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On the Riots in Britain (August 2011)

by JR

"Make a peaceful revolution impossible and you guarantee a violent one." - John F. Kennedy

It seems we have now reached the inevitability of several decades of neo-conservative market deregulation, deceit, hypocrisy, rampant corporatism and greed and a sociopathic disdain for the lives of ordinary citizens. It's a horror story of complete betrayal of the social contract, replaced by derelict elite predation and exploitation of innocent people.

Orderly society has always been held up by a thin veneer of civility, often by an acceptance of a mythology and litany of lies of privileged power elites. It can be easily ripped to shreds once the truth is known. Many of the young people involved in the demonstrations in London live less than three kilometres from financial offices of people who get multi-million euro bonuses for global economic catastrophic failure. They live in a culture of obscene material excess and are notable for nothing but pillage and greed and it's rammed relentlessly into their faces by middle-brow tabloid newspapers. In a fit of moral outrage Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron, a man born into wealth and privilege, rushed back to London from his villa in Italy. Reminiscent of the 18th Century rants of Conservative icon Edmund Burke against the "mob rule" of a "swinish multitude" he then proceeded to condemn the powerless rioters as "feral rats" in a "slow-motion moral collapse" of a "sick society".

The bigotry of Cameron's hypocritical assertions are made in all seriousness. "You will pay for what you have done", he says. It's as if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant arrogance of record bonuses. This, in the aftermath of the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of their criminality, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, making scapegoats of teachers and other public servants, closing libraries, raising tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensions. The cutbacks and rollbacks are pervasive throughout Europe and North America - the working classes will, be made to pay for all this. And who is on television on the various corporate news services and forums lecturing about the need to give up these “entitlements”? It’s the bankers, hedge-fund managers and their neo-conservative enablers in government of course. Cameron has now hired an FBI expert from New York to counsel on strategy to control the out-of-control bewildered herd.

A century ago the distribution of wealth in Western industrialized countries resembled that of any standard issue feudal kingdom or banana republic. The rich controlled corrupt politicians and the electoral system and owned almost everything, and the rest of us barely got by, working often alongside our children long hours in horrid conditions, for low pay, no benefits and low self-respect as humans deserving of an equal regard for our welfare, happiness, opportunities, fortunes and basic dignity. We were mere cogs in a system of profit for the few with no more rights than the commodities we produced for them, used and abused in the processing of natural resources, and discarded when our usefulness expired. This approach to class relations within the society produced the expected result: very few entitled wealthy Americans lived long and highly comfortable lives, while the rest of us resembled something nearer to characters out of a Thomas Hobbes dystopia  - a life that was "poor, nasty, brutish and short."

With wealth disparities now comparable to those harsh times, we're slowly being propelled back to those conditions and so we ought not be surprised at the uprisings not only in totalitarian regimes in the Middles East and elsewhere, but in North America and Europe. The recent riots and looting in the UK have been shocking and appalling, but should not be surprising. The knee jerk reactions by conservative political elites and right wing news sources have not been helpful, referring to the rioters as "thugs", "thieves" and "feral rats". This is, on the face, for the most part, true - outright criminality. But comments such as these are empty of political content and are rather knee jerk reactions to the phenomenon and its effects. What about some attention to the causes?

Conservatives trot out their usual suspects: loss of family values and religious faith. It's an effort by governing elites and conservative forces to delegitimize and denigrate popular resistance and deflect attention from real causes. Namely, that the rage of the riots is a symptom of deep-seated systemic problems and is taking place in working class districts and slums. Oddly, the angry rioters are attacking their own people, often small shopkeepers who are just barely surviving economically, much like themselves. Why not the offices and homes of ruling elites: stock exchanges, government offices, mansions and royal palaces - these are the real criminals. If it were a genuine focused well organized political movement, this would be the case. But there is no grass roots vanguard, no leadership - and if there was, the damage to property and looting would likely not take place.

But the outrage ought also apply to the thievery and criminality of the greedy bastards with the help of their governments who have brought the global economy to its knees. Do I need to mention the illegal and immoral imperialistic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Where is the outrage over perpetual war and slash and burn "feral capitalism"? Where are the prosecutions, convictions and punishments? The scale of the exploitation and gross criminality, robbing trillions from innocent people and the state dwarfs the impact of the working class demonstrations that are growing around the world.

According to the Alice in Wonderland free market fantasies of our right wing corporate media and the business news networks, when a destitute poor person commits a crime of opportunity, his actions are a threat to civilized society that we all hold dear and sacred, but, when the hyper-wealthy of the entrenched robber baron swindler class abscond with billions, those criminals are referred to as our financial icons, people to be revered and emulated.

The rioters cannot have failed to notice what’s been going on in the world about them. A massive redistribution of wealth has taken place over the past few decades beginning with the policies of Reagan and Thatcher and continued under Bush and Blair. Rogue banks and investors bailed out at the expense of the population by bankrupting governments in the USA and throughout Europe and the world, effectively rewarding them for criminal predatory behaviour and leveraging national debt into economic growth. The rich line their pockets with impunity as essential services and benefits are slashed, and faced with such obvious “looting,” on a massive scale amounting to trillions of dollars, they are somehow expected not to notice.

Now that they have plundered all the free money pumped into the system by governments in order to provide what has been an anaemic "recovery", those same Wall Street fraudsters want to refill their coffers and re-load their offshore accounts with whatever they can loot from their complicit governments, namely social security, public education, Medicare and other social services to the masses. That's the nature of oligarchic rule, a system defined by legalized plunder that leaves a wasteland of want, deprivation, and unfocused rage in its wake.

"Some will rob you with a six gun,
And some with a fountain pen."

- Woodie Guthrie, "Pretty Boy Floyd"



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