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Archive for August, 2011

What Really Caused The 2011 Riots In England?

Posted by DeadAnarchistPhil on August 18, 2011

On the 4th of August 2011 the Metropolitan Police shot dead an alleged drug dealer, Mark Duggan, while trying to arrest him on suspicion of a planned revenge attack after the murder of his cousin.  According to Police sources Mr. Duggan had a Gun in the Taxi he was in when the Police tried to arrest him, it was also said one of the Police officers were shot, but this later turned out the be a ricochet from a Police gun. There are conflicting statements and circumstances surrounding the Death of Mark Duggan that are still not clear and may never will be. Not to dilute the seriousness of the incident but whether he was a drug dealer or the Police acted inappropriately is a subject for another blog because there is not enough evidence either way currently.

What we do know is that this death caused a chain reaction around London and then other parts of England. But let’s get this clear, only a few people were actively rioting because of what happened to Mark Duggan, the others just used it as an excuse. So, what I want to talk about is why. Why did so many people think it was right and proper to loot shops, destroy homes, cars, businesses and attack the Police and each other?

If you’ve been watching the TV and reading the News Papers then you would have seen what some people are blaming it on. The main answers I’ve seen being offered are a general breakdown in some parts of society, caused by relaxed parenting, absent parents, relaxed liberal law enforcement, drugs, lack of religion and the ‘Family values’ it advocates and lack of job prospects (National & Community Economic Depression).

It is all of the above, with some things being more responsible than others. One of the most questionable ones is the lack of religion in our community and daily lives being a big factor. I disagree with this as there was more crime in the past when England truly was a religious country than in modern times. Though I don’t dispute religion can be a guiding and grounding force when a person adopts only the good parts (When I say ‘good parts’ I mean what is good, kind and lawful by our cultural standards of today) of that particular ideology. Though many of the non-religious also maintain that people could do the same things without being religious and still have a healthy society. Japan for example, the majority of the population there are Shinto and Buddhists, these ‘religions’ are more about culture and history than religious regulations, yet Japan is nothing like England. When the North East of Japan was devastated by a tsunami in March 2011 no one was seen to be looting or overly angry, and their lives, homes and family had been washed away. Again this is nothing like England.

Staying with Japan as an example, the economy of Japan has been in a perpetual slump since the late 1980s. During the 1990s, which the Japanese call the ‘Lost Decade‘, jobless figures were high and even to this day the industry of Japan has a third of their workforce made up of non-Japanese, which means there’s fewer jobs for native-born Japanese. A situation similar to our own here in England. Despite this the Japanese have not rioted, though they have protested, albeit quietly.

So what causes the Japanese to take things in their stride, maybe a little too much in their stride, and the English to fight, smash and loot? As I said, all the above things I mentioned in paragraph three are all to blame to a degree, but all the above have a thing in common. That thing is ‘Socialisation‘. Basically, Socialisation is what we learn at an early age as we grow up. The ‘social norms’, the way we go about talking to others, eating, working, presenting ourselves, our values, traditions our culture. What we learn as children (Socialisation) will set the scene for how we act when we become adults. It’s important to note there is a common disagreement between social scientists about socialisation and if it is all learned or some aspects of our personality, which affect the way we act, are from genetics. 

Regardless of that debate, the reality is that socialisation is the main way we learn and enforce the ‘norms’ of our society. So what degrades these norms, what stops or changes the established socialisation we have to another? The answer quiet simply is what I cited above. What this means is, that ‘break down in society‘ is a break down in socialisation. And that breakdown is caused by outside factors, such as I mentioned in Paragraph three, to all contribute to the degradation of the established socialisation we have. Of course, not everyone was out looting, fighting and destroying things during the unrest, what does this mean? It means the majority of the rioters came from a different community or family where accepted socialisation isn’t adhered to or respected.

On looking closely you can see these people come from economically depressed poor/working class areas, areas where economic activity and funding is very little and almost absent. When I say this I’m in no way excusing the way those people acted during the riots, I’m just explaining what contributed to it.

Adding to the economic depression is another factor, a Consumer Society . In a consumer society people buy for necessity as much as they do for pleasure and identity. In the past when jobs were more available and a collective identity, such as working class, miners, butcher and such were granted by birth, people had a sense of worth and stronger sense of belonging. These days, people rarely base who they are on their job title, they base who they are on what ‘they’re in to’, such as music, art, how they dress what they own and how rich they are. In a materialistic society where image, what you own and how rich you are means everything to an individual, you’re nothing if you don’t have the right stuff. You’re nothing if you’re a person or part of a family that’s on benefits and you can’t afford anything so you can socially ‘fit in’. This sounds very childish, and you would be right… it is, but this is the kind of hollow society we have whether you like it or not.

This type of society contributed to the riots, just as the economic under investment has. If those people had something to lose, if they already had what they wanted then many of them would not have done what they did. However, faced with the opportunity many people would loot what they could if given the chance, many people do that regardless of whether they’re rich or poor.

You may be thinking now: “If we [The English] did that then why didn’t the Japanese?” The answer to that is some socialisation is so engrained and matters so much, like the honour code in Japan, that people adhere to it strictly. That is why Japan doesn’t have much unrest, but we in the UK and the West do.

Having said all the above I think there comes a time when people take responsibility for their actions and situation and try to make a difference in their own lives instead of blaming it on others. The help exists out there for people to make something of themselves if they com from a disadvantaged area. I am an example of this. However, if the Government wants to stop the riots from happening again getting tough on crime will help a little but ultimately wont do much but lock more people up because the base problem isn’t being addressed. We need to get to the bottom of what causes it and that is our society that fosters hollow materialism, weak law enforcement and  successive Governments that have put profits and the needs of big business before those of the people.

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