Friday, August 12, 2011

goodbye blackberry way

montage by ib.

While the bleachers blistered through July into the beginning of August, it was never going to get hot enough to legitimately demand intensive care. The contrast of just a few degrees makes all the difference.

I largely avoided commentary on the London riots because, in common with most of those people who immediately started banging on the pots and pans as luncheon vochers spontaneously smouldered - erupting in flames from one borough to the next - my perspective on it seemed indelibly coloured by what I watched on TV. As close to 'live' as it gets. From the comfort of my greasy spot on the carpet.

In short, I was not actually at the game; I had little enough foresight to even book a seat.

The temptation was there from the outset to lay claims that those tensions ignited by the shooting of a twenty-nine-year-old man in Tottenham were somehow inevitable. Darcus Howe, a shade hysterically, played the disaffected race card as invited by the BBC in the televised autopsy which (inevitably) ensued, but his exaggerated wielding of a scalpel - to seek to draw parallels with events in 1985 - seemed ill-advised and hopelessly out of touch.

Neither did he seem in possession of incontrovertible material facts.

The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by police no doubt sparked unrest; the wholesale rioting which followed directly on its heels was wholly cynical and opportunistic.

Engineered by a welter of Fagins on Blackberry phones. A closed network choreographing its own closed network of very damaged children.

It is ironic that the very device which proved so effective in galvanizing support in the election campaign which would return the world's first black president - Obama might have lost the race to the Whitehouse if not for his Blackberry - should, three years later, play a key role in such meticulously orchestrated looting and civil disorder. Adopted by every Artful Dodger seeking to grab a slice of pie before the authorities fell out of bed. The last gang in town.

It is not remotely credible to attempt to politicize events, none of which have even spurious parallels with civil unrest as reported elsewhere in the world. Greece. Syria. It has nothing to do with the overturning of an inalienably corrupt regime; it has little to do with the post-apocalyptic living death of capitalism. Unless one digs deep beneath the rubble.

There was no targeting of government collateral, here. No attempt to besiege fiscal infrastructures, beyond the occasional corner shop ATM.

Plain and simple, those London riots in 2011 were nothing more than an unexpurgated shopping spree: the sociopathic desire to line the pockets of a purloined pair of Georgio Armani slacks.

Should a mother and her children accidentally burn to death in the process, should local businesses fail,
it is of no consequence. Like hooded rats, the tide of lobotomized youth simply out-pedals the screams; returning home to their lairs by bike to deposit the spoils.

Mick Farren made an enlightened stab at it, but got it only partly right:

"A tribe of Sids Vicious without a Joe Strummer among them."

John Simon Ritchie might have been empty as a hole without a Lydon or
McLaren, but Strummer, too, had his Simonon and Rhodes. Uncle Bernie. There are a million Sids in tens of thousands of decrepit council estates - from East London to Merseyside, Wolverhampton to Easterhouse - but the element of iconic nihilism lacks hard currency.

This isn't a youth movement. It's genocide in the waiting.

Consumerism in extremis, a plague of locusts operating with impunity.

In this era of bland conformity, hive mentality, the events of last week are nothing more than England's 'Trumpton Riots'; as superficial and lacking in substance as any cretin mugging his way vacuously into this year's final of the X-Factor.

An audition. An experiment in CCTV containment.

Flummoxed ?

Don't be. In the final analysis, this is England's just reward. No future. No vision. No hope for evacuation.

Police and Thieves, with scarcely a unform in sight.

London may have burned for three and a half minutes, but the object of its charring was not a tinderbox of parliamentary misrule, so much as a sofa on Reeves Corner, Croydon. Too unwieldy - or just plain ugly - to stash in the back of a ringed white van.


Löst Jimmy said...

I lack the know-who to solve this bitter turn of events. It was in view the coming together of a variety of elements, the genuine anti-authority, the professional fagins as you rightly say, the opportunist, the thrill seeker, the disaffected youth bent on riding the broken rollercoaster til the end.
I can see further state excuse however to roll in more draconian statute. The power to switch off the social networking sites in times of emergency, to manipulate the welfare state, to marginalise further.
What example is there for Joe Public when we see disinformation from the Fuzz, bent MPs, a parliamentary-police-media cabal of the most obscene kind. England is reaping what it sowed, weeds an' all!

ib said...

Well put, Löst Jimmy.

It was, as you rightly correct, a mix of disparate elements which converged to set fire to the streets of London. A series of events emulated in cities to the north.

In particular - but not solely - "the disaffected youth bent on riding the broken rollercoaster til the end".

Oh, there will certainly ensue more Draconian legislation. A clampdown.

"The power to switch off the social networking sites in times of emergency, to manipulate the welfare state, to marginalise further", yes. All this and more.

London, as things stand, hosts the most densely implemented network of CCTV anywhere on the planet. Privacy tenuously prevails, but only behind closed doors.

And still they demand more.

"...a parliamentary-police-media cabal of the most obscene kind".

