Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bark: Culture vs. Anti-culture

It's been a little over a week since the start of the England Riots, and still the aftermath rumbles on with "Big Broken Society" Dave and Milidum spouting all sorts of rubbish about "moral collapse" and "knee-jerk gimmicks".

One thing that caught my eyes and ears was the Newsnight discussion with David Starkey - if you only caught the out of context condemnation of Starkey's "the whites have become black" line, I recommend you watch the entire debate.

While some have described the comment as racist, I'm not so sure - at least, I don't think Starkey meant it as derogatory to black people. I would actually agree with Starkey in the sense that in some echelons of our society, "white" (in other words, traditionally British) culture is being supplanted by "black" gangsta culture, imported over from America and the Carribean. I use the term culture rather loosely here.

I think the mistake that was made in the debate on Newsnight was to try and label one culture as being inherently "right" and the other "wrong" (the implication being that Starkey thought that "black" culture was wrong - again, I'm not sure this is the case - there's plenty of room for the possibility that both cultures are rubbish), rather than try to understand why this shift has happened.

Milidum put it down to the "me first" culture and talked a lot "responsibility" and "inequality" without really saying anything we didn't already know twenty years ago. Society has always contained inequality, and if anything, the gap between top and bottom has been getting wider since Thatcher came to power in 1979 and 13 years of Labour government didn't do a damn thing to address it effectively. The poorest sections of society have historically always been largely ignored by the political system, mainly because there's not enough votes in it. Instead, the Labour government threw them bones in the form of benefits and tax credits, hoping it would paper over the cracks.

Unfortunately, they forgot one key psychological aspect of the human psyche: something that has not been earned has no value. So the poor and the forgotten were given enough money to scrape together a TV, a Blackberry or iPhone and internet access, but weren't made to get off their arses for it. With this wonderful technology, paid for by the state, they got fed a diet of TV, films, games and internet sites glorifying violence and materialism - they saw a better life in a bigger TV screen, and the internet allowed them (with the help of Twitter and Blackberry Messenger) to run rings around the government and the police for a few days - a whole country shaken to its core by a few thousand immoral, self-centred thugs with just enough brain power to be trouble.

I think it's telling that the majority of the looters went for TVs and consumer electronics, rather than jewelry. It tells you what's valued by society when silicon is more prized than gold (Whoever said money can't buy happiness clearly hadn't heard of flat-screen plasma TVs).

"How did this happen?" ask the social commentators and politicians - I can only throw in my two pence - there's no reason why my theory should be any more correct or wrong than that of the "experts". It doesn't do any good labelling parts of our society "broken" or "sick" and then beating them with a big stick (such as the proposals to remove whole families from social housing and stop their benefits if a family member was part of the looting) - how does that create a more equitable society?

People in so-called sink estates look up to the pimps, drug dealers and gangsters because they have everything that the media in our society tells them is desireable - money, drugs, guns, cars, women, power. By comparison, people in real authority (politicians, police, teachers, doctors - the people who should be real role models for our society) are made to look weak and ineffectual by the news media and the government falls over backwards to not offend anyone rather than show authority.

"British" culture has become so anodyne and uninspiring that it shouldn't be any wonder that the people who need the most help and direction in our society look to people willing to provide them with a vision - even if it is destructive, amoral and anti-social. I can tell I'm getting old and increasingly intolerant, because I can't help feeling some sort of nostalgia for my formative years under Thatcher - a lot of what she did was short-sighted, socially devisive and destructive, but you know that there's no way in hell she'd put up with shit like this...

This weekend I visited Chartwell, Winston Churchill's house in Kent. Now he was a leader - a unifier - exactly the kind of person we need now. Instead, what have we got? A man who couldn't unify a couple of magnets and a man who couldn't inspire his way out of a wet paper bag. Maker preserve us...
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