Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Anarchy in the U.K.

“You’ve got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.”

G.K. Chesterton

(h/t to slacktivist)


Don Francisco said...

Very apt quote, if only someone could read that to some of the journalists over here. Some of the worst reporting I have encountered in my life in the past day or two, with only the promise of another coalition govt u-turn to keep us going, this time on police numbers.

Not as much fun as watching Uncle Rupert's behind getting kicked all over the press.

jim at ranger said...

Is terrorism really the greatest threat to our societies?

FDChief said...

DF: I just read somewhere that the UK has the widest income disparity of all the industrial nations. One thing we in the First World should have learned from the Third World is that when you have the rich tucked into their gated communities and the poor shoved into their favelas you will end up spending the money you might have spent paying the poor to work paying the policemen and soldiers to shoot the unemployed poor.

It's a mug's game, but we play it a lot.

jim: No, of course not, and you and I both know that. The greatest threat to our societies is that we stop BEING a society and become two or more - an elite society that rules, a warrior caste that serves the rulers, and a helot mass at the bottom.

Don't get me wrong; that sort of society can work for many years - Google "Sparta". I'm not saying "OH, dear, we're doomed by inequality!" But for individuals...it's not very pleasant to live in that society unless you can guarantee that you're not in the heap at the bottom. We've had a pretty long run where the bulk of us in the First World had it pretty good. That may be changing now - I don't know, but it might - and if it is many of us might be in for a nasty shock. A lot of these people in these riots seem to have no real concerns about destroying their own communities or getting clubbed down and arrested. I wonder - do you think that someone with a job to hang onto, a family to raise, and a home to call their own would do something like that?

Don Francisco said...

There is a quite a divide chief, mostly because of London being the finance hub that it is. Outside of the 'south' of England the rest of thre country is not very prosperous, though the housing is cheaper.

The past couple of decades has seen an acceleration in limiting social housing (i.e govt subsidesed/funded) to increasingly undesirable areas, like in many other parts of the west. Given what happened a few years back in Paris I'm not at all surprised to see it happen here too. And I expect our govt to so as much as the French, possibly even less.

FDChief said...

DF: I did kind of get from the Beeb that "north London" is shorthand for "lots of scary poor people".

I honestly don't know if there's a solution to this. Part of it is a social divide that we're seeing all across the industrial world, as the technically capable and socially connected leave the old "working class" further and further behind.

But part of it, too, is that for some reason (and I say that because I can't figure out the why of it) the older trend for the "working poor" to try and imitate the social conformity of their "betters" has vanished. Maybe it comes from third-generation dole, maybe it has something to do with now being able to see all that lovely wealth and not having it, maybe it's just the old monkey brain...but these people just don't seem to see a reason to care. It's like these stores their looting are "someone else's" and not part of the society they live in.

ISTM that we can beat this down with rubber bullets but until we figure out a way to work these people back into being a productive part of society we'll be doing this every ten years from now on...

Lisa said...

FDC says,

But part of it, too, is that . . . the older trend for the "working poor" to try and imitate the social conformity of their "betters" has vanished.

Yes ... and in this way, Britain's social democratic project may serve as cautionary tale. Recently, their Housing Authority decided to yank subsidies placing immigrants into housing in Knightsbridge apts. renting for upwards of $5,000 mo., for instance.

I am all for providing reasonable accommodations for the needy, but this sort of "forced integration" is rather absurd, IMHO. What sort of mindset does that generate amongst those newly dispossessed? among the wealthy?

Sadly, it is always the way that the poor loot and burn their own neighborhoods and proprietors, shooting themselves in the foot, as it were.

FDChief said...

Lisa: I've always been of two minds about this. I've lived in some pretty poor places, and it always seems that you're forced up against some pretty loud, trashy, rude, and violent assholes. Ignoring them doesn't help, and they live to get all up in your face, so confronting them doesn't, either. And you have something to lose and )usually) they don't...so it's a lose-lose situation for you.

