Saturday, August 13, 2011

Britain burns the colour of ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Guatam Malkani takes a unique approach to understanding the riots in London. The London riots have been attributed to either rage against the establishment (held by the left) or the result of hip-hop culture (held by the right).

These two uninspired rationales look at the world as though political motivations explain everything. The UK has started to cut social services as a means of balancing their budget. To the left, this was the reason for people to riot as an expression of protest against reduced services. The argument loses credibility when you see the rioters are plundering their own neighborhoods and not destroying the more affluent neighborhoods. The alienated attacking the disenfranchised makes no sense as a political protest.

The right saw all of the use of words such as "feds", "see a fed, shot a fed", "5-0", and other texts as proof American hip-hop culture had ruined British youth. The language in London is a mish-mash of British, American and Jamaican colloquialisms. Most of the colloquialisms have nothing to do with hip-hop and more to do with sounding cool or using a slang term from one's background. Hip-hop is a convenient way for the right to demonize something into a sound byte. It is also easier politically to blame hip-hop then it is materialism (which much closer to what we saw in the news videos).

Malkani compares the riots to "A Clockwork Orange" in which bored young people engaged in the most decadent violence not out of political protest but because they were bored. Both the UK and US have an astounding level of wealth even for those that are considered impoverished. Don't believe it? Western definitions of homeless mean people who don't have a permit residence but thanks to social services can still receive some subsistence. In parts of Africa and Asia, everyone is homeless in the sense they lack a permanent residence but they receive NO subsistence from the government. Citizens of those countries are too busy trying to survive to become bored. Western citizens can receive welfare or steal what they lack from their neighbors.

The number of bored young people in the United States is not known but we can assume quite large. It is this boredom and lack of purpose that leads to the violence we see in London and see in snippets here in the US. There is little empathy and much apathy. Flash mobs can easily become mobs as they both take advantage of people feeling anonymous (until they replay the video). Philadelphia has already had to establish a curfew to deal with mobs attacking people. The Wisconsin state fair suffered a similar situation with flash mobs of apparently African-American youths attacking fair goers.

Technology allows these alienated (to use a Marxist term) youth to connect quickly and plan a mob before law enforcement can react. The London riots have been on the news and will inspire others to copy their tactics. The US with a drop in bond ratings is prime for more of these flash mobs to turn into full blown riots.

Philly curfew

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