*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

UK Riots, Horseshit and Education

There's so much horseshit being spewed about the riots in England, and all of it serves the purposes of the political point of view of its author.  This is no surprise.  To get past the cant a little reductionism clarifies.
What is it in UK society that is different enough from the other Anglophone societies that has let the riots get this far out of hand.  Or to look at it another way, what are the conditions behind these riots, shared by American race riots like Watts and the Rodney King Riots, but not yet found in places like my native Toronto?

I'd argue its not about race and immigration, because those have not sparked riots in Canada (hockey does), and in most American, NZ and Australian locations.  I'd argue its not about police brutality, because it is a ubiquitous minority of officers in all locations who behave this way, and a riotous reaction is far from ubiquitous.  I'd even argue the proximate cause was not class and income disparity, though the ultimate cause certainly is.  Most people are neither politically aware, nor aware to their own place in the hierarchy: denial reduces anxiety, at the cost of bad faith.

It's the schooling.  Look at any riot in Anglophone countries, and you'll find their schooling is segregated.  The real segregation is 'haves' and 'have nots', though who these groups are can often be denoted by colour, accent, or other signifier.  To a greater extent in the US than in Canada, 'inner-city' schools are underfunded and broken, causing the middle class to flee to areas with better schools, and the wealthy to private schools.  Guess where the riots are.  In the UK the situation is far worse: even most of the middle class will pay to send their children to private schools, in order to have a chance.  And the riots were worse, weren't they?  When I was a child, a bright kid from any neighbourhood had a chance of 'getting out' (those chances getting eroded now); that's always been harder in the US and the UK.

What 'conservatives' don't get is that a 'social welfare state' is cheaper than a 'security state', never mind the morality of the thing.  People will put up with a lot of shit if they think their kids will improve themselves: look at how much most immigrants sacrifice.  But if you put people in a situation where they have nothing to lose, can you be surprised when they make the choice to lose nothing more?  'The New Deal' was not about bleeding heart liberals, it was about saving capitalism from all of the radical labour movements that sprang up in reaction to a cruel work and social environment.

I'm a teacher, of course.  If you want a stable society there are many fields you need to make open to all people: health, law, education...  I can tell you this: you should ban private schools, and distribute classes in every school.  The reasoning behind this is simple: wealthy parents advocate powerfully, poor can't.  When you have rich kids in a school, that school will be as good as the parents demand, which will also serve the rest of the kids; if you don't...  So yes, I am advocating taking wealthy families hostage, but it is also for their own good: they can spend less on personal, home and domestic security.


  1. Thank you. All of the other explanations don't wash with me, because those things (race, racism, income disparity, an entrenched class system, et alia) exist elsewhere, but don't blow up. People blow up when they know their lives can NEVER get better, not even for their children.

  2. Thats a speech that needs to be told to everyone right there mate, not the 4 dumb words the prime minister said which will most likely have a long term impact on these areas of society

    'Nick CLegg
    Sick people in society'

    A Riot is the voice of the people, they call for help they call for change, not matter how it is enacted out (as violent and unneeded as it may be, the root of the reason they are doing what they do is the reason they are doing it ;).