by John Hawkins | August 10, 2011 4:21 am
“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” — Hosea 8:7
Brendan O’Neill, who’s a lefty, has an absolutely fascinating take on the British Riots. That’s not just because there’s a lot of merit to it, but because as a left-winger, he’s speaking out against his own side’s policies by pointing out the truth.
What we have on the streets of London and elsewhere are welfare-state mobs. The youth who are ‘rising up’ — actually they are simply shattering their own communities — represent a generation that has been more suckled by the state than any generation before it. They live in those urban territories where the sharp-elbowed intrusion of the welfare state over the past 30 years has pushed aside older ideals of self-reliance and community spirit. The march of the welfare state into every aspect of less well-off urban people’s existences, from their financial wellbeing to their childrearing habits and even into their emotional lives, with the rise of therapeutic welfarism designed to ensure that the poor remain ‘mentally fit’, has helped to undermine such things as individual resourcefulness and social bonding. The anti-social youthful rioters look to me like the end product of such an anti-social system of state intervention.
The most striking thing about the rioters is how little they seem to care for their own communities. You don’t have to be a right-winger with helmet hair and a niggling discomfort with black or chavvy yoof (I am the opposite of that) to recognise that this violence is not political, just criminal. It is entertaining to watch the political contortionism of those commentators who claim that the riots are an uprising against the evils of capitalism, as they struggle to explain why the targets thus far have been Foot Locker sports shops, electrical goods shops, takeaway joints and bus-stops, and why the only ‘gains’ made by the rioters have been to get a new pair of trainers or an Apple laptop. In past episodes of rioting, for example during the Brixton race riots of 1981, looting and the destruction of local infrastructure were largely incidental to the broader expression of political anger, byproducts of the main show, which was a clash between a community and the forces of the state. But in these new riots, smashing stuff up is all there is. It is childish nihilism.
…But it’s more than childish destructiveness motivating the rioters. At a more fundamental level, these are youngsters who are uniquely alienated from the communities they grew up in. Nurtured in large part by the welfare state, financially, physically and educationally, socialised more by the agents of welfarism than by their own neighbours or community representatives, these youth have little moral or emotional attachment to the areas they grew up in. Their rioting reveals, not that Britain is in a time warp back to 1981 or 1985 when there were politically motivated, anti-racist riots against the police, but rather that the tentacle-like spread of the welfare state into every area of people’s lives has utterly zapped old social bonds, the relationship of sharing and solidarity that once existed in working-class communities. In communities that are made dependent upon the state, people are less inclined to depend on each other or on their own social wherewithal. We have a saying in Britain for people who undermine their own living quarters — we call it ‘sh*tting on your own doorstep’. And this rioting suggests that the welfare state has given rise to a generation perfectly happy to do that.
…This is not a political rebellion; it is a mollycoddled mob, a riotous expression of carelessness for one’s own community. And as a left-winger, I refuse to celebrate nihilistic behaviour that has a profoundly negative impact on working people’s lives.
…There is one more important part to this story: the reaction of the cops. Their inability to handle the riots effectively reveals the extent to which the British police are far better adapted to consensual policing than conflictual policing. It also demonstrates how far they have been paralysed in our era of the politics of victimhood, where virtually no police activity fails to get followed up by a complaint or a legal case. Their kid-glove approach to the rioters of course only fuels the riots, because as one observer put it, when the rioters ‘see that the police cannot control the situation, [that] leads to a sort of adrenalin-fuelled euphoria’. So this street violence was largely ignited by the excesses of the welfare state and was then intensified by the discombobulation of the police state. In this sense, it reveals something very telling, and quite depressing, about modern Britain.
Widescale rioting can happen for a lot of different reasons, but O’Neill seems to be absolutely spot on about the causes of rioting in Britain.
Consider the environment the Left has created in Britain. On the one hand, even compared to us, they have an extraordinarily generous welfare state. Combine that with the Left’s demonization of nationalism and patriotism that has reduced people’s love of community and country — a place where owning guns is illegal, Christianity is dying, and there’s an ineffective police force that can come down harshly on victims who try to fight back against crime. Throw in an economic downturn, high unemployment, and a government that doesn’t have as much money to hand out as it used to and suddenly you have roaming gangs of godless thugs who’ve been taught that they live in a lousy country and that the world owes them a living vs. a populace that seems to be willing/able to do little to stop them. The shock isn’t that there are riots; it’ll be if there aren’t a lot more riots unless the government starts to get rough.
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