Will you riot?
The anger at inequality is turning to violence. You can see that all around the world. The wildfires of the brushlands are reflected in the chaotic behaviour of mobs making their feelings felt by destruction. The noise, water canon and injury may be the same as before, the source and volume of the disturbance is different. Apparently leaderless, they are sparked by Instagram and similar social media, fuelled by Facebook and the like. From peaceful they quickly turn to riot.
Their causes are variable. They start with one objective, morph into a more general dissatisfaction and then become ubiquitous. The credo is ‘destroy the old order’ with little thought of its replacement, no plan to restore order. Personal self-harm has long since been recognised as a cry for attention. Collective disruption has the same purpose. It is more difficult to solve, more likely to spread. Individually we are a problem; jointly we are a mob.
That there is cause for disquiet is without question. What is presented as inequality is as much fear of climate destruction proceeding at a frightening pace or the looming dominance of AI . The media announce repeated claims that all the collective effort seven billion people can make as individuals will not solve planet overheating. Even the simplest voter knows this means higher taxes and lower standards of living while we try to right the wrongs of two centuries.
Not In my back yard (NIMBY) has become Not in my time on earth (NIMTOE).
The riots are not confined to the streets. Parliamentary debates, especially in the Mother of Parliaments (UK), take on the mantle of riot, even if personal injury is still outside the building. Hate mail ballooned when Johnson lost his cool in the House of Commons. Personal threats against members of Parliament have become a source of major concern to the police trying to protect them from harm. Democracy and debate have become weaponised in a very real sense.
‘The Art of the Possible’, the description usually given to political practice, has become ‘The Art of Chicanery’. The Speaker of the House, supposedly the Moderator of Opposing Views, has become a central actor on a stage of populism. It may be fun but it is not funny. People with steadying jobs like the Speaker are not up for Oscars. ‘The man who wheeltaps the train should not entertain the travellers’. ‘A safe pair of hands’ has become a term of derision not an assurance of sobriety.
Now is the time for all those of education and sensible thinking to devote efforts and money to educate the rioters. Politicians must start to show real responsibility for the power they are given. Politics may have been a club but so were the slave masters. It took guns and carnage to change their behaviour. Surely we are more civilised than that today? The belief that you only make progress by murder is a pathetic throwback to our primitive beginnings.
Above all there needs to be political sense in a time like the present. ‘Nero fiddled while Rome burned’ they said. Our current political scene, with some notable exceptions, is one of fiddling. Jockeying for position, manipulating the rules and inventing convenient new ones, games over whether a letter is signed or not, these are today’s fiddling.
Where is the real strategy, not just a mantra of apple pie, motherhood and premarital chastity?
Look to the upcoming UK Election to tell you where Europe is going.
Let’s hope it’s not just into another riot.