The English riots story runs and runs. There have now been something like 1,700 arrests — which is equivalent to about 2 percent of the entire United Kingdom prison population. The courts are meting out quick justice, which is a good thing (magistrates have been sitting through the night in special sessions), but they are also meting out retributive justice, which is not good. One man who walked into a shop that had been broken into and took £3.50 of bottled water has been given six months in jail. That is nothing more than a magistrate responding to the calls of Brave Dave Cameron and the moronic right that everyone involved be given a good caning.
England is stuck in the middle with its underclass problem. On the one hand it could go the American route, have a bigger underclass, but use much higher levels of state violence to keep it in place. That means more ghettoisation and more police with guns. In essence, it would mean that every time you arrived in an English city (like an American one) the taxi driver would tell you which part of town you can’t go to ‘cos they might kill you’. It doesn’t matter that this isn’t necessarily true (Among others, I have survived the south side of Chicago, south-east DC and some bad bits of NYC), the taxi driver’s advice is a short-hand for the political choices that have been made.
The other route is the continental European one. We should clarify at the outset that we are not talking here about the continental European immigrant underclass, which definitely exists and is nicely down-trodden. The immigrant underclass has rioted in France, but for the most part immigrants live on sufferance and their very low expectations keep them from going over the civil unrest brink. What we need to talk about in continental Europe is the treatment of the least fortunate part of the indigenous population, including (usually second generation) naturalised immigrants.
This latter group has never, to my knowledge, rioted because of what can be called ‘inclusion’. Since the Second World War, continental Europe has implemented policies designed to maintain society as a single unit. The most important of these, I believe, is nationalised education. There is no educational ghettoisation in continental Europe that can act as a stepping stone to social ghettoisation. In towns throughout the European mainland, the children of the wealthiest entrepreneurs grow up going to school with the children of mechanics and barbers. This is overwhelmingly the case, and it is absolutely overwhelmingly the case at a primary level of education. Largely as a result, people growing up in continental Europe in the past 50 years have largely been denied the sense of exclusion and jealousy that pervades the Anglo-American underclass.
It is interesting that Ed Milliband, the Labour leader, is talking at every opportunity — in the wake of the riots — about the need to give people a stake in society. He even plans his own ‘enquiry’. But the Labour Party (the true party of bullshit in British politics) won’t go near the socially cancerous education issue. Boarding-school educated Tony Blair would not touch it and the new ‘lefty’ Labour leader will not do so either.
In consequence, Britain is destined to remain stuck in the middle. We have a sub American-scale underclass but we don’t have the guns to keep it in the ghetto. Once in a generation the underclass rampages down English high streets nicking whatever consumer durables its miserable existence has led it to crave. This generation is worse than the 80s one in that it is utterly bereft of any political consciousness. It appears to have been neutered by a combination of television, the moral cesspool of Premiership football, and the apparently limitless selfishness of reproductive underclass males.
Joe Strummer used to sing that anger can be power. But these days the only thing that anger can be is a flat-screen tv and a pair of new trainers — which most of the looters probably had anyway.
Bob the Builder must be fuming. After Obama already stole his ‘Can we fix it? Yes, we can!’ refrain for the US election, Brave Dave Cameron is making another raid on Bob’s core IP with his new ‘Can we fix Broken Britain? You jolly well bet we can, matey’, campaign.
To be fair, Brave Dave has some reasonable points, but in the end I reckon he’s a fiddler not a fixer — a Polyfilla Blagger as Bob might say.
On the US copper — Bratton — to run the Met saga I am instinctively on Brave Dave’s side. But then he appointed Theresa May Home Secretary, so whaddya do? Remember that he also cut the political legs off Fatty Clarke, having first promised to be sensible about punishment issues. Brave Dave just can’t decide whether to hug a hoodie or lash one to a post and thrash him. It is so very hard being a modern Tory.
Unrelated, but quite funny:
I had not realised that Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s finance minister who used to work as a tax law expert and this week imposed a ‘solidarity tax‘ on high earners, also worked in the past as a university lecturer in ethics. He currently stands accused of paying a fast-living political aide who is under investigation for serial corruption €1,000 a week in cash to live in his apartment in Rome. It would be fun to publish Mr Tremonti’s course notes, if someone has them.