But at the same time...how the hell are these people's kids ever going to break out of that ghetto if all they see and all they know is ignorant trashy people?

I read a memoir of a woman who was a social worker in LA from the 1950s to the 1970s. Her stories from the Fifties were pretty appalling - she pretty much ruled the people she oversaw like a tin goddess. And yet...she more-or-less forced them to keep their houses clean, keep their children clothed and fed and in school, kept them out looking for work and as close to the mainstream of American society as she could in the racist Fifties.

Things changed by the Seventies, and I have to say that many of the changes seem to have been for the worse. The families were still poor, still out of work...but now instead of "decent" hard-working jobless people they lived a chaotic, pointless life in a tattered shithole.

Could we even go back to the strict schoolmarm social workers of the Forties and Fifties now? I have no idea. But it just seems that, as Dean Wormer would explain it, "fat, lazy, and stupid is no way to go through life, son..."

Lisa said...

Could we even go back to the strict schoolmarm social workers of the Forties and Fifties now?

Oh that it were so.

Funding cuts by the compassionate conservatives pretty much guarantee that as long as people can keep their trash from tumbling out the front door (instead piled high out of sight like Fibber McGee's closet), no one will intrude. Kids and battered women (sometimes, men) will continue to fall through the cracks, only seen when they end up dead after years of abuse and neglect.

I have an acquaintance who was one of those early social workers, and she fought for her clients -- fought to give them hope and opportunity and the materials needed to live a life. She was privileged -- a wife, who could do this as a mission.

Still, speaking to her today as an older woman, she is not terribly optimistic about what the social worker might effect when the system is so stacked against their success. Profound ignorance persists in her stomping grounds, a heavy weight passed down through the generations.

An early education fable aimed at tenement-dwellers went as follows: An encouraging teacher gave her student a flower to place in the window, and instructed her to wipe the grime off the window. The mother then saw the light, and was shamed/encouraged to clean the oilcloth on the table, and on the snowball to goodness went.

There must be a reason to do well for most people; the reward is not intrinsic. Even with opportunity, many do not grasp it either for lack of know-how or lack of impetus.

We (humans) are not but acquisitive beings seeking to satisfy our appetitive desires. Whether they grasp for goodies "legally" through working the system or illegally, I fear most people are not very evolved. What occurred in London is probably part of a universal cycle; the violence and discontent may be quelled, but it will reach an inevitable boil every few years.

As for the origin of this sorry reaction, I am unsure. It just seems pure criminality, behavior not constrained by socioeconomic class. Like I say, some bludgeon, some fillet.

Don Francisco said...

Hi Lisa,

It's a difficult point you raise, forced integration. Govt ensures the responsibility to house immigrants is shared amongst the councils, in areas where there is high demand for social housing this breeds resentment. I suppose this is one form of enforcing a 'fairness' that makes it unfair for others.

I've enjoyed reading your comments & Cheifs, interesting reflecting them against the UK.

Lisa said...


My friends in the UK resent mightily the socialist agenda which places new immigrants (fully subsidized) into wealthy areas I certainly couldn't afford.

Certainly government should provide a social safety net, but what about the (failed) social experiment of forced integration? The consequences of many Civil Rights initiatives are still shaking out in this country.

As President Jefferson suggested, slavery will be the bane of this nation, and I believe it is so.

FDChief said...

Lisa, DF: I think the U.S. is not perhaps the best example of either integration or the failure of same. In truth integration, like Christianity, hasn't so much been tried and found wanting as has been found difficult and not tried.

In the US the post-WW2 civil rights movement found that while they could win the legal right to live in the "decent" white neighborhoods they couldn't force the "decent" white people to stay. So the white flight and the ghettoization of the inner suburbs followed pretty much all across the nation. The white majority was asked to help bring their black fellow-citizens into the middle class and responded with a hearty "fuck you".

