I think it might be time to bring this one back out again. It started as a bit of banter on Facebook, as everything seems to do now, about this 19-year-old daughter of a millionaire businessman, who’s been arrested for looting… someone went, “I took her to the supermarket…” and you know, we egged each other on a little bit, and the next thing you know I found myself taking this bit of code and pasting it in here… but it was supposed to be free, it didn’t have a price on it or anything…
Too horrified to have very much to say. Tuesday night was not something I ever want to repeat: I ended up bringing a duvet in and falling asleep on the couch at about 3am – and paid my dues for that, by waking to the sound of Theresa May’s ugly voice at 8am… Every time that lot open their mouths they make it worse.
The things I want to think through about all this are legion, the garbage that’s getting spouted is already so numerous and big and scary, we have to get our thoughts lined up in rows… but I have nothing coherent yet. I posted a couple of early responses; and I think Suzanne Moore is going to write something for Saturday morning.
Some wag on Twitter summed it up: “I know who I want to vote for in the next election: the Norwegian Prime Minister.”
I will say this, though: we are going to have to get to grips with the fact that you can’t slice a slice of people off the bottom without consequences. And even aside from that, this looting frenzy – now we’ve got named individuals appearing in court – appears to be a frighteningly disparate group of people, except that they weren’t a group. They were just people – people like the people we know – surfing on the wave of the moment. Our moment, this current present moment that we have all, somehow, each of us, contributed in some small way to creating. That’s what the Zeitgeist is.
It’s not an ‘entitled underclass’, but it is the sense of entitlement that the consumer culture exists solely to create; the dream we’ve fed ourselves on; it isn’t the cuts, but it is, kind of; it’s the fear and uncertainty of people who’ve lost, or will lose, or won’t even get, their jobs – or benefits, or home help, or education, or health care. In our common moment, when common space and common purpose have been given over to shop after shop, where the other activities have dies away, and if you want to go out you pretty much have to go out and consume – shop – well, it very much looks as if even rioting has literally become another way of… shopping. Or something. They emptied Debenham’s, and walked out in the streets carrying Debenham’s bags. There was the teenager who went in and looted a supermarket while her mum waited in the car. There was the woman who took her toddler in with her and came out with two bags of shopping. People were trying things on.
But the destruction? The firebombs, the trashing, the reduction of people’s corner shops to rubble, the torching of homes, the killing of three young men?? Nobody understands that, and the politicians certainly don’t. It’s almost criminal of them to claim they do. They’re about to wreak even more harm upon us, you watch. They’re talking about controlling text messaging now.
So many things are emerging from the rubble, stories and facts and new angles – and old angles – there are sights burned into my brain: those three guys jumping on the countertop in Labrokes in Clapham Junction, using all their strength to rip the flatscreen from the wall – and then they just threw it. It was terrifying.
The thing is, we can’t understand it, because we’re in the middle of it. That’s why it’s been so terrifying this week, it was an unstoppable force – like one of those whooshy incorporeal evil things in Harry Potter… and you can’t run, you can’t hide, and because it’s not Harry Potter, there’s no magic spell.