Something about the riots

So I suppose I should say something about the riots that have been happening in England. I won’t say much, not least because every other blogger with a connection with Britain has had something to say about them. I had an email exchange with a friend back home that helped clarify my thoughts somewhat. He thinks some good may come of this, in that it may spur the country to deal properly with the social problems that brought it about. I’m more pessimistic, but you never know.

A few points that I think worth mentioning:

  • Even if you don’t think the rioters have any clear political cause or goals, that doesn’t mean the riots aren’t about important social issues. If a sick or frightened pet starts shitting on your living room floor, it’s about more than making a mess of your carpet.*
  • Saying this is about “criminality” doesn’t mean this isn’t about deeper social issues. Assuming it does seems to confuse proximate and ultimate causes for things. Rain can be about climate as well as clouds.
  • Deep social problems don’t lead necessarily to rioting and looting. But then an act of unprotected sex doesn’t necessarily lead to pregnancy either.
  • People on both the left and the right have been saying, “I told you so!” which isn’t very surprising, because both have failed to solve the social problems at the root of this. It’s not hard to make arguments that this is the result of both too little and too much state involvement.
  • The calls for sterilisation and shooting of the rioters are at least as horrific and troubling as the riots themselves.

That’ll probably do.

*This is an analogy. I’m not saying the rioters are animals, except in the sense that human beings are members of the animal kingdom. I’m also not claiming that the rioters are sick or were mainly motivated by fear, or that riots are just like defecating. You’d think I wouldn’t have to say this, but I’ve been amazed in the past how little some people understand analogies (or thought experiments).


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