Thursday, August 11, 2011


They sure as shit aren’t going to let me write this for The Guardian. Which is a shame because I think this might well be a valid insight. Right now I have a very bad feeling that the rioting in the UK is much more than a destructive sociological hiccup in hard times. My fear is that we are actually witnessing a whole new youth movement – just like the mods, just like the hippies, just like the punks, just like the gangstas in the hoodies, and just as inexplicable to the older generation. In political terms it is a counterculture of frighteningly perfect nihilism, ideologically pure and pristine in so far as it has severed all ties with compassion, empathy, even most minimal agenda beyond instant gratification. It has rejected the basic social compacts that make simple civilization possible. Perhaps in instinctive rejection of a corrupted social system that offers no hope, it’s a lemming lunge of the feral into a twilight world of knives, dope, and guns. You can’t fool the children of the revolution. No, no. You also can’t deter them from a violent and suicidal path. They neither have nor require an attention span and exist wholly in the moment. This new teen and preteen nihilism has embraced the logic of The Hulk – “Me want. Me take. Me smash. Last one out, torch the gaff.” Can’t argue with that, granddad, because this neo-nihilism is artfully inarticulate. A tribe of Sids Vicious without a Joe Strummer among them. This is the way they want it, and we must share the responsibility; all of us. The ones who abandoned this inconvenient, post-industrial generation to street life, video violence, and dead end TV, and we on the other side who didn’t fight hard enough to prevent it. If a solution exists at all, it will require extremely focused thought of a kind that cannot be interrupted by rhetoric, sloganeering, or cravings for popularity. Unfortunately precious few in power are capable of such thought. Maybe none. That makes matters even more problematic. (Unless the Tories use the Nixon strategy of the Attica era of the early 1970s and flood poor neighbourhoods with cheap heroin.)

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James said...

From what I've seen on the live broadcasts of the last 4 days I don't think just youth were the sole aggravators here Mick. They were more the excited participators when law and order had seemingly been absent.
Over the decades I've seen 'youth' respond in similar ways be it on a smaller scale. If at times they appear to have little else going for them they are always 'opportunist'.
Although mainly the torching of premises seemed a slightly more conscious act of the more mature participator. Sort of similar to the plague of car theft and burning a decade back.
Yes some very young kids are involved but they seem to be emulating a pretty hardened looking criminal gang type activity. Gangs as always tend to behave as they always have.
In Scotland they have made some successful steps in coming to terms with dealing, not unsuccessfully, with a problem there over the last 5 years.
The problem in England has never really been addressed except through policing and that alone is a fail. Which might just be being recognised at last. We hope.
But the better news is it seems rain will bring an end to riots.
Nobody likes getting wet for their free bling.

Aleleeinn said...

An ugly insight, especially if it is the wave these kids are riding.
I keep thinking of Like a Rolling Stone:
"When you ain't got nothin'; you go nothin' to lose. You're invisible now you got no secrets to conceal..."
I for one have no illusions about any politicians with vision. I doubt that any can see beyond the next election if that far.

Chad Eagleton said...

I cannot comment exactly on what's going on in your country, but I know for a fact that here in the US the vast majority of its citizens seem to have long ago abandoned the notion of a social compact, that we are, in fact, all in this together; abandoned it for the empty promise that someday they too will be rich and when that day comes they want very much to be able to piss on everyone's heads without protest because there is nothing and no one but themselves. These people hedge their bets by accepting anything that comes with even the most feeble panderings to their half-hearted religious beliefs in the hope that if nothing else they'll get what they're "owed" in the afterlife.

The pervasive fuck-you-what's-in-for-me has created a whole generation of fuck-you-what's-in-for-me kids and I have no idea what to do about it.

At all.

Madam Miaow said...

I think it bleedin' well should be in the Guardian, Mick. What you describe are the outriders, the canaries down the mine who have become the hardened, murderous criminal element, and probably doesn't apply to the majority of the yoot on the riots.


But I can see a time, if the rich looters at the top keep getting their way, when they will be the majority.

I keep seeing the flash-forward scene in The Terminator where the children are watching the fire in the burnt-out telly, only without the mutual caring. You've just given us the flash-forward of a time when this scenario plays out.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Great stuff, especially the line about Sid and Joe.

