Naomi Klein on the London Riots

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 17, 2011 4:36 PM GMT
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/17/looing-with-lights-off

    I keep hearing comparisons between the London riots and riots in other European cities – window-smashing in Athens or car bonfires in Paris. And there are parallels, to be sure: a spark set by police violence, a generation that feels forgotten.

    But those events were marked by mass destruction; the looting was minor. There have, however, been other mass lootings in recent years, and perhaps we should talk about them too. There was Baghdad in the aftermath of the US invasion – a frenzy of arson and looting that emptied libraries and museums. The factories got hit too. In 2004 I visited one that used to make refrigerators. Its workers had stripped it of everything valuable, then torched it so thoroughly that the warehouse was a sculpture of buckled sheet metal.

    Back then the people on cable news thought looting was highly political. They said this is what happens when a regime has no legitimacy in the eyes of the people. After watching for so long as Saddam Hussein and his sons helped themselves to whatever and whomever they wanted, many regular Iraqis felt they had earned the right to take a few things for themselves. But London isn't Baghdad, and the British prime minister, David Cameron, is hardly Saddam, so surely there is nothing to learn there.

    How about a democratic example then? Argentina, circa 2001. The economy was in freefall and thousands of people living in rough neighbourhoods (which had been thriving manufacturing zones before the neoliberal era) stormed foreign-owned superstores. They came out pushing shopping carts overflowing with the goods they could no longer afford – clothes, electronics, meat. The government called a "state of siege" to restore order; the people didn't like that and overthrew the government.

    Argentina's mass looting was called el saqueo – the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country's elites had done by selling off the country's national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatisation deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centres would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge. But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn't theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behaviour.

    This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G8 and G20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuition fees, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatisations of public assets and decreasing pensions – mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these "entitlements"? The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.

    This is the global saqueo, a time of great taking. Fuelled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94% of millionaires were afraid of "violence in the streets". This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.

    Of course London's riots weren't a political protest. But the people committing night-time robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered – a union job, a good affordable education – being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.

    Cameron's response to the riots is to make this locking-out literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.

    At last year's G20 "austerity summit" in Toronto, the protests turned into riots and multiple cop cars burned. It was nothing by London 2011 standards, but it was still shocking to us Canadians. The big controversy then was that the government had spent $675m on summit "security" (yet they still couldn't seem to put out those fires). At the time, many of us pointed out that the pricey new arsenal that the police had acquired – water cannons, sound cannons, teargas and rubber bullets – wasn't just meant for the protesters in the streets. Its long-term use would be to discipline the poor, who in the new era of austerity would have dangerously little to lose.

    This is what Cameron got wrong: you can't cut police budgets at the same time as you cut everything else. Because when you rob people of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect resistance – whether organised protests or spontaneous looting. And that's not politics. It's physics.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 17, 2011 4:51 PM GMT
    Fountains, You and Naomi Klein are indeed wise. That post is profound. Thanks!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 17, 2011 6:00 PM GMT
    ReadyBuddy saidFountains, You and Naomi Klein are indeed wise. That post is profound. Thanks!


    Alternative view: it wasn't. Naomi Klein is a crank and conspiracy nut. Tangentially related quote from Steve Jobs:

    When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.


    That said, I think Klein was partially right. Less of a hyperventilating thought on the cause of the riots:
    http://news.sky.com/home/business/article/16046645

    tl;dr riots are the response to record rates of youth unemployment either from or the result of dependence on (generous) benefits which is also at record levels that are now being limited. Benefits were unsustainable. It's difficult to hold hostage a society for more money when there's no more money to give.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 18, 2011 1:00 AM GMT
    riddler78 said
    ReadyBuddy saidFountains, You and Naomi Klein are indeed wise. That post is profound. Thanks!


    Alternative view: it wasn't. Naomi Klein is a crank and conspiracy nut. Tangentially related quote from Steve Jobs:

    When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.


    That said, I think Klein was partially right. Less of a hyperventilating thought on the cause of the riots:
    http://news.sky.com/home/business/article/16046645

    tl;dr riots are the response to record rates of youth unemployment either from or the result of dependence on (generous) benefits which is also at record levels that are now being limited. Benefits were unsustainable. It's difficult to hold hostage a society for more money when there's no more money to give.


