Britain’s Burning

It would be a mistake to assign a political motive to the violence, looting and arson that has exploded in various British cities over the last few nights. It’s quite possible that not a single one of the arsonists, muggers and looters burnt, mugged or robbed anyone because she thought that was the best way to achieve political reform and social justice. However, it would be equally mistaken to deny that the rioting is a direct consequence of the actions of Britain’s politicians.

We’re told that the trouble began last Saturday night 6th August. According to a BBC report, about 300 people gathered outside a police station that night and “demanded justice”. Their protest quickly spiralled out of control.

The justice the crowd were demanding followed the killing by police of a young black man, Mark Duggan. Details of the killing are sketchy, to say the least; but according to the first report issued by the “Independent” Police Complaints Commission there is no evidence to suggest that Mr Duggan shot at the police. However, a starter’s pistol that had been converted to fire live rounds was supposedly discovered near his body.

Although it seems that Mr Duggan had been involved with local gangs, his family and friends strongly refute the suggestion that he is likely to have become involved in a shoot-out with armed police; and according to the Guardian, although he had previously been held on remand, he had never before been convicted of any crime. The inquest into the shooting is scheduled for December; but if numerous previous inquests into the actions of the police are anything to go by (Stephen Lawrence, Jean Charles De Menezes, Bloody Sunday, Guildford Four, Birmingham Six, for example), anyone expecting justice would be well advised not to hold their breath.

The media coverage of the current urban unrest is unsurprisingly one-sided. Our TV screens have shown hours of coverage of those whose property has been damaged, stolen or destroyed. Many of these people are understandably angry and scared. Many others have been shrill in their demands for tougher policing, and there have been calls to use the army. All of our trusted leaders are unsurprisingly unanimous in their condemnation of the rioters, and their support of the police. We’ve heard stiff-lipped politicians and steely-eyed chief constables angrily asserting there cannot be any possible justification for the violence, and firmly promising the full retribution of the law. In the media’s ceaseless desire to provide “balanced” reporting, we’ve even seen numerous young people, many of whom are black, stridently condemning the trouble – although one or two have alluded to police oppression. We’ve seen dozens of angst-ridden commentators with puzzled frowns asking “why do they do it?” (which reminded me of George W Bush famously asking “why do they hate us?” in his apparent bewilderment at the Moslem world’s dissatisfaction with the outrages perpetrated against it by Bush’s government).

I don’t presume to speak for a single rioter. No doubt there are some who are opportunist small-time criminals. However, if one tries to take a reasonably objective view of today’s political landscape in Britain, it’s pretty difficult not to believe that most of the responsibility for the rioting lies in exactly the same place as with all civil unrest of this kind since the beginning of “civilisation”: our trusted leaders.

1. Over the last thirty-odd years our trusted leaders have killed-off British manufacturing – the primary source of the nation’s wealth. They have also colluded with international banksters, trans-national corporations and foreign governments to sell-off Britain’s publicly owned infrastructure: energy and water supplies, communications and transport. Then they sold off essential public services such as health and education. They indebted the nation’s future generation to the tune of hundreds of billions (possibly trillions) of pounds with their nefarious Private Finance Initiatives. Throughout all this a very tiny handful of people have become unbelievably wealthy, whilst the vast majority of Britons have seen their wages decline, or watch their jobs disappear altogether. When they can find employment (which is not an easy thing to do) the vast majority of young Britons must now work longer hours for less money and in worse conditions than their parents did. They cannot hope to retire at the same age as their grandparents did, and they cannot hope to receive as good a pension as their grandparents had.

There might be cause for a young person to feel a little discontent with that situation.

2. Britain looks more and more like a police state than it has done since the Civil War. The police who, until not very long ago took pride in walking the streets carrying nothing more dangerous than a short truncheon and a pair of handcuffs – even when the nation was at war, now strut around in suits of armour with a small arsenal of various lethal weapons at their fingertips. They can, and do, imprison people without charge for up to two weeks. It’s impossible for people to use an airport without being subjected to rigorous, intrusive, and perfectly ridiculous, “security” checks (a direct consequence of our trusted leaders’ repulsive foreign policies); and we routinely send our young people off to distant countries dressed up as soldiers of one kind or another where they are ordered to commit acts which, if any form of real international justice existed, would undoubtedly be condemned as war crimes.

There might be cause for a young person to feel a little discontent with that situation.

3. Then, of course there is the killing of Mr Duggan itself – the supposed trigger of the current unrest. Directly pertinent to the police state which Britain has become, the killing of this young man is indicative of the total impunity with which the police believe they can act. Violent police raids are a routine daily occurrence in underprivileged neighbourhoods throughout the UK. The raids are nearly always destructive, and terrifying, and often prove utterly fruitless. And numerous completely innocent people have been killed or wounded by the police, with the subsequent “inquiries” routinely exonerating the perpetrators.

There might be cause for a young person to feel a little discontent with that situation.

Whilst it’s most probable that none of these factors are consciously passing through the mind of some young person as he loots a store or sets fire to it, it’s equally probable that at least one of these reasons explain the daily living conditions of that young person. So far we haven’t seen a lot of rioting in the streets of South Kensington or Chelsea say, or any of the leafy suburbs or gated communities where the sons and daughters of politicians, banksters, corporate executives, lawyers and company accountants while away their comfortable lives. No doubt they’re too busy studying to become the next generation of trusted leaders.

However, there might be cause for some young people to feel a little discontent with that situation.

John is a writer and political activist based in England. He can be contacted through his website. His main contribution comprises three free-to-use works-in-progress: The People’s Constitution, The School of Kindness, and EnMo Economics . Read other articles by John.