Thingish Things

The London Rioter Deconstructed

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 09•11

Spontaneous looters in London and other English cities are quickly being lent shape and purpose by sympathetic psychologists, sociologists, and other analysts working to get their mugs on TV.

It’s a mistake.  

The “experts” are providing striking insight into the socioeconomic factors behind rum-swilling 17-year-olds snatching 42″ inch plasma TVs  from the windows of mom-and-pop shops, and with it a narrative for why this really all makes sense. It has to do with powerlessness and unemployment and the humiliation of the disenfranchised, we are told — and nothing to do with Benny Hill re-runs in high definition.

You can’t blame the academic types for imposing their worldview on the situation. There is something of the social scientist in all of us that demands it (Kelly’s Construct Theory vaguely comes to mind). We seek an orderly explanation of all things random as a way to properly harness and mentally digest them. If it were political analysts on the telly, we would be looking at a revolutionary movement. Education reformers, I’m sure, would be busy indicting the English O-Level system. 

But sometimes, to Kipling’s eternal dismay, people just don’t keep their heads about them when all others are losing theirs. And so they throw that stone through the window when they know they shouldn’t or join in kicking the poor bloke on the ground when they were taught by their mothers not to. And they do it because, at the time, it seems like fun. 

You can call it mob mentality, but that provides umbrella absolution, too, for what in fact is a collection of individual acts of crime. And that’s how riots in a tinder-box world must be stubbornly viewed if we are to keep alive the basic social compact.  No excuses: A crime is a crime is a crime.

Fortunately the Brits are a no-nonsense breed and the extrapolators will be kept on a fairly short leash. The French might devise an entirely new philosophical discipline from this week’s events, certainly an art movement. Le Rage. 

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  1. Your Friend says:

    I guess if we looked at our own checkered pasts we’d each see something quite different. Maybe you’d see a failure of character, where I’d see two kids adrift; maybe you’d place all the blame squarely on us, where I’d see a perfect storm of bad ideas and poor parenting. Most likely, neither view would be 100% accurate. But to ignore the possibility that these riots are a symptom of possible serious social problems in the culture of Britain is to choose the life of an ostrich. If your argument is right, then rum-swilling 17-year-olds should be rioting all over the world. Unless I’ve missed something, I see no evidence of that. Hemingway seems to be making a come back recently, have you noticed? Crack the spine of To Have And Have Not some time again soon. Amazing how culture and history just seems like one vast extended cycle, repeating; an eternal golden braid.

    • The operative word in that post is “stubbornly.”

      • Your Friend says:

        No apologies on their behalf, no doubt, but I stubbornly view these riots as a bunch of misguided blokes who have every reason to believe that corporate interests are more important to their government than the interests of the citizenry. Anarchy in the UK. It’s a tradition.

  2. Me says:

    Did you just write “bloke”?

  3. […] took a little chip shot at the English rioters yesterday.  Max Hastings takes out the wood today in The Mail Online.  I […]

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