Why Should Rioting Young People Listen to the Elites and Mind a Social Order that Disempowers Them?
Continued from previous page
But the youths involved in this August's unrest have hit local independent shops and chain stores alike—the only discrimination evident is the value placed on particular goods. It has been the accoutrements of urban youth—box-fresh trainers, smart phones, clothes—which have been most readily plundered. The only ideology on display, if it can even be called that, is that of the kindergarten: "Finders keepers".
Still, it's too facile to dismiss the riots as a mindless tantrum. The blog anticutsspace expresses ambivalence and anguish on the left:
We offer unapologetic solidarity and support to those involved in the UK uprisings these past nights. This sentiment extends to both the rioters and to those communities affected by them. We also acknowledge that the unrest has ruined many people’s livelihoods, and homes have been burnt and agree that these will always be the wrong targets for attack. But we know that this sort of looting and destruction are the last actions of the completely impoverished and disenfranchised.
Once again, politicians, the media, and police chiefs tell us that ‘criminal elements’ have ‘hijacked’ legitimate grievances and that ‘thugs’ and ‘outsiders’ are responsible. As the riots spread across the capital and country there are fewer and fewer ways to be an ‘outsider.’ If not ours, then from which society are these rioters?
Not surprisingly, there's little soul-searching of the political class's own culpability in creating the social exclusion that led up to the “anarchy.” Supposedly the problem isn't too much policing but too little, it's not the lack of educational opportunities or youth programs in these neighborhoods but the poor parents who can't control their children. Fresh from their summer holidays, Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson have put London on lock down with 16,000 police, as if the state had been awaiting a pretext to write off “feral” youth as hopeless and justify disinvestment from their communities.
Hannah Sell of the U.K. Socialist Party suggests grassroots action in the vein of the Arab Spring can reframe the public dialogue on youthful strife:
...while the riots have received huge media coverage, they are allowing the capitalist media and the government to further demonise young people, and to potentially divide the struggle against the government.
However, the government can only be defeated by building a mass, united movement of all those under attack from it. The organised working class in the trade unions have the key role to play.
After the fires die down, the U.K. may wake up to a far more oppressive, fearful urban landscape. But the fallout could spur the creation of something that politicians fear more than any ordinary riot: an organized mass movement that knows exactly what it wants and how to get it. We may be seeing the first stirrings of renewed solidarity as neighbors organize community clean-up projects.
And in a few days, activists with the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign , an alliance of labor and community groups, will rally to protest the government's attack on social welfare and to demand equitable opportunities for education and jobs. A leaflet for the gathering proclaims:
We need a mass movement of young people linking with workers who are fighting back....
If we link together with workers taking action and get organised to fight for our services and community we can beat this government that is looting our future!
In a world that denies them a future, youth cannot be condemned for acting as if there's no tomorrow. But it's also up to them to resist despair by demonstrating consciousness and dignity in the face of dehumanizing oppression. Maybe it shouldn't take a riot to get people to take action, but now that it's happened, there's no excuse not to.