    Alternate view to your alternate view: you're an over privileged and under worked troll and your posting is boring as fuck.

    If you choose to set up a straw man and argue Klein's point that way then that's your business. But go derail somebody else's thread.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 18, 2011 1:38 AM GMT
    Fountains said
    riddler78 said
    ReadyBuddy saidFountains, You and Naomi Klein are indeed wise. That post is profound. Thanks!


    Alternative view: it wasn't. Naomi Klein is a crank and conspiracy nut. Tangentially related quote from Steve Jobs:

    When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.


    That said, I think Klein was partially right. Less of a hyperventilating thought on the cause of the riots:
    http://news.sky.com/home/business/article/16046645

    tl;dr riots are the response to record rates of youth unemployment either from or the result of dependence on (generous) benefits which is also at record levels that are now being limited. Benefits were unsustainable. It's difficult to hold hostage a society for more money when there's no more money to give.


    Alternate view to your alternate view: you're an over privileged and under worked troll and your posting is boring as fuck.

    If you choose to set up a straw man and argue Klein's point that way then that's your business. But go derail somebody else's thread.


    Boring and consistent is perhaps a bit better than being stupid and unintelligible as fuck (or wearing tinfoil hats gesticulating wildly at all the mass conspiracies out there). This is as much your thread as it is your website. Get your head out of your ass and do please get a clue.
  • Lincsbear

    Posts: 2605

    Aug 18, 2011 1:39 AM GMT
    Agree with much of your post,Fountains.The parallel between Argentina and Britain is striking,especially the language and imagery of 'sacking'.Over the last fifty years or so my country and it`s decency have been sold off to the highest(multi-national corporation usually)bidder and the people have been left with the crumbs.But even having these is now considered 'greedy' by the fabulously wealthy elites of whom David Cameron is one.So even the crumbs must be taken away.
    I think other factors are coming into play as well.A society so strongly dominated by materialism/consumerism,etc. and individualism is bound to be strained in such times of economic failure.The economy is intimately tied up with the deliberate promotion of want rather than need.No wonder those with the least feel it and rebel against this perceived injustice.These ruling ideologies breed a culture of discontent and a perverse sense of deprivation.Result:social disorder on the streets.It is a very bitter harvest.
    Riddler78,the state benefits in Britain are not generous,they`re rock bottom.No one depends on them as an alternative living.Those who claim them have them a part of a mix of incomes,some of them minimum wage(or lower) work.I suggest anyone who thinks they`re generous should try living on them for at least a few months and see how they get on.The last time someone did that publicly,he was in debt in days!
    The media rarely talk about the 'underclaiming' of state benefits here.All things considered,the government is paying out considerably less than required.It is also losing tens of billions of pounds per year in tax revenues due to tax avoidance and evasion by the wealthy.
    The British are notoriously stoical and resilient,even apathetic,but I think we are reaching breaking point with so much hypocrisy and unfairness on show.With all the cuts in public services(like the police) I fear for my country.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 18, 2011 1:49 AM GMT
    Well said, Naomi Klein.

    My favorite new quote is "The best way to rob a bank is to own one!"

    Looting is one way to take back the ill-gotten gains of the over-priveleged, The Thieves in Power.

    Unfortunately, it's a pathetic, unfair and ruinous means of wealth redistribution.

    Looting isn't being done by Robin Hood for the benefit of the poor.

    And looting certainly isn't a means of giving a helping hand to those who have a chance of contributing their talents to society.....if only they got a little help.

    But from my perspective, we don't have so much of a lack of justice for the poor..........as we have a lack of resources for the poor---and everyone else.

    We are currently overpopulated and under-resourced. As of yet we haven't created the technologies on a sufficient scale that will sustain further growth for the world's economy.

    We've got to invent and we've got to tap the talents of as many citizens as possible. The wealthy elite certainly aren't coming up with the answers we need.

    But Looting Sucks! I'd rather see education more widely distributed----not just stolen TVs.