Note to Self (63) My take on the London riots

I read this article about the London riots a few days ago, and it made me think again about people who consider themselves victims of society. I’d love to paste the whole content of the article here, but it was in German… 🙂 So you’ll have to believe me or use Google translate to the best of your abilities.

Here’s the link to it anyway, in case you wanted to play around: http://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article13536948/Pluenderer-sehen-sich-als-Opfer-zu-Unrecht.html

The author made a few very good points in his opinion about the riots, and why rioters and looters thought they were entitled to take back what society had “stolen” from them, while destroying the property and the wealth of others. Mere asocial criminals moved up to the rank of “social revolutionaries”, without really even meeting any of the revolutionary standards. You know, burning shit and breaking windows has nothing to do with revolution. Overthrowing a government is already more like it… and I should know this, I’m French.

But I digress. I’m not here to talk about how my angry ancestors declared war to the rich and powerful by beheading most of them over two hundred years ago, just to turn into a series of awful dictatorships where more beheading happened. Nothing’s bright and shiny when dealing with an angry mob. We see that all over the news, everywhere in the world. It’s utterly sad and depressing to know that men will fight each other without mercy to be in control again, but we have to face reality; the abused want to take over their abuser, because they’re tired of the injustice they suffer from every day.

I, myself, can picture the canvas where that battle takes place. I experience injustice at my own scale. Lots of us do. It’s not uncommon at all.

The article I read made it clear that the situation in England had been caused by several factors, one of them being the lack of perspective for social advancement in poor neighborhoods. Even if international organizations such as the OECD published statistics that a gifted middle class kid had more chances of climbing the ladder than a gifted lower class kid, the truth of the matter is, any democratic society is far from being perfect, and it will always be subject to heavy criticism when dealing with certain issues. It’s maybe easy for me to save face by saying that, but think about it. Look at other countries where civil war is an every day occurrence and children are taken away from their parents to become soldiers; look at countries where religious extremism is so predominant that it dictates everything, and forbids women to get an education; look at countries devastated by earthquakes and hurricanes, where everything has been destroyed and needs to be rebuilt; look at countries where the whole system is corrupt, and where everybody lives in fear of an ever changing ruling class; look at countries where free thinking has been declared unconstitutional. Now tell me: do these statistics really justify causing havoc and killing innocent bystanders? Do they justify burning entire neighborhoods, looting shops and private houses? Do they justify laughing at the face of a frightened population?

Rioters presented an obvious defense mechanism when caught in the act. They claimed to be victims. Victims of injustice, victims of a cut throat system, victims of a capitalist world where only the rich succeeded. These ideas have been fed to them over the years, making it easier to accept the inevitable truth: they were doomed to fail. They looked at a distorted image of themselves for so long, and sought an outside culprit to blame for their unhappiness. These excuses reinforced their behavior, and made it alright for them to destroy everything around them. It’s always easy to break. It’s harder to rebuild. Rioters took a shortcut by cracking windows; it was much faster and cheaper than swiping a credit card. They didn’t care how much work was put into setting these televisions behind the glass; the fucking televisions were here, so they were theirs. Society shoved so much injustice down their throat that it even stole these televisions from them; all they did was get them back.

Some people told me: “But they had no other way of expressing their discontent. What they did was similar to the Civil Rights movement”. I’m not really sure whether committing crimes is rewarded by getting more rights. I’m not forgetting the fact that social issues need to be dealt with at some point in the future, but I can’t bring myself to condone such acts of gratuitous violence. Demonstrating for your rights has nothing to do with burning down entire neighborhoods, and I’m pretty sure that the people who saw their house in flames would agree with me on that one too.

In theory, starting a revolution means wanting to establish and implement new rules to ultimately improve the condition of everyone. The revolutionary movement naturally represents only one part of the population. There’s no revolution without struggle, but a revolution is never centered around the selfish needs of each individual. Look at the United States, France, Russia, China, etc. I’m not saying that the results of a revolution are necessary good, some of them actually turned out to be catastrophic, but causing a revolution does not simply revolve around mere acts of violence, and a complete withdrawal from social responsibilities. You need to fight for something, an ideal that you think will make your life better.

When I see or hear people who claim that they want to start their revolution and destroy everything, I always ask them: “And then, what will you do to make the world a better place?”

They often look at me like I’m the crazy one talking, and they respond: “Nothing. I just want my share. I don’t want to pay taxes anymore. I’m tired of working here. I’m fed up with being a victim.”

Well, you know what I tell them in return? “I wonder how you would feed and clothe yourself if everybody thought like you. You’d probably live secluded in your small apartment until somebody came and tore that stuff down because they were tired of being homeless. Other people would come and steal your belongings, because they also were victims in their own way. Everybody would take until nothing would be left and then, what would you do? Wait like the victim that you are? But wait for what since everything burnt down? There’s no government anymore, nobody paying taxes and producing goods to provide for your comfort. What would you do? Tell me? Does being a victim sound attractive to you? Living in nothingness, in a world where hatred and selfishness are rules… where would it take you? Do you think you’d be closer to heaven or hell? Is that what you’d really want?” But by that point, they already told me to fuck off.

Take responsibility, change your life for the best, not for the worst. That’s all I have to say.

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