Mind you, at some point the black community turned its back on the "integrationists" of the Booker T. Washington stripe and stopped trying to "act white". Unfortunately this largely meant acting in the way that whites found irritating; loud, in-your-face, "scary"...I'll be the first one to admit that when I run into a group of black kids with my kids - even if those kids aren't being deliberately rough or cruel - I react defensively simply because the default setting with a lot of black kids is louder, rougher, and more physical than it is with my little peeps. The black kids run over them without an apology, and that pisses me off.

And I'm not sure at this point if there's an answer...other than an answer that will piss us white folks off (like paying for por and/or non-white families to live in the wealthy districts).

The real answer would be for the next two generations of wealthy white folks to take one for the team, and for the same two generations of poor, black folks to buy into the idea that "acting white" would get them an equal shot at Millionaire Acres. But the chance of that happening, on either side...that would take more trust and more humanity than anyone has, I'm afraid...

Don Francisco said...

Hi Lisa,

There is no 'forced integration' policy in the UK, in fact there is no policy at all. If you are an asylum seeker, are granted leave to remain and are lucky enough to get subsidised housing you are basically left to get on with it.

Contra to the many tabloid headliness, immigrants do not get preference when it comes to housing, it's means tested on your circumstances so priority goes to families, then elderly/disabled, then the rest of us. A study a couple of years back shows
less than 2% of subsidised housing is actually occupied by non UK citizens - though thanks to the tabs, it is a very visible 2%.

If you are single or a couple living with parents and want subsidised accomodation, forget it. And this is problem - the limited housing stock allocated on a means-tested basis does not favour someone say, born and bred locally, it isn't a factor at all. This is a particular problem in London where rents are very high indeed. As recently as the 1970's that every council had accomodation avaliable, now it's shrunk to nothing.

Coming back to your point about forced integration, they have started to 'bus' kids in one North English town (Oldham) to get the predominatly white/Asian kids to 'integrate'. This is the first of its kind in the UK. It's interesting to reflect on the recent history of the US in this regard. You would hope it works but I'm pretty cynical.

Lisa said...

"The white majority was asked to help bring their black fellow-citizens into the middle class and responded with a hearty "fuck you"."

--I don't know, as I was just a kid during the heyday of the Civil Rights legislation. What I DO remember is resentment at EOE initiatives that gave lesser qualified black applicants positions over their white counterparts, as well as preferential admissions criteria to colleges, etc.

Black celebrities like Bill Cosby who point out the refusal of blacks to take advantage of their new-found opportunities are roundly shouted down.

I see no reason poor people of any color should be "integrated" into very wealthy areas. I do think housing offsets like Section 8 are a good idea. The problem is more than a white-black one: It is entrenched poverty and ignorance that runs through both black and white society. The idea that whites, or Jews, or any other group have it made in the shade, and that blacks are trounced upon, is faulty.

If blacks wanted a leg up, it's out there. I resent those -- any -- who give in to their anarchic impulse. Respect, manners, kindness? That's seen as a fool's game. The meanest dog gets the meat.

Maybe what we need is couth training for the great unwashed.

FDChief said...

Lisa: The bottom line is that the black citizens of the U.S. started out in 1965 behind an enormous rock. There's no question that the EOE hires were "less qualified" - 200+ years of institutional racism ensured that. If hiring was restricted to only "qualified" blacks the result would have been to continue the racism...

Here in Portland you still get pulled over more if you're black. You pay more for the same house, and you will get shown a different house in a worse neighborhood than a white buyer with the same income and credit history. You will not get hired for a job that a white applicant with a similar vita in something like 7 out of 10 cases.

We're still doing a miserable job at closing the gap between rich and poor, black and white.

Which doesn't give U.S. blacks a license to ill; if you show up for work with your pants around your knees and your iPod blaring hip-hop your black ass is gonna be back on the street ASAP.

But ISTM that we're heading towards a much bigger problem; we're moving backwards towards the pre-1932 U.S., where the mass of "working poor" have little or no help from the government and private business is unchecked to go full-Pinkerton on you if you make "trouble". Things are looking pretty sketchy for the non-two-yacht-family, if you ask me. And no amount of improvement in manners and deportment are going to help.