by Jo Rostron on August 10, 2011

Can the actions of the ‘hoodies’ be termed riots, and as such politically motivated?

Or are they simply acts of looting and destructiveness?

It is likely that they are both.  The mobiles are used by adult males, organising the violence, while the looters appear to be children and teenagers, who are less likely to be prosecuted.  In place of speech, which is unlikely to be heard or responded to, the ‘material’ of their communication is new digital technology and branches of Dixons, the Carphone Warehouse and Boots.  Their message circulates within the only territory that they have ever seen valued in Britain – that of the consumer.  What they are telling us is plain: the ‘Me! Me!’ consumer society is out of control.  The gangs appear to be expressing a confused anti-capitalism  that represents a generation of young people today.  They are making it obvious to the rest of us that not only are they the losers in this society, but that they have nothing left to lose.  They are in fact not alone in this situation as the sick elderly, the learning disabled and the mentally ill have also been discarded to fend for themselves.

The Act of the Hoodies touches on the real of what politicians have wiped their hands of.  It follows on from the phone hacking scandal when the extent of the subservience of police and politicians to News Corp became apparent.  Their chosen moments for action in London and elsewhere reveal the powerlessness of the police once again as they are unable to contain the destructiveness of a fluid group of people that appear and disappear like shadows.  There is an element of shock involved too, in terms of technological development and the social changes it brings. Things are simply moving too fast for the so-called authorities to keep up.  Groups of vigilantes and the decision to authorise the use of plastic bullets could create a situation of anarchy as individuals simply get themselves armed to kill.

Looting on a much grander scale has of course been operating in another quarter as many people lost their pensions and their life savings to face an impoverished old age. This has been greeted by indifference.  Trillions have been lost on the stock exchange, and through economic mismanagement and fraud.  The message delivered by the hoodies speaks for many of us.  ‘All this is a wake up call for the government’, I was told by the usually relaxed and congenial landlord of my local pub, as he anxiously described how he had barricaded, chained and padlocked his premises last night.

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s in the USA, Roosevelt introduced the New Deal.  It is time for the government to consider introducing something like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a public work relief programme for unemployed, single men which provided unskilled manual labour jobs.  The New Deal also supported artists, musicians, actors, writers, photographers, and dancers.  Surely there is enough work available today in terms of conserving our buildings, our environment, and establishing projects that protect and develop our natural resources.

Above all, we need to value and develop our capacity for creativity and generosity.  If this avenue is not available to us, the destruction and greed will continue.