Finding a release – why we riot

I don’t recognise this London, this England. It’s not the country and city that I love.

But Britons feel under pressure. The economy, job cuts, benefit cuts, fear, bad news. The pressure gets to everyone, whether they have personally lost their job or had their income cut. The media amplifies the pressure and makes all of us feel at risk all the time. All this in addition to almost a solid ten years of war in the Afghanistan and Iraq, a ‘war on terror’ that has been designed to keep us in a state of heightened tension.

In  a civilised society we need to release the pressure, fear and tension without destruction.

In pre-civilised society and at the dawn of civilisation, violence was the way that tension was released. A village or town would feel the pressure and eventually the bubble would be burst by attacking a neighbouring village or town. It would be young men, predominantly late teens and twenties who would be involved. The violence would be unlimited; looting, pillaging, rape. After the release of the attack, life (for the perpetrators) could go on, back to normal.

Civilisation tames these urges by making them part of the power structures. The violence of the young men is channelled into the army, legitimated in targeting only ‘enemies’. Yet at the edges, when civilisation is fraying and stretched beyond capacity this urge comes back into view.

Unlike the protests for freedom in the Arab countries or protests by real Anarchists, this violence is for the purpose of deliberate destruction and looting only. There is no ideological purpose. There is only release, like the hockey riot in Vancouver.

Anarchists do not behave like this – they have an ideology and almost never loot. Anarchists attacks a a window of a building they have nothing but distaste for. When they have made their point they leave, not loot. They want nothing to do with the contents of that building, whether it’s fast food or blood money, they are disgusted by it. Anarchists attack police because they see them as representatives of a hated government. Anarchist attack buildings to show what revulsion they have for the corporation.

These kids didn’t know or care about Mark Duggan. The simmering disrespect for all authority needed just a spark as a flashpoint. Their feeling of alienation from the power structures of the country and the unrelenting pressure of consumerism contribute to this much more than one man in the back of a taxi.

As a society, we need to recognise that building a culture of fear and tension leads to the potential for this disenfranchisement. We need to think about how the pressure that is built up by economic and other woes can be diffused. We must avoid the danger of expelling and further isolating the youth of our country, hardening their otherness, dehumanising them to the point we feel comfortable attacking them. When the people doing this become a ‘them’ in our media, when they are painted as ‘vermin’, they cease to be human or have any hope of rehabilitation.

There will be people getting home in the early hours of the morning who can’t quite believe what they’ve been involved in. They are caught up in a violent action, a ‘mob mentality’ that they don’t feel in full control of. There are some planning and organising violence who must be punished. But there are many others who are caught up in insanity (who should know better) who need to be reintegrated into a civilised society that must learn how to release the pressure of twenty-first century life. How we respond to this as a nation will show what kind of a civilisation we are and will be.