I can easily condemn the actions of the mobs that lit the streets last night leaving only chaos in their wake. Mindlessness is abhorrent. The priority is stopping this from happening and, despite the calls for penalties and punishments ranging from medieval to malign, it comes down to economics, and our obsession with valuing everything through recourse to its narrow priorities. Namely our subservience to a system designed only for profit at the expense of people. We seek to prop it up, we break our backs to support it and yet it blatantly fails to meet the needs of the country. It serves only a few.
I've seen what's going on in the poor areas of the city. noted the divide. I worked four years as part of a youth project tackling disaffection and gang related crime in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. I have seen first hand the effects of territorial postcode wars, overwhelming poverty and the disconnect from the ideals aspired to by wider society. In that particular area, every day thousands of highly paid workers are shepherded into the towers of Canary Wharf to make massive amount of money, only to promptly take it out of the borough within which they operate. Residents exist sometimes nine to a single room flat. Hardly any locals are employed by the occupying corporates except maybe to clean and service.
Everyone knows about the ever widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. Who could be surprised at the resentment felt by the latter when they live side by side in many areas with the former? In Tower Hamlets they’re across the street from each other in many places. This is a situation that is repeated across the capital. Decades of raging against social values, state-encouraged slander against ‘society’ combined with erosion of our manufacturing, outsourcing of jobs and selling of public assets not to mention ever increasing criminalisation of dissent, worship of material goods and shallow celebrity without the mediating hand of any sort of spiritual or moral tradition – have made this country incredibly unstable. Our bizarre obsession with ‘terrorism’ has even blinded us to the real threats to our national security from within. People at the top pillage and pilfer far more than those at the bottom, they merely own the terminology. What’s more it is getting worse and shows no signs of changing course, for there are bigger problems to come.
Since 2008 I have been involved in the Transition Town movement so have become painfully aware of the large issues of energy constraints (peak oil) and climate change. When I first encountered the idea that oil was close to peaking, that all the easily extracted fuel had already been used and that the West would suffer an imminent decline in living standards, it was fringe to say the least. Now it is mainstream, indeed we’ve been treated to a deluge of reports detailing the facts and only need check out a local garage forecourt to witness the volatility of fuel prices. If you’re looking you’ll notice our increasing grabs to soak up the last of the good drops through our adventures in the Middle East.
Oil is the root of the western world. It is literally the fuel that drives our economic engine, without it you have nothing but a return to the pre-industrial society.
These are all huge, endlessly debatable issues. But what have they got to do with what’s going on in London?
What we have seen over the last three days is the leading edge of the trouble to come. I had assumed that these troubles would happen when resources were scarcer, employment even more sparse and people’s backs were firmly to the wall. Now I see that the disaffection runs so deep, the indifference to inequality so severe and the breakdown so prevalent that the conditions already exist for chaos to engulf our society. Today. What’s going to happen when things are tougher? Will there be roving bands of disenfranchised gangs marauding for what they could get? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it – at least it did until the last few days.