A month after the riots, we are supposed to be at the point where the dust has settled and we can assess the ‘new’ normal. That isn’t the case but everyone has taken their places for the circus to come.
It is difficult to write in a detached way about the use of homelessness and economic warfare on an entire class, as retribution for troubles that they are most at risk from. Troubles created by a watered down version of that warfare, fracturing communities for the last 30 years.
In a country where half of working families are welfare dependent, it has been established that welfare is to be used as a way to attack and control the population. In a pattern set by ASBOs, homelessness and displacement and destitution are to be used by the government when they need to make a point, or assert their ‘authority’. Iain Duncan Smith was excited by an e-petition demanding that rioters be stripped of welfare benefits. E-petitions the ideal tool for planning bread and circuses.
This summer our political parties have had it confirmed that they can do as they please to us. Two corrupt and ineffective political parties with no credible solution to the economic problems and social problems we face will need to deflect more and more anger about less bread. It seems time to consider the possibility that there is no limit to how spectacular the circuses can get. We have gone from ‘economically necessary’, to ‘for their own good’, to ‘welfare as a weapon to distract bloodthirsty crowds’ in a remarkably short time. Ties to civic society are being dismantled, while those doing it blame those most at risk for the effects.Murdoch may have crumbled, but his recipe for entertainment is being followed to the letter by the politicians who shamefacedly promise to tackle the legacy they gave him
This Manchester Evening News cover sums up the problem. Headlines screaming about a mother shopping her 11 year old to the police, her willingness to turn in her son evidence of how much she loved Manchester. Above the headline a drawing of a developers ‘vision’ of Manchester’s future. The much vaunted regeneration of the city has been the source of widening inequality. The relationship between the police and the generation living in a city they have no stake in, one that has bubbled and occasionally erupted for a long time.
The companies who benefited from the marginalisation of the young people rioting, were happy to sponsor the corporate 1 ❤ Manchester, avoiding the need to discuss their responsibility to the city. The city centre plastered with branded stickers to show who loves Manchester and backs the government’s war on those who have sullied ‘their’ city. Those affected invisible unless they fit the deserving or undeserving box of the person in whose argument they feature. People within the ‘communities’ most at risk from the next riots won’t be heard over this ‘nexus’ of corporations, politicians, media friendly community demonstrations and people speaking for them. Malleable community ‘leaders’ may be wheeled out to say how much they condemn the rioters next time their streets burn.
After the first night of trouble the BBC seemed astonished every time a ‘community leader’ was reluctant to banish young people from Tottenham with ‘shame’ tattooed on their heads. Lynne Featherstone came out to say ‘come and have a go if you think you are hard enough’ with trembling lip and left and right went into ‘overdrive’ discussing what these ‘communities’ (obviously as it wasn’t their community its complexity could easily be reduced to one word) should do to prove they were taking the issue seriously, barely concealing their fear and distaste for the class they thought provided all the rioters.
Nationwide, people descended on ‘communities’ affected by the riots, offering condemnation of those involved and a middle class demonstration of coming together to sweep the streets of someone you don’t know and are a bit scared of. This pantomime solidarity only serving to highlight how little real solidarity there is. The lunacy that was considered debate around this issue, enough to signal here are people invisible enough to be targeted by politicians with impunity.
Everyone was expected to confirm they condemned the rioters. As it became apparent that this was not just a ‘black’ issue, David Starkey explained how the negative behaviour that defined blackness was contagious and the whites had now caught it. This being the only possible explanation of his negative perception of working class ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’. Single motherhood again discussed as the most likely cause for this side effect of the political and economic situation caused by the moral disintegration of our richest, not our poorest.
The commentariat happily exploded with absurd speculation about what happened in these ‘communities’ to cause this new and surprising turn of events. Discussions which required reassessment of position or too complex an understanding of the ‘communities’ involved was studiously avoided. The police tweeted to gloat that a mother had been sentenced to 4 months in prison for receiving a pair of shorts. Legal principles deemed inadequate for this entirely unexpected situation. Cameron again showing a deft touch for choosing which bones will occupy the left, a quip to Dorries or the banning of EDL marches. The latter with the added bonus of pouring extra fuel onto the fire of already very visible tensions before Labour decide which bit of Blue they will use to stoke them when their time comes.