The tendency to sit back and merely compile CCTV footage - to desist from engagement or intervention, to issue warrants for arrest only after the fact - will no doubt pave the way for farther cuts. Creating more urban pockets where events are merely monitored from a safe distance. Crudely contained. Left to fester.

This has been the way of it for some time. The shape of things.

There are reports of disturbance in area C. The authorities advise all citizens to remain in their homes, to avoid those trouble spots until further notice. Any casualties will be removed - safely disposed of - in the morning.

Don't call us; we'll call (on) you.

Your driver said...

Nihilism. It's the only thing that really is trickling down in this economy.

ib said...
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ib said...
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JM said...

The austerity is also to blame, I think:

ib said...


I am still thinking my way through this. I am revisiting my original response. With a scalpel. The amendments are minor, but possibly make every difference.

Not so much as nihilism, I don't think, as consumerism in extremis.

The absence of regard for self and neighbour, is seems, is a by-product of the overriding urge to consume - at all costs - to strip the lansdscape bare like locusts.

Media commentators in 1976 were quick to define punk as 'nihilist' - to ascribe negativity - but, as we know, that negativity was harnessed to a well of creativity.

What we are witnessing here, as Farren observes, is El Sid absolved of all commitment; turned loose to destroy and loot like the moronic little nazi that he perhaps always was, devoid of any governing influence or restraint. Scissored out of context with Rotten and McLaren. The bigger picture.

I want those boots, I'll f@ckin' take 'em.

I don't know. It's just that the terminology is too loaded. By association. Existstentialist angst. Poetry. Art. Music. Culture.

It's not that the youth who spilled out onto the streets here care about absolutely nothing; conversely, they care ABSOLUTELY about material ownership. And little else.

Designer tags. Labels. Brands.

Raise what can't be worn - carried off - to the ground. Like columns of the Hitler Youth looting with impunity.

ib said...


'Austerity' - poverty, deprivation, disaffection - was inarguably a mobilizing factor in its initial stages.

It may be that those middle-class youths who commuted in from the suburbs to grab their slice of pie, to bask in the radiated heat, were in the minority. It is highly possible.

It may be, too, that those elements of organised crime which capitalized on the moment played only a small role in events.

I don't think so.

This had little in common with those riots in Brixton and Tottenham in the 1980s. Toxteth.

Crucially, it shares nothing of value with economic and social upheaval as is reported in Europe and the Middle East.

What occurred in London this last week seems to me more like the cynical exploitation of one trigger event. Gathering momentum in a vacuum.

anto said...

i think the attempts to understand this, to put meaning on it and the search for an answer is wildly off target. Your summation Ib is spot on. Sure some of the fuckers who did this are poor but plenty were not. The fact that JB sports was the main target tells you what we are talking about here. The number of times the mobs were referred to as 'protestors' only shows how off the mark the media were.

I think the police are right to shot gubcarrying crack dealers by the way. There, i've said it. I've turned into me Da.

ib said...

Thank you, Anto. For telling it the way you see it.

I have had arguments with junkies shooting gear in stairwells. I have had disagreements with white and black youths and thirty-year-old men peddling crack in lifts.

I am too old for this tired old shit, in the final analysis. I no longer fill a space with physical presence in the way I maybe once did; the anarchic threat of danger.

And I'm quite fatigued, too, by the lip. The positive discrimination.

Those wan good-doers who would not dream of stepping where their mouth goes for fear of getting taxed.

There. I've said it after the event, in some semblance of solidarity. I'm weary of the same old same old.

I might have turned into my old man, when I wasn't listening, also.

My dad was often brutal in his sense of fair play, where I was once just brutal. It's been so long, I can't rightly remember.


You said, "El Sid absolved of all the moronic little nazi that he perhaps always was"

But to badly misquote Walter from The Big Lebowski:
'Nihilist stand for nothing. At least the Social Democrats had an ethos.'

A tribe of Sid Vicious with "Anarchy in the U.K." without a Joe Strummer warning about the "Clampdown"

ib said...

Yes. I'm aware of the mess of contradictions.

"Get pissed. Destroy".

It goes something like this: while the Pistols declared war, while El Sid might have marched like an enthusiatic puppet on a safety-pin, it was art, nonetheless. Energized and energizing.

Mould injected; packaged; sold.

Maybe it is just that my recollection of it is hopelessly tarred by nostalgia. Maybe it's just a case of when the bad shit goes down, I don't want a part of it.

I stand (loosely) by my original argument. Even if I stumble.

The London shopping sprees aren't about doctrine, I don't think; more a symptom of consumerism run riot. Rampant opportunism.

Well. You're right, of course, to reprimand me for splitting hairs.

A thirty-three-year-old man sets fire to a furniture store. A sixteen-year-old youth beats a pensioner to death for attempting to stop his corner of the world from going up in smoke. A twenty-three-year-old woman is broadcast from the CCTV footage walking out a store with a jumble of Nike shoes clasped to her chest and an orgasmic glow etched into her face.
Three asian men are murdered in Birmingham trying to protect their family business.

And I guess that I just don't know.