In the search for reasons behind the behaviour of the wild rioters in the UK, I’m missing the issue of the vast environmental destruction of our planet, even in articles that contain a deeper social analysis (for more, a Swedish article here, an Austrian article here). Talk about kids feeling that they have no future. Why should they care about the laws of “the grown ups” – about anything – when they are being told that they, or at least their future children, might not have a future at all – not even a shitty one.
I don’t condone violence, but I am trying to understand how the rioters feel, and why they feel that way. Personally I am fortunate enough to have an education, I am able to buy organic foods and spend my time working for a sustainable future. I have my own company. I live in a country that is quite a bit safer than the UK, on many levels. I have many means to set actions towards a better future for us all. What I wonder is, if one is in the kind of life situation that most of the rioters are in, what does one feel that one can do about it all?
On top of that there are so many conspiracy theories flourishing about our leaders and “the elite”, maybe exaggerated and simplified interpretations of events, although some are probably at least partly true. Thus it might be easy to think that they deliver the “whole truth”, or at least get the impression that we do not have trustworthy leaders in the world. To have trust in society is vital to feeling like a part of it. The people rioting see what most of us see – widespread corruption, lack of political leadership, lack of honesty, etc. And a very messed up economical system. At the same time they are bombarded with commercials which make one believe that happiness, love (or at least sex) and respect comes with an I-Phone and nice trainers.
And they don’t even have the money to get that I-Phone. Even if they would, that would not earn them much respect from the surrounding society. They have no education nor any realistic prospects of getting one, many of them probably don’t even have the vocabulary to express themselves in a way which will make others listen properly. On top of this, they are told there is no fish in the sea, the earth is warming up, ices are melting, many animals are dying out, we are starting to have problems with our honey bees disappearing, and even the rainforests are still being cut down, even if that was supposedly the one thing that the world leaders agreed upon to stop doing in Copenhagen.
Two girls who participated in the riots has said to the BBC that this is all about “showing the rich and the police that we can do what we want”, so well, their anger seem to be directed at the “establishment”. But many people, including political leaders, say that there is no reason, no cause behind these riots. Well, maybe in one sense – I’m not sure that many of these rioters can properly analyse themselves, their situation, what they really feel and why. I mean come on, how many of us can do that really? And it can definitely get harder under pressuring living circumstances. One should not underestimate people just because of their background or even their behaviour, but still, considering that they are attacking their own neighbourhoods to show the rich what they can do, the logic behind it all seem a bit vague. (Since I wrote this, it has turned out that many where rioting in other neighbourhoods than their own, but it was still poor, not rich neighbourhoods). Many sociologists talk about displaced aggression and so on (see the article under the first link above), and I can only agree – I think there is much to that thought.
But maybe it is also like my husband just pointed out – they are taking after the leaders of the world. The rioters see how “the elite” are robbing resources from each other (oils wars etc) and how they (just like many grown ups) seem to just go on destroying our “neighbourhood” (i.e. the whole planet) even if we face disastrous consequences already – so why shouldn’t the rioters do the same? Like Titus Petronius said in Satirae “Qualis dominus, talis et servus” – “like master, like men”. That is a thought to at least consider.
In the end – the rioters are simply very angry, and under that anger lies frustration and a very genuine despair. I’m also worried about that they don’t seem to care about much, not even about themselves. And unfortunately they have many reasons to harbour all of those feelings.
I read an article in the Guardian today about people starting to point fingers in the blame games around these riots. And one can really ask, who’s fault is it? The politicians, in the UK, in the world? The rioters? Their parents? The oil industry? The media? Commercial interests? The “elite”? Or all of us? It is really a good question.
The Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, says that:
“For me, the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing that I have spoken about for years. It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to feel that the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities, and that their actions do not have consequences.”
I must say that more than selfishness, I think that this is about desperate people acting desperately, admittedly in a mindless way. I think that it is quite pointless, or at least not very fruitful, to point fingers at anyone in the mess that the species called homo sapience has created for itself.
When it comes to talking about taking responsibility, it seems more reasonable to me to not only talk about but also act upon the responsibility that all of humanity has right now (although maybe particularly those who’s life situation facilitates acting upon current matters in society):
Setting actions to make things better – for all of us, the planet we live on and all the beings that we share it with.