Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Riots, Government Irresponsibility, and the Need for an Equal Society

In the hours since my last blog I have heard calls for police to use rubber bullets and water canons to disperse rioters. I am generally curious how large scale government incompetence and irresponsibility over the last year have resulted in calls for more aggressive policing. Is this not the sign of a government that has no idea how to handle a section of its population?

The truth is that the Coalition Government represents the very rich, and at a push the upper middle classes, leaving the rest of us to put up, shut up, and swallow austerity measures designed to protect the rich. My feeling is that the current riots in our major cities are the result of what happens when a political class actively constructs and pursues the creation of an ultra-divided society comprised of included and excluded peoples. What is happening now is that the excluded – the scum, the rats, as one women called them today – are returning to remind Cameron et al that they are part of the society that he governs whether he likes it or not.

As has been noted endlessly over the last few days, these riots are not about political protest. Of course, they are not. Politics are irrelevant in our society because those in power are entirely dis-interest in the views of the people (consider student demos and strikes which had absolutely no impact on government opinion) and the opposition is too weak to offer any kind of worthwhile opinion. New Labour may as well not exist.

Instead of occupying a political society we live in a consumer society. Consumption is what matters and this is why protest today has to take the form of looting and stealing – if subjective protest takes the form of demos and strikes, objective protest is on the side of the rioters and looters. Of course, there is no defence for this behaviour, but let us make no mistake, the Conservative government is responsible for this situation. They have taken an already divided society and pulled up the ladder of social mobility leaving the excluded with nowhere to go. They have created social chaos.

In response to this, I do not think we should listen to popular right fascists who want to see military police on our streets. This is not the answer. Instead, what we need is a government who can manage our society responsibly in the name of everybody in our society, including those people Cameron, Gove et al, think are scum. Unfortunately, I do not think this is the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. Our current government is clearly not fit to create and oversee an equal, peaceful, society.

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