Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
"Manchmal werden Leute den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen."

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

024- Ten brief points about the English riots.

I'm not in a position to comment constructively on the disturbances which have been taking place throughout the country. It's late and I'm quite tired. Additionally, I've been trying to read up on everything I had the (mis)fortune of witnessing as I passed through my home town to the sight of lawlessness.

There are a few things I would like to state right now, which will go some way in preparing you all for what will be contained within my future posting about this phenomenon:

1) The Army have no right to be engaged in civilian matters. Soldiers are trained to kill, not to handle civil unrest. We've witnessed how well the Army handles the civilian environment abroad. It simply does not work. And for the record, the war in Afghanistan is not a noble cause, which rioters on the streets ought to respect. Chasing brown people in caves in the middle east, has no bearing on the lives of the destitute in the UK (unless they happen to share the same religion as Afghan cave-dwellers.)

2) Proposing that we kill the 'scum' on the streets does nothing to remedy the cause of the insurrection. Of course, it silences those whose opinions the tyrannical majority finds unpalatable. However, this is the reserve of the ignorant whose limited cognitive ability cannot perceive how to quell a blaze, beyond using the very fuel which started it. The Syrian government is killing those who do not agree with the status quo. The Iranian government brutally crushed those who opposed the status quo. In Britain, we are lead to believe that those people were right to stand up and riot and yet when our own people challenge the Establishment, we ostracise them.

3) 'Sweeping away the scum' is not a solution. This attitude towards the destitute is the very reason why we see this overspill of anger in the street. These people have already been swept away to the fringe of society and are at last lashing fighting back. The reactionary response is to push them out of sight, which is the most ineffectual method of resolving the issue. To push them away is to ignore the very reason this is happening.

4) The cost of damage to commercial and public property is irrelevant. Buildings can be reconstructed. Commodities can be remanufactured. Money readily exists to remedy superficial damage to property, but sadly, is seldom used constructively to improve the lives of the most needy. If there is money to engage in a decade of policide in the middle east and an impromptu occupation of Libya, there is money to direct towards repairing the damage caused by disenchanted Britons.

5) Benefit claimants are not riotous thugs in their entirety. This is the most disgusting accusation I have heard in the last 24 hours, with suggestions that riot participants ought to lose their benefits, under the assumption that they all either claim, or are entitled to do so. We ought to be questioning why people have to claim welfare in the first place. And why people may need to resort to criminality, in order to live. Let's address the issue of a distinct lack of suitable jobs for the populace to begin with, and the lack of will on the part of employers to commit to training the inexperienced.

6) Having no job and nothing to do is not a laughing matter either. Disgustingly, today I have listened to people who have been quick to belittle those who they assume either have no job, or have no chance of getting a job and so are thus, deemed worthy of ridicule. My mantra to society at large is not to throw stones at glass houses. That some of these people may be long-term unemployed, is no excuse for us to use them as a means to make ourselves feel better about our own insignificant lives. What's more, we ought to be as concerned for the fact that these people have little opportunity, as we are concerned about the excess opportunity of the privileged.

7) The rioters are not hooded boys in their entirety. There is a greater mix of people on the street than the media observers care to admit. Today I witnessed women, girls and older adults of both sexes on the streets tonight. Anger is not the reserve of males, and destitution is not sexist.

8) The people on the streets are not scum. It is too easy to reduce the participants to being worthless human beings or like animals. Similar insults were hurled towards students during the Education Cuts protests at the end of 2010. The youths of today are faced with a bleak future, and the feeling of few outlets for their concerns.

9) The people on the streets are not anarchists. It is too easy to paint a picture of the participants forming part of a readily ostracised political grouping. These people don't give a crap about politics and for the record, such actions don't need a political motive to be justifiable.

10) And finally, the people on the streets are not chavs/scallies/townies. They are everyday people first and foremost, who have been conveniently labelled as a homogeneous anti-social grouping, by virtue of being categorised as belonging to a lower socio-economic grouping. Many are children. Stupid children, who don't have a reason for what they are doing beyond being capable of it. But this is reason enough. We cannot understand this, so we reduce it as being the actions of imbeciles. Indeed, the wanton destruction is unsavoury, but it is far from stupid.

It is the last card that can be played by the silent oppressed, to remind the nation that they still exist and demand to be listened to. It is a cry for help. For the others, it is an opportunistic moment to feel a sense of power and control in the world, even if it is merely fleeting, and ultimately, futile.

There has to be more to these acts of violence than mere criminality.

Don't fall for the reactionary diatribe.



  1. A considerable amount of what you say is true I believe. However, my grandparents' generation experienced real poverty in the '20s/'30s as did my parents to some extent in the 50s/60s.

    The majority of the group you describe do not compare I am afraid. The main difference is an absence of positive values, parents who care and a positive work ethic.

    I know this from many years being privileged to have worked in the communities effected by these riots.

