London calling to the faraway towns, now war is declared and battle come down
Posted by That Other Mike on 11/08/2011
As usual, LGM has a good take on current events, in this case, the London riots; Dave Brockington does a good summary of the issues and viewpoints involved.
One thing that particularly stood out to me is this linked piece by Michael McCarthy. It is quite possibly the worst example of nostalgia for a non-existent golden age, middle class privilege and back-in-my-day-ism masquerading as journalism that I’ve ever seen.
The thing is, there was a sort of age of civility and restraint in England, more or less from the Victoria era to the middle of the 20th century, but it wasn’t ever something which permeated all levels of society; it was always a middle and upper class fashion. The great masses of people have always been riotous and prone to stone-throwing and burning things down; the English have rioted about taxes on gin, theatre ticket prices and the Poll Tax with equal fervour.
The English are, and always have been, generally a nation prone to riots, heavy drinking, fightng and social unrest, right from the time of our beer-swilling Saxon ancestors; the period which Michael McCarthy is mourning is the aberration, not the present. History tells us that the national character is wilder and more disorderly than we perceive it to be at the present time, and to be honest, I can’t see that as a bad thing. The culture described by McCarthy and the like is moribund and dull, stratified, unmoving and full of people who know their place – at least a riot shows that someone out there is alive and unwilling to be shat on anymore.
The larger picture as well, of course, shows a deep and abiding component of irony, for those willing to see it. The people most strongly decrying the riots and calling for a return to old-fashioned values and mores seem to be Conservatives1, or at least sympathetic to the Conservative Party. The irony lies in the fact that the present social unrest is essentially a Tory creation, albeit one that New Labour aided and abetted with its Tory-lite economic policies. The UK has the dubious honour of being the least socially mobile country in the developed world at the moment; people born into poverty tend to remain that way, due to underfunded schools and services, and that’s at the best of times.
With the current idiocy of austerity spending cuts, somewhat regressive taxation schemes and lack of investment in poorer areas, the situation can only get worse without the abandonment of Thatcherite ideals. And as much as David Cameron seems to wish to be seen as a nicer variety of Tory, at the heart of it, he is a Thatcherite, with all the disregard for the lower classes that comes with it.
I don’t see things getting any better under the Cameron premiership, not without a sea change in the political values and policies of the Conservatives; the faint hope I have of things improving is that Labour finally takes a step back towards its roots and does a number on the Tories at the next election, but the outlook is fairly bleak on that front.
And having depressed you all, let’s have some of the Clash:
1 That’s members of the Conservative and Unionist Party, many of whom are not conservatives. Confused? You should try living with it.