We didn’t have riots in Bolton or Bury. I rarely travel in to either. Bury is the nicer town now, Bolton having sunk to ghost town status like its Farnworth appendage. North of England post-industrial torpor for which there is no cure. We are an Undead in need of the silver bullet. I first understood on a rugby tour of Cumbria when mild beer was 8 old pence a pint in the British Legion. Millom was like a scene from ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. Britain was dying in 1972. Millom matched my professional team in the Challenge Cup, beat us 24 – 22 and the North beat the All Blacks 9 – 3 around then. The work never came back and the blight spread. It’s around this time that wages started to lose ground and we entered into the false accounting cycle the USA has used to fund its Vietnam bankruptcy and maintain war time military spending in peace. Hardly anyone can honestly claim that they have succeeded through hard work since those times. There have been no wages to earn for the bottom 50% in our societies and the cash (liquid assets) this group held has been stripped away. The big bucks have mostly been stolen by insider trading done on the back of very simple equations based on the inevitable rise of stockmarkets. This money should have been in the hands of the majority, either as cash or in national investment. We have been hollowed out.
No riots in Bolton or Bury, but the chancers were out, waiting. Pinch-faced scum mostly, and looking at them I realised we haven’t had riots. Whatever the outbreak of criminality was I don’t think riot fits. These people have the look of Arabs or Afghans descending on a broken down lorry or fuel spill. We are now sending poor sods caught receiving baby clothes to prison and are remanding people who may be innocent. These are more like the things one expects riots to be about, not plastic televisions and cheap textiles at inflated prices. No one gave a damn about these pinch-faced crooks and the problems they cause on a daily basis until there was a focused attack on victims that mattered, making our police look useless and vulnerable. 60% of the nicked rioters were already known to police and a fair number loitering about waiting for a kick-off up here were known to me. There were enough police to stop them daring.
Police and IPCC botched the Duggan thing that may have been the spark and tinder of the later criminality. Very careless and utterly unprofessional stuff. If there is nothing to hide in the shooting incident and Duggan is a ‘Noonan’ and the rest of that the cock-up is even worse – something made of nothing due to dismal attitudes. A little decency might have prevented all.
My recent work has taken me in amongst the pinch-faces and estate squalor. The news is a bit like Gadget’s descriptions of the Swamp or Reservation – though more squalid and detailed. There are ‘people’ who sell their daughters for a fix – more likely in a set of favours than a single instance. There are also witless cops and local authority workers, some bent, nearly all jobsworth and a lurking oppression of the agencies being successful. They will go to criminal lengths to maintain their performance management.
It’s easy to dismiss the scum as scum. Their weirdness is scary, from incest to neo Nazi madness; they pick on the weak and one finds disgusting attitudes towards others and a gossip system in which rumours spawned by the entirely non-credible are spread and believed. ‘Wars’ are as likely to break out over ‘shagging controversies’ as drug territories. If I say undergraduates are as thick as mud, I leave little space to describe these people – we’d have to stretch to the freezing moral confines of a Bose-Einstein condensate. Yet my sense is that the ‘professionals’ are worse, hopelessly pretending to be objective and totally lacking in the self-evaluation needed to approach fairness. The street-level bureaucrats, often cops, are clueless stereotypers seeking to bag jobs off and their bosses generally bloated patronisers and bullies. I found no reason to trust the majority of them and am sure they don’t do the needed work.
The very idea of linking poverty and deprivation to the riots is a non-starter. Industrial Cumbria didn’t riot. A billion people live in slums across the world and don’t riot. The wonderful Egyptians were a model of not rioting in taking to their streets.
We should take to our streets in protest. We should now have real democracies across the West and do not. We should have found the means for more equal wealth distribution and instead have gone backwards for 40 years. Now we can’t make decisions to do anything because we must conform to an economic system too clever for any of us to understand. Complex argument is needed, but what we get is juvenile selfishness.
Various stories emerge on the rationalisation of scuzz lives – a common one is that insurance makes crimes victimless and that the burgled overclaim and thus make money. Such comes from creeps who have just nicked a kid’s bicycle. There is little on rioting other than being able to operate as cops are distracted. There is a widespread discourse that the criminal way of life is worthy and a hostile attitude to almost any authority that springs from ignorance and being treated like shit in school and the benefits system. If members of this group have worked they didn’t like it. Most work-related stuff is about rejection for them and is undignifying. One girl told me she preferred being a whore to the thought of working in McDonalds. Some of this was bravado and I doubt she was suitable as a burger-flipper. The big silence in this group is politics – they have none.
My suspicion is that this group lack ideology that other groups further up the pecking order have – that their lives have been crap enough to destroy notions of work ethic and it being OK for some people to be very wealthy while others remain poor. This may be linked to their willingness to be criminal and be out and about for opportunity.
I’d want to turn our questioning on the riots on its head. Why should anyone think that some people deserve to be left as far behind as we do with so many today or for anyone to have so overpowering wealth? What ideological structures have been built to facilitate this? How do these link with what many of us feel is decent and right – perhaps inappropriately? What would a modern work ethic be? What would a modern allocation of work and wealth look like? How do we stop the rich ruining so many lives because they can move ‘their’ investments as soon as we want to change something for the better?
We should be looking at why the system has been able to scramble to defence of shops and get into the prosecutions it has so quickly when it is usually so slow, lenient and useless?