Vive la revolution

Wed, 10 August 2011

Everyone else is commenting on the London riots, so maybe I should join in. That's what a bloog is for, after all, isn't it?

The thing is, though, I'm going to take a slightly different tack on the issue. One that might get me targetted for surveillance and land me in Guantanamo Bay. Maybe.
First, I think that the mindless violence and loss of life and livelihood is atrocious. There's no excuse for the wanton looting and destruction that these "kids" are doing and my heart goes out to those small businesses that have been destroyed by the rioters.
It's been an interesting few days from a sociological point of view too. What sparked this? Was it the killing of Mark Duggan? Was it something else underneath the surface that Duggan's death was only the touch paper for? The media seems reluctant to cover the background of Duggan's shooting as far as I can see, since they have only covered the riots themselves. This contrasts with the footage of the violence in the Middle East, the so-called "Arab Spring", where analysts on every news programme were looking at the history and build up to the events.
What did Duggan do? Did he shoot at police? At the moment no-one seems to know. All that seems clear is that the shooting prompted these riots, which the police are nowhere near able to deal with. It has taken 10,000 police officers from other areas being sent to London to create any sense of control. That screams to me that the police are insufficiently staffed and currently unable to deal with any organised outbreaks of unrest without reinforcement.
Interestingly, and somewhat coincidentally, I was speaking to a bloke on Friday who was reminiscing about the gangland culture that existed in Glasgow in the 80s, during the famous "Ice Cream Wars". He lamented that police, politicians and other prominent officials are all corrupt in some way, and that they all work WITH gangs and criminals rather than against them. Drugs raids and the like all provide the police with "currency" that they can use to pay off gangs or crime bosses and convince them to "keep the noise down" in their neighbourhoods.
It was an interesting conversation. In light of what is happenning now, it certainly resonates. OK, here's a thought. What if, back a few years, some high ranking police and government officials realised that there was no way that the law was going to be able to control the crime in the country and they had to make a decision. Rather than employ more and more police to deter crime, why not control crime in some way. Bribe and pay off criminals to "behave". As long as the public unrest and violence is kept down, the "officials" would share the proceeds from drug busts and other valuable commodities such as weapons.
In return, police and justice officials would be "lenient" with gangs and their workers. Sentences would be lighter, the occasional blind eye would be turned, and a status quo would be reached. Oh, there would still be crime and punishment, especially from those parties that weren't in on the deals, and that would give the impression to the public that the system was working.
We, the public, have to believe everything that we are told through the media because it's the officials that are telling us. We have no reliable way of knowing that what we're being told is the truth. If this is true, then things like the News of the World phone tapping thing and the Wikileaks site must be making the "powers that be" shake in their boots, hence why there's a huge drive to discredit these things.
So tie all that together with the current riots and play a little game of "what if". What if Mark Duggan was a gang member and the gang he was part of was in on the deal with the lawmakers? What if his shooting was a breach of the deal? How would the gangs retaliate to this clear breach of their agreement? "Right," says the Boss, "Now we'll show you what life would be like if oour little agreement was null and void." London burns. As word spreads that the agreement has been broken, the gangs around the country also show their support and send out the troops. Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol burn...
The police have learned a lesson from all this - they have learned that there is no way they could control a city if the gangs decided to take control. Having to ship in 10,000 more officers to control one city is a huge sign that the police can't cope. I saw images from Birmingham of rioters looting and burning then being told the police were on their way and leaving to go tear up somewhere else. It was like an episode of the Keystone Kops - police running about after gangs of kids that were always one step ahead of them!
I agree with some of the Londoners who berated Boris Johnson about the fact that after 2 hours of non-stop violence there were still no police on the streets to protect them. That, to me, is a clear signal that the police can't protect the public. Not a great endorsement of the cost cutting that has struck nearly every part of the country in the last few years. It's left us with ineffectual public services.
I can't help but parallel the unrest in Britain with the Arab Spring that I mentioned earlier. Britain needs a revolution, that much at least is clear to me. The scandals that have been exposed in the government in recent years troule me greatly, and I can't help but wonder if it has just scratched the surface. How deep does the rot go into the government system? How much more corruption is lying in wait to be found? Do any people in the country still have any faith in our leadership? No matter which party is in power, it's always the same story. Tories are just as bad as Labour, and the Liberals are exactly the same. Even the voting system is broken. A system that permits a one third majority is still leaving two thirds of the population unhappy about the party in power.
What makes me laugh is that the British people laugh about it. We chuckle about the pithy phrases the media make up to describe the state of the country. "Broken Britain" is my current favourite, mainly because of the wild inaccuracy of the statement. Britain isn't broken, it's the leadership that's broken. The people know what needs to be done, they are just powerless to do it.
At least, that's what they've been told. Media, politicians and legal system tells us all that we better just behave and get on with it: accept our lot in life and keep paying taxes. Mind you, we can only pay taxes if we get a job, and that's bloody hard to do these days too. I know a bloke who managed to get a job, then the Job Centre refused to provide a letter to the place he worked to back up his history. He lost his job because of it and is now back on the dole. But still we're not allowed to make a fuss.
So the British mentality now is to just take it all and complain quietly to ourselves. The British revolution is a 100,000 signature petition on the government website. Wait for it, we'll have English Autumn soon, where half the population rises up against the corrupt and decadent government by wearing a black wristband. Yeah, that'll teach them.
The riots are a littel microcosm of opinion from the only part of society that isn't afraid to speak up against something. Maybe if their attention was fixed on a more "grown up" goal then they'd achieve something. Instead of burning down furniture shops and Miss Selfridge, why not take the fight to the people causing the problems - take the fight to the government. Storm Westminster and occupy the halls of power. Break into the House of Commons and form a government of the people. The law enforcement agencies have proved that they can't handle organised unrest so what's stopping us?
But wait a minute. What would we do then? We take over Westminster, exile the government and there are hoodies in the corridors of power. How would they run the country?
And there's where it all falls down. Thanks to the innefectual leadership this country has had to deal with for the last 50 years, no-one would have a clue what to do, and the only activists we have are too young and too inexperienced (and probably have the wrong mentality) to be able to do anything useful once they have control. Would they seek help from others? Would they allow older, more suitable people into the halls of power and let them make decisions?
Probably not.
So we're stuck with it. Corruption or anarchy. Take your pick, because democracy does not exist.

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