constant poverty and uncertainty. Those who argue that these poor people are not poor enough- you can just fuck off. Whatever other objections you have – these areas are poor, these people are isolated from society.
If they weren’t rioting there would be something wrong. As long as the power to legislate, to pay and to dominate, is in the hands of a tiny minority, then violence will always happen.
To liberals, who claim to sympathies, to see the people at the bottom and see that they need “help”, to the people who condemn the riots as detracting from the work of making real change – to these people we have a simple message.
For over 100 years we’ve tried things your way, tinkering at the edges. Messing around. Don’t you think that if all society needed was a slight change in the tax regime, a few thousand more council houses, and ethical shopping that we’d have done so already? The real reason you condemn these riots is you don’t want anyone getting your ‘ivory towers’ messy.
What we have seen with these riots is the immune system of our society starting to kick back into action. In the same way as vomiting when you’re ill isn’t pleasant, but is necessary for the process of getting well, so it is with the riots. (If you were to over extended the simile then the clean up crews are like the friend that helps you into bed, nice and every thing but not really part of the solution).
What the ruling elites and all those who are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome are really objecting to is that these riots were effectively society rejecting the civilisation we have built up. The work of western capitalism has been judged and found wanting, and it is this that is the greatest insult to our lords and masters.
Obviously there is much work to be done. Raising money for the normal people who have lost their homes and places of work, explaining what these riots really mean, and building the alternative to all of this.
But there is also reason enough to perhaps smile a little. In some places the riots have found the real enemy. And who knows, maybe somewhere in some mountain range the branch of Al Queda that deals with the UK is shutting up shop, as a year of Tory policies has done much more than any terrorist could ever hope to do.
But most importantly if we can teach the police that every time they murder a man, and beat up a child, London burns, then a small victory at least has been achieved.