Let Them Wear Gucci – Tasnim Morrison

By , August 10, 2011 2:02 pm
Tasnim Morrison

Tasnim Morrison

The response of police and politicians alike to the spreading riots have been vacuous and condescending. Theresa May  praised police for risking their lives to protect Londoners and their property, a spokesman for David Cameron, who, from his holiday in Italy had clearly not seen fit to respond personally, said that those responsible, “will be made to face the consequences for their actions.” Nick Clegg described it as “needless, opportunistic theft which had nothing to do with the death of Mark Duggan.” In stark contrast to the politicians, eye witnesses and local residents attempted to make some sense of it all. They saw the events as the almost inevitable response to years of discontent and tension between police and local youths and a lack of dialogue between them and local people, and the fact that they feel that issues within their community have not been given an adequate response by police or government. Very good – but it doesn’t explain the looting spree.

While we wait for the corporate media to tell us what to think, let us consider that in other parts of the world we have seen ‘trigger’ events give rise to ‘colour revolutions’ and a so called ‘Arab Spring’. Why is it, according to our political leaders, that serious police related incidents in Tottenham have only triggered mindless and opportunistic, violence, looting and destruction? If the rioters in London and elsewhere in the country are not in need of freedom and democracy, unlike the people of Tunisia, Libya, Syria, etc – what are they in need of? People were raiding supermarkets, electrical goods and well known high street clothing stores were all subject to looting. People were running and even calmly walking down the streets ahead of police officers, with arms and trolleys full of consumer goods: clothes, trainers, televisions, laptops, food and even nappies. The fact is, these images could almost be amusing if they weren’t so damning.

This isn’t just unnecessary, violent behaviour, this is a sign of the times, a 21st century bread riot. It all boils down to a hunger for consumer goods; but this hunger is not real, how can it be in the midst of a national obesity epidemic? This hunger is programmed, and is driven by relentless advertising that requires us to spend and tempts us with so much choice that we will spend what we don’t have to fulfil the addictive desire to acquire the latest designer offerings and to be fully equipped with the newest hi-tech gear. We are convinced that this consumption of ‘stuff’ and never-ending choice is as necessary to our survival as food and water.

The kinds of places that were looted and the desperation with which people scrambled through the streets tells us more about the real state of our society than words ever could. They were not attacking people. In fact, one man commented that when people tried to enter his small shop he simply informed them that it belonged to him and they moved on. No, they were attacking the faceless, monopolising chain stores which thrive under banking capitalism by destroying independent small businesses and street markets, reducing the ‘lucky’ few to employee status and leaving the rest unemployed and ‘hungry’ for the goods they despair of ever being able to afford.

We are in a bubble where we have become accustomed to spending what we can, consuming what we have and coveting what we don’t have. However, there is now but a palpable sense of fear. People are threatened by a sense of impending economic collapse, knowing that the politicians will not, indeed, cannot protect them – on the contrary – they have already betrayed them time and again. It is fear that led to these riots, a fear that this bubble is about to burst. We are bombarded with news of terrorist attacks, natural disasters and gun-toting madmen, while our own government invades our privacy and deprives us of our civil liberties. Who really believes the politicians who reassure us that the economy is in recovery and that unemployment will not rise? The freedom to consume that has defined modern life is slipping from our grasp and it is inevitable that what follows is a sense of complete and utter panic and desperation because we have no idea what lies outside of our bubble – except a frightening image of poverty stricken, drought ridden hordes from the Global South clamouring at our borders for refuge.

What we are seeing is not a youth uprising or an anti-police action. We are seeing the growing cracks in a society floundering under the weight of debt, social injustice and self-destructive nihilism. What we are seeing is the future of banking capitalism.

6 Responses to “Let Them Wear Gucci – Tasnim Morrison”

  1. Jaafar El-Murad says:

    Assalamu alaikum.

    A well-writen article, but I am sorry, Tasnim, I cannot agree with your analysis. It is not a bread riot, nor is it a desperate attempt to acquire consumer goods – the looting is merely opportunism. What has setting cars alight to do with looting? It is not the fault of ‘relentless advertising’. We are all subjected to that but do not behave in this way. This is hooliganism and extreme vandalism.
    The perpetrators are mostly young – some as young as 10, though the police reported 14 to 20+. These kids don’t know about social injustice, they live at home, so have no major debt.
    Yes, I have no doubt there are some ring leaders behind the scenes – possibly old-fashioned anarchists, orchestrating through mobile phones and Blackberries. There are probably some plain and simple thugs encouraging the more extreme acts of violence, and hardened criminals doing the more serious looting – not because they are desperate for consumer goods, but because they want to sell them, like most thieves do.
    The interesting question to ponder is how this has captured the imagination of the youth and allowed them to behave in this way, abandoning their previous good behaviour for a bit of excitement. We need to ponder what has gone wrong for and with these kids, that has allowed them to abandon societal values, and what we as a society need to do to make it less likely to happen again. Insuffcient or inappropriate parenting, perhaps? A lack of positive role models? Cracks in society, yes. Caused by debt and poverty? I am not as sure as you are. There are far poorer countries that remain riot-free.

