Seumas Milne for the Guardian provides the best commentary so far on the rioting in the UK, bursting that popular myth among the ruling classes or with an authoritarian streak: the riots are senseless. No.
If this week’s eruption is an expression of pure criminality and has nothing to do with police harassment or youth unemployment or rampant inequality or deepening economic crisis, why is it happening now and not a decade ago? The criminal classes, as the Victorians branded those at the margins of society, are always with us, after all. And if it has no connection with Britain’s savage social divide and ghettoes of deprivation, why did it kick off in Haringey and not Henley?
And he is correct, while some of the motivation is clearly opportunist, the rioting itself is a response to a society that lionizes the more vicious aspects of human nature. More over, if this were simply one group of criminal individuals why has it spread so quickly? The resonance of the rioting in London in Burmingham, in Liverpool, in Manchester, it speaks not to criminality but to disaffection with the social order.
As Milne notes, of course, it is tempting to simply dismiss this as sensless. If it is irrational and criminal rather than social and economic, then who in authority could be blamed? No Cameron and Co. cannot be allowed to wash their hands of the violence and take credit for the hammer’s fall that will surely come once order is restored. It took less time in Greece and in Spain but the anger is the same. Austerity is borne by the most vulnerable while the rest of us feel a tiny pinch in comparison.