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  3. I'm glad I found this place. I don't want to register just at the moment but I'm very heartened to see the 'ten brief points about the riots'.

    A well thought out and timely written article.

    I also feel there is so much more to an inadequate society than 'robust policing'.

    Andrew, ex-pat in France. (It's not much different here BTW).

  4. Interesting Andrew. I am a regular visitor to France and find some interesting differences. In particular the quality of parenting - particularly the 'middle' classes. Far more use of the word 'no' - less molly coddling allround - young people generally far more polite in my experience.
    Of course there are many similarities - especially where poverty can be found.

  5. When I said things are not much different in France I should really have qualified that things are not much better overall.

    There are differences of course.
    The French Police/CRS/Gendarme have always adopted 'robust policing'. There are still certainly some family values and respect.

    However in the urban and outer urban areas especially (le banlieue) there are many of same underlying social problems that exist in the UK and elsewhere. High unemployment, discrimination, boredom, overcrowding etc.
    It would take just a similar catalyst to spark a similar wave of rioting.
    I lived on the edge of the '93' (Seine St Denis) and witness the wanton self destruction of the communities in 2005 . The government have not really tackled the problems and I was rather worried that copycat rioting from England would have occurred here.
    However it is the summer holidays and most families are away!

    I have spent the last 2 (tough) years as a supply teacher for the Education Nationale mostly working in the lycées (high school, 15 - 18 year olds).
    I see at first hand the attitude and behaviour, and their hopes and fears are not dissimilar.

    I had to recently break up a classroom fight between two confirmed 15 year old 'delinquants'. No school help or counselling was offered to them just severe sanctions and immediate punishment.
    Privately I gave them extra work to research the lives of Henry Cooper and Mohamed Ali and I tried to connect with them with moderate success.

    There has of cousre to be discipline and punishment where necessary but that has to be balanced with investment in young people's futures.
    They need good leadership, motivation and inspiration. They need something to do, to be occupied, to have a purpose......


  6. I have serious concerns with regards to the huge population of disaffected, and do tend to strongly agree with the majority of your points here.

    However i need to point out that even for me, it in no way justifies the violence, and suitable PROPORTIONAL punishment needs to be metted.

    I've been deeply disturbed by some of the alarmist, inhumane, far-right diatribe that i have been reading in some right-leaning papers here in the UK, particularly some regular columnists, who i will also not name.

    Many have demanded bafflingly cruel action which goes way beyond the pale of both humanity and basic logic, some i've listed below:

    - the removal of benefits from all single mothers, regardless of any wrong-doing
    - Removal of benefits and social housing from the entire families of the youth involved, regardless of the innocence of siblings or parents
    - Laws making divorce much more difficult
    - immediate default arming of the Police Service
    - "exemplary" sentences for what for some was no more than stealing a bottle of water (23 yr old, no previous convictions, has just been handed 6 months for this crime)

    What is even worse, is that 2 of these columnists also called for the introduction of "Authority is presumed to be in the right, until it is proved to be in the wrong". This turns our legal system on its head, to "guilty until you prove yourself innocent", forcing the accused to prove a negative. This of course, would mean the UK would no longer be considered a free society.

    I've seen the right-leaning media calling this a deliberate act of the liberal agenda, with no evidence or study to back it up. Rather, most of the columns i've seen of this nature have contained just about every logical fallacy in the book, with huge appeals to emotion, authority and yes, even ignorance.

    One columnist quite bafflingly tried to connect the state of the interior decoration of our courts to disproving the theory of "nurture over nature" in human social conditioning. Seriously.

    I think my point is that we cannot get caught up in the firebrand, emotive, alarmist rhetoric that is being bandied about by some. Am i a fool to trust that our society as a whole can resist the urge to burn these people at the stake, while not calling for a support-less, quasi-police state?

    Only time will tell...

    Northern Ireland

  7. I couldn't not agree more with the comment above from 'Chemical Mix'. Reactionary rhetoric - which we can only hope it turns out to be - such as heavy handed incarcerations, benefit removals for those who receive benefit payments and forced evictions will do nothing to quell the social issues at play here. Such action will only move the issue around, and also worsen the resentment and disillusion that led to the actions witness across the country.

    Cameron's 'zero-tolerance' attitude - which will be covered in a post appearing on this site later today - is a cause for great concern. Whilst it may well turn out to be an exercise in PR to gain the applause of the electorate, given that it comes shortly after his hypocritical calls for restrictions on social media - something he heavily criticised Middle East regimes for only a matter of months ago - and his praise of excessive sentencing for rioters there is an air of desperation about him and his government that may well be willing to take some degree of previously unthinkable action to 'restore calm' and win support.

    The simple matter is that while we continue to malign and criminalise these people, and are happy to perpetuate a 'them vs us' society, these issues will only continue to fester. Events therefore like those witnessed last week, will not simply go away.