Thursday, 11 August 2011
The Revolution will be Televised
The Revolution will be televised as a YouTube clip of a shop-front being smashed, video'd on a mobile by one of the attackers as evidence he was there. Or later as a Crimewatch reconstruction, with middle-class drama students putting on Ali G voices as they play the 'mindless thugs'. (And if the tabloids are to be believed, some of the 'mindless thugs' were probably middle-class drama students, if not their teachers.)
Except it wasn't a revolution at all, of course, unless - as 'each nation gets the government it deserves' - perhaps this was us getting the moronic, depressing non-revolution we deserve: amoral, nihilistic, driven by narrow greed and self-interest. Yes, exactly like the Tories, in fact; and for Cameron to bark on about 'pockets of our society' being 'sick' yesterday reminds me of what Karl Kraus said about psychoanalysis: "It is the disease for which it purports itself to be the cure."
Many have called the riots "unpolitical" but this implies a limited sense of the political. If, as Cameron's ideological mother Margaret Thatcher famously stated "There is no such thing as society" then behaving in an "anti-social" way doesn't come into it - you merely take what you want and don't think about the impact of your actions on those around you: this is what we follow the US in doing to Third World countries across the globe; this is Thatcherism in extremis.
The phrase 'pockets of our society' has an ominous euphemistic slipperiness about it, furthermore, gesturing towards the bleak neo-medieval future Cameron and Osborne seem to want to drag us to, in which whole inner city areas will become largely lawless, no-go zones and residential enclaves will turn into gated communities for the rich, with their own security forces and self-referential lives in which they never have to come into contact with sub-class proles.
Looting is the logical extension of consumerism, commodity-fetishism taken to its violent extreme; this is what happens if the fiscal cycles ensuring a steady flow of capital to consumers break down thanks to bad economics and top-heavy banking-systems, meaning that huge quantities of individuals are excluded from the shiny celebrity-like amazingness the adverts tell us is just within our reach and can be purchased readily just by having,say, a certain tiny logo on your breast-pocket or on your trainers (strangely akin to the "participation mystique" identified in primitive tribes by Levi-Strauss).
If the riots help us see that the sickness within our society is less that of disaffiliated, often marginalised youths with little in the way of a future to look forward to, and more that of a callous, out-of-touch government and the climate of divisive, unjustified austerity they've inflicted upon social groups impoverished in the first place, perhaps we might all wake up to the terrible situation we're now in. "Burning and a-looting tonight...burning all illusions tonight".