Mick said...

Yo Madame, my relations with MSM have never been good. They can't handle the science fiction spin and referencing nihilism and the Hulk in the same graph. I take your point, but these kids so remind me of 12 year-old child soldiers in the Congo who roll on cocaine and gunpowder and an AK47, and get up one morning and, for no apparent reason, slaughter their 18year-old officers.

Michael Simmons said...

Dead-on points, Mickey. And to build on what Chad says, we have a planet where the rich say "we can do whatever we want -- we're rich." The fall-out in the USA has been everything from the end of unions to the recreation of New York City as a party town for millionaires only. From what I understand the UK is not much different. So these UK kids -- and I suspect the ones in the US as well -- don't feel obliged to honor any notions of civilization when the people who own the show have no conscience. This is the only trickle-down we'll be seeing.

Berlin's Baby Bondage Party said...

>Great stuff, especially the line about Sid and Joe.

But Sid & Joe were existing rock 'n roll archetypes anyway - the self-destructing drug addict and the social-realist protest singer. Which was why Farren's contemporaries @ the NME tried to push things in those directions - turn punk into things seen before and therefore safe and handleable.

The riot generation would need more than a Strummer to have turned out to be constructive lot - the Punk generation were incredibly lucky to have the articulate creative and decidedly un-feral and if anything rather arty likes of Marco Pirroni, Berlin (Bertie Marshall), Jordan, Siouxsie & Steve Severin, early Adam Ant. Lydon etc etc on board to draw up the original blueprint (come to that, I'd even make some room in there for the pre-smack, pre-Nancy pre-Leather jacket version of Sid) and there were still traceable trails of their bright ideas and style compass even in the leathered Mohicaned army of Crass fans from 1979 onswards.

The 2011 Riot generation did not have a set of founding fathers/mothers with any such insight or sense of nonconformism and the result is gangs on the one hand and the misbelief that overpriced sportswear equals style on the other. True rebels wouldn't follow a gang leader any more than any other kind of leader, nor indeed would they join a gang any more than they would join any other kind of herd of sheep.

Helga Colquhoun said...

Great article, Mick and I think Berlin's Baby Bondage Party's last paragraph sums it up for me.

Berlin's Baby Bondage Party said...

Thanks Helga

(although I have to confess part of my reason for writing that post was to let off some steam over a few generalisations in the punk chapters of Give the Anarchist a Cigarette that I took issue with. Black-clad and feral only became ubiquitous in '78-'79 - exotic post-Ziggy/Roxy camp was more the order at Louise's in '76. More than likely Mick's already had plenty of feedback on that point from other people)

Aleleeinn said...

@Chad. You got it right here. "We Can't raise taxes on the rich, because I might win the lottery and be rich someday." F'n morons. I've heard that exact quote.

mrjohn said...

I've heard it said that Sid was actually the smartest of all of that circle, so he hid it.

Mr Jones said...

I originally had some misgivings about Mick's early response to the mayhem, but the more so-called news programmes I see parading the commentators and our political leaders, I gotta say I'm coming round! This morning I watched with utter disbelief, as Sky News morphed seamlessly from puzzled pontificating on what could possibly cause kids (their word) to behave this way, to plugging some grinning idiot's new TV show, in which the object is apparently to track down artfully concealed safes and find a way to break them open and thereby claim cash prizes. And we say Americans don't understand irony! Pot, kettle etc.

What's more did anyone hear the remark, during an exchange between the newscaster and the odious Pickles, which stated that some of these people had no excuse, because they were privileged to have a job. So, is that now the official line? - It's a privilege to be in employment.
I have to go and lie down, 'cos it is true - something is happening and I sure as hell don't know what any of it is.

Aleleeinn said...

Just remember Mr. Jones. "Twenty years of schoolin' and they put you on the day shift." Just finished listening to the album.

The neo-cons in the USofA would agree that employment at any wage of any form is a privilege.

Words like entitlement are only applied to the poor or working classes.

Mr Jones said...

Hi Aleleeinn,
Not entirely sure of anything in this mess, apart from my outrage at the pompous platitudes and cluster-fuck of cliches emanating from most of the media, but I reckon a lot of people might love to be on the day shift - any damn shift.
What a privilege!