  2. mash says:

    agreed with your analysis but totally disagree with your assertion that they were not targeting small shops.

    numerous family-owned businesses were trashed and looted and many were set on fire.

    there is definite problems with our politics and materialistic selfish culture. the solutions however are not pallatable to a ruling class (on all sides) that sees no other viable ideology other than capitalism and the endless quest for growth and profit at the expense of the fabric that hold us all together

  3. mash says:

    having said that, it still doesn’t excuse what has been happening across England.

    there is no political aim at work here, it’s simply wanton thuggery.

    it seems that the worst minority of people at the top and bottom of society are ruining it for the rest of us.

  4. Tasnim Morrison says:

    Assalamu-alaikum Jaafar.

    Everyone, except for the white-collar criminals at the top of international finance, is left taking the full brunt of massive economic and social pressures; the struggling majority as well as the lumpen proletarian deviants below. Yes, a thief is a thief, a rogue is a rogue, a looter is a looter; without the riots the opportunists you describe would have found their opportunities in the usual piecemeal way out of sight of decent folk, but the riots meant they were able to grab their opportunities ‘wholesale’ in the broad light of day – and when daylight ran out, so did the arsonists! When a dam bursts is the water being opportunistic? The water’s dirty, you say? So it is!

    Let us accept, as you say, that there are probably orchestrators behind the scenes, thugs and hardened thieves, but answer me this: Who are they selling on to? Are their customers not as desperate to buy the well advertised, well branded booty as the thieves are to sell it? Are they not simply emulating the behaviour of their betters in the City?

    As for the children you refer to, unlike you or me, they are not concerned with the theoretical articulation of issues relating to social justice, they react to their lives at home and on the streets, whether they be ‘broken’ homes, impoverished homes, care homes or no homes. As for those you mention who live at home ‘debt free’, of course I know what you mean, but I should remind you that the workings of the fiscal state and the burden the national debt means that everybody in this country is subject, directly or indirectly, to the weight of oppression that it generates. My fear is that the dam so far has only cracked, I dread to think what we’ll witness when it collapses!

    The ‘previous good behaviour’ of children you refer to is largely the result programming required to ensure that they become robotic and compliant ‘worker-consumers’. However, the pursuit of excitement is a natural expression of youthfulness which is generally channelled through mass commercialised recreation and entertainments. Those who can afford the privilege of venturing into the Arctic Circle and risking life and limb amongst polar bears will do so; witness the recent tragedy. So, while I may not condone such behaviour, it is easy to see how “opportunism” would have got the upper hand over the hordes of underprivileged youngsters suddenly presented with the prospect of venturing out of the channels set out for the them, whatever the risk. Question: should they have resisted? Let’s thank our lucky stars that the vast majority of the population did. We may not be so fortunate in the future if society continues the way it appears to be going.

    As for the poorer countries that have remained riot free, please excuse my laziness if instead of answering this myself, I refer you to this article- http://norwichconference.com/?p=304

  5. As-Salaamu Alaykum, Perhaps some should consider the contents of the following video in their
    considerations of the London riots. youtube.com: True News: The Real Source of the English Riots. Maybe they’ll think twice Salaam

  6. Jaafar El-Murad says:

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmat Allahi wa barakatuhu Tasnim
    I’m sorry, I have just seen your reply – a year and a bit after you wrote it. So much has been written and revealed since then that it may well be superfluous for me to respond. I agree with much that you say – such as the part about the pursuit of excitement. This is a far more likely explanation of the behaviour of these young people than that they were desperate to acquire consumer goods. It is sad – and should be a matter of some concern to policy makers – that there seem not to be enough legitimate sources of excitement for young people, although I do not believe it should be necessary that the government provide trips to the Arctic Circle for this purpose. A few days after the rioting it became clear that poverty was by no means the main driver, indeed some very well-heeled individuals had taken part. This rather contradicts your original conclusion that “We are seeing the growing cracks in a society floundering under the weight of debt, social injustice and self-destructive nihilism” – although I concede the last item on that list may have had a bigger role for some of the rioters.
    You now state that “Everyone, except for the white-collar criminals at the top of international finance, is left taking the full brunt of massive economic and social pressures”. This is just plain wrong. Only those who have lost their jobs or businesses are bearing “the full brunt” of the recession – the vast majority of people in this country are gainfully employed and living quite comfortably, in fact benefitting from the recession as prices for goods and services are cut and the interest rate – and cost of borrowing – is virtually zero. I, for example, work in a university. Education is by no means the best paid sector of the economy, but I can assure you that none of my colleagues is struggling to cope with massive economic pressures – alhamdulillah. The October 2012 figure was 2.53 million unemployed – that’s 7.9%. Large enough, but it means that 92.1% are in work.
    When I wrote “There are far poorer countries that remain riot-free” I was not referring to countries like Somalia which are suffering from a collapsed government as well as adverse climatic conditions. I skim-re-read the article by Sh Abdassamad and your Dad (?) to which you “lazily” referred me (having first read it a year ago) but found little of it germane to the specific point we were discussing). According to the CIA World Factbook, UK per capita GDP was £36,600 on January 1st 2012. That put us in 34th position. If “massive economic and social pressures” were the cause of the London riots about which you wrote so eloquently we should expect to have seen them repeated in a whole host of countries around the world.
    I fully agree that much is wrong with the secular materialist 21st century life style that we are all witnessing. If we are somehow to change it or to insulate those we care about from it we should limit ourselves to careful factual analysis and avoid rhetoric and inaccurate hyperbole, because it makes our arguments less credible. At the risk of sounding condescending, I look forward to further analysis and commentary from you. You write very well, have good insight, and are clearly very talented ma sha Allah. I have no doubt that you have much to offer.

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