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

025 - England Riots: Why are we here?

Before I begin, allow me to firstly acknowledge my recognition while writing that this post will doubtless receive some criticism for its approach, and secondly make clear that this post is not merely a direct attack on certain political motives, rather an attempt to balance what I believe is a distinct bias in the current media picture.

Let me also make one more thing clear: I do not condone the violent activites of the rioters.

Much has, and indeed continues to be said about the current situation playing out not only in the capital - a point to which I will alude later - but in other cities across England. Whilst as a relative pacifist I do not find forms of violent conduct acceptable nor justified, the motive for this post should be now be apparent.

The BBC News handling of the #LondonRiots has been blindingly overzealous in its attempts to detract any form of significance in meaning or motive in favour of pure tabloid-esque scandal, a disgrace to what is consistently claimed to be an 'impartial organisation', but has without a doubt verged dangerously close in recent days (in my opinion) to a direct and consistent form of state TV.

Other providers such as Sky News and the newspaper journalists are just as guilty in their flippant and sensationalist conclusions. The continuous assumption also that the crowds are compiled of unemployed youths is also both despicable and factually incorrect. Furthermore the media bias in its focus towards activity across London during the initial stages has been deplorable, when further demonstration is occurring in other cities across the country such as Birmingham, Bristol, Nottingham, Liverpool, Salford, Gloucester, West Bromwich and Manchester.

The claim that the current form of action bears no significance at all to the shooting of Mark Duggan - the fact that I had to place some significant effort in writing the first part of this article in the early stages of the riots into searching his name from the mountain of reporting reflects the appalling preference of scandal over information in the reporting of this event - is one that many (including myself, which I now rescind) have jumped to all too eagerly on seeing events unfold. Whilst the current motives behind the activity may not link directly to Mr Duggan, his death may have provided the catalyst for the demonstration of much previously restrained resentment at both the current political and economical situation, run by a government whose actions through cuts, expenses scandals and banking crises have made them less than savoury. Indeed his life appears to have represented some of the deplorable core issues facing our society, for instance why he became involved in drugs and trapped in a cycle of gang crime as opposed to having access and pursuing better opportunities. Why also may he have felt that his current situation was hopeless and endless? That the government this week released their epetitions site bears some interesting links to how disconnected and powerless the population feel regarding their government. The speed at which these riots have spread across the country -indeed my own city and also home town have been involved- sends a clear message that such attitudes are not confined to localised pockets of discontent, rather more significantly widespread. Even for those without a political motive, this has provided an opportunity to demonstrate a sense of individual power, if only temporary.

Those suggