England’s cultural rainbow went up in flames last week, and as the smoke clears and the fog stubbornly returns, the experts are once again arguing over exactly how it all started.
Few seem willing to discuss exactly how it all ended.
No one disputes that the flashpoint was the police shooting of Mark Duggan, who, like Rodney King, appears to have been a serial fuckup. Initial reports suggest Duggan was armed with a loaded gun at the time of his death. Although he’d shot four kids out of his bell-end before reaching thirty, he seemed more concerned with maintaining his gangsta persona of “Starrish Mark” than in raising his four li’l nippers to be anything more than scowling social parasites. Most of the media were keen to play up the “father of four” angle, while very few focused on the “nephew of Manchester ganglord” angle. Before being stabbed to death by a drug dealer, Duggan’s uncle, Desmond “Dessie” Noonan, bragged in a documentary called Gangster that “I’ve got a bigger army than the police. We have more guns than the police.”
To distill the matter, England’s recent riots were about cop violence in response to thug violence, which led to more thug violence, which led to more cop violence.
“Pacifists are unable to concede the eternal truth that violence only ever yields to greater violence.”
But to hear the paid experts try and make sense of it is like listening to a darkly absurd modern version of the “blind men and an elephant” fable. They haven’t a clue. In broad terms, their analyses are derived mainly from whether they deem thug violence or cop violence to be more justified.
For the “Hug a Thug” contingent, the rampant arson, looting, and violence weren’t “riots,” they were “civil unrest,” which sounds as benign as “polite insomnia.” They insist this was a people’s uprising in response to discontent, disenchantment, and disenfranchisement. They blame it on high unemployment rather than high immigration. They note that these children are “deprived” compared to many Britons but won’t tell you they’re filthy-rich compared to most Jamaicans. They claim that these youth have nothing to lose but won’t tell you they have nothing to offer, either. They’ll insist that these noble proletarian tadpoles are the victims of a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of ability. They’ll robotically repeat that these yoofs belong to the underclass without ever pondering the possibility that they may be under-intelligent. And even if the rioters are out on the street stripping white people of their clothes, it is the nonwhites who are racism’s true and only victims. These delusional social engineers are upset about slashed social funding in Parliament rather than slashed throats in Brixton’s council houses. Even though they likely never suffered so much as a nosebleed, they state with certitude that street violence is only a symptom of deeper social ills. It never seems to occur to them that entitled, unemployable, inarticulate shitheads might be the biggest social ill of them all.
If the riots were indeed about police brutality, Britain’s bobbies did a piss-poor job of being brutal over the first few days. After years of being systematically weakened and neutered and terrified of being tarred with the indelible “R” word by an Orwellian policy report that defined a “racist incident” as “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person,” the police did little more than glumly stand by while they were openly taunted and the buildings burned. In some cases, they even retreated with their docile, tamed-shrew tails tucked firmly between their legs. Although water cannons were once gleefully used to scatter Irish nationalists, the fires this time blazed away as rioters threw concrete blocks at firemen.
The riots that began in Tottenham on Sunday evening had flared out to multiple loci by Tuesday, when Prime Minister David Cameron finally returned from filing his nails and sunning his navel in Italy. He issued an order that nearly tripled the number of Met Police on London’s streets. As if some sort of magic wand had been waved over London, the riots’ ferocity quickly ebbed. By Tuesday night, the fires began to wane in the Big Smoke.
By Wednesday night, authorities fingered the biggest “threat” to civil order as a cluster of a hundred or so Caucasian yobs in South London’s Eltham district who’d convened not to loot or torch, but to protect local buildings from such eventualities. The Telegraph reported that “more than 1,000 officers battled with dozens” of “mainly white men,” one or two of whom may have thrown a bottle or two at the police. Not only did most press reports make a point of noting their race, they also repeatedly noted that they’d been drinking. In most accounts of the previous few nights’ pyromaniacal pandemonium, the press seemed extra-careful not to mention the race of most of the rioters, nor the possibility that they, too, may have been intoxicated. They tended to see more seething malignance in those who were defending English property and culture than those who were smashing and destroying it. Scribes clucked at the men of Eltham, and a similar grouping in Enfield, as “extreme right-wing” tools of the British National Party and English Defence League, mindless scumbags whose almost entirely nonviolent defensive activities had forever been “contaminated” and “tainted” by racism’s ineradicable stink.
The press heaped no such scorn upon Bangladeshi, Sikh, and Muslim vigilante groups who understandably had also gathered to protect their neighborhoods. Instead, they portrayed them as heroic. One headline even rubbed indigenous Brits’ noses in the idea that “Immigrants love this country more than we do,” failing to note that the police didn’t clamp down on such groups with nearly the zeal that they did the Anglo-Saxons of Eltham, nor did anyone in the media or government lob endless “R” bombs at the Turks, Kurds, and Somalis.
And still they scratch their pointy heads and wonder why England has festering cultural problems.
Undoubtedly aided by vigilante groups of all shades as well as the swollen police presence, a temporary sort of order was restored in London and elsewhere in England. Government officials were quick to lecture their subjects that it’s wrong to take the law, and the truncheons, into their own hands. Otherwise, the government would be out of a job, wouldn’t it?
Notably missing from their homilies was the fact that self-righteous platitudes did nothing to end the violence—it was only the threat of superior counter-violence that did the trick. Also unmentioned was the idea that although governments pretend to rule by popular consent, they have always been little more than the biggest gang in town. The difference between politics and crime is that politicians reserve the right to define the latter term. Governments monopolize the right to harm, kill, steal, and detain. Everything else consists of semantic gymnastics and window dressing.
Should any peaceniks scoff at the notion that superior firepower—not lofty ideas—is what rules the world, remind them that mercilessly blunt force is the only thing that stopped Hitler. It wasn’t Lincoln’s speeches, but Sherman’s scorched-earth tactics that smashed the Confederacy. The Declaration of Independence would have only been a scrap of quaint parchment if it hadn’t been backed by 20,000 muskets wielded by men who were willing to die. Pacifists are unable to concede the eternal truth that violence only ever yields to greater violence.
Mark Duggan understood that, as do all gangsters. Police and politicians understand it. Ordinary citizens are only beginning to comprehend it.
Despite fleeting illusions that we’re civilized, the world will always be a jungle. It makes me queasy to think that this year could be a turning point where a block-to-block civil war erupts all over the world, but I’d rather have a mild tummy ache than a bullet in my gut. There may be shortages of food and money but a bounty of violence and mayhem. Things may grow so chaotic that you’ll need to take the law into your own hands. So the kindest gesture I could make is to gently suggest you get ready. It’s the only thing that will protect you from the federal shooters on one side and the feral looters on the other.