Aleleeinn said...

It seems to me that the London riots are an attack on property. All that property that we all have been told over and over that we must have ant that so many can't afford. And when the floodgates opened the target of the frustration was attacked. "Fuck you! I can have that iPhone too!"
And that does match the media going OC beyond reason on property damage.

Or my second theory is this whole thing was a conspiracy to take the heat off Cameron for his involvment in The News of the World scandal. He and RM cooked up the shooting and riots to save their skins.
Notice how much Cameron's image has changed since the riots. They're a godsend to him.
I've seen only one real violent incident in all this chaos (the old man who died from the beating). Mostly its been frightened and unharmed people spewing their fears on camera.
But my first theory explains the widespread appeal the the riots to those who otherwise seem to not fit the profile.

hcb said...

I can't pretend to understand what's happening but I do know what can happen when darkest cynicism meets the need for movement, for action. But I don't see any ideologue underpinnings, meaning I don't see racism or radicalism or romper stomper Oi or even capital A anarchism at the heart of this. It seems like a perfectly existential movement. Can we buy a surge of violent street action entirely without agenda, except for the need to move en masse, and, at the same time, as that initial impetus cools, an excuse to pilfer.

Saw footage of a handful of clever lads banging the shit out of the window of a Bang & Olufson storefront, without much luck, but it indicated they knew where the real goods were. And I saw a bunch of orthodox Hasids in the middle of a fray, and although I don't know what they were doing there, they were smiling. Strange days.

There's a lot of reporting left to do, but for all the activity, we don't seem to be getting reports of widespread rape or beatings, not of old folks or youngsters, or gang-on-gang violence. I expect Mick and others can address this better than I, and educate me, but it seems important in getting a handle on what's happening,to look as much at what isn't happening as what is.

The best I've got is a look-see yesterday at the movie Attack On The Block, about a bunch of furry black, green-toothed feral monsters from outer space who invade South London and run afoul of the modern hoodie-clad British version of the Dean End Kids. The same kids who are looting London right now. Terrific movie, by the way.

Des Pond of Slough said...

Just watched a video of the best pub in Woolwich getting torched. They hardly touched the stock. My guess - progeny of dads in the 'Spoons looking through the wraparound windows of the ex F*DS watching missed buses go by and having another. That would knock a good 25% off my life quality index if I still lived there.

hcb said...

I meant: the name of the movie is Attack The Block, and I meant the Dead End Kids.

The Dean End Kids was a fiction by J.G. Ballard, about Elais Koteas and his gang stealing '55 Spyder Porsches and driving them into Hollywood billboards.

Aleleeinn said...

@HCB I noticed that there wasn't substantial violence directed at any people, except the policy and that was for control of the space, not stalking them.
There does seem to be a new force at work here.

A. Ominous said...

Nah... nothing new in all this except that a few middle-class types hadn't really "faced" it before; I saw the same "nihilism", on a daily basis, in the neighborhood (Chicago, South Side) of the first half of my youth. But, for people who thought they were getting The News from "The Wire", I'm sure it's slightly surprising that the violence/degradation isn't nearly as organized or cool (or impeccably sound-tracked) as they thought. Cheer up: you've just had one layer of the onion skin gently peeled! You'll see a little more clearly, now...!

A. Ominous said...

"If a solution exists at all, it will require extremely focused thought of a kind that cannot be interrupted by rhetoric"

The "solutions" are always about slapping a plaster on a gushing chest-wound and sweeping it under the rug. The problem is/always was/ always will be, that The People in Charge don't even think of *you* (or White Serfs, in general) as Human... what do you think they think of Darkie Serfs? They only need Us Darkies at all as Political Potential Energy (to scare the hell out of the electorate), innit?

It's very difficult to get anyone to grasp the enormity of this reality, because TV/ movies are so effective at affirming the grand illusion: that *some* Politicians "care", aren't in it for power/money/sex and that Naming Our Grievances will result in anything other than another cycle of Iconic Play-Acting... which is nothing more than a stalling-tactic while They consolidate their ongoing victories and we lose the little ground we've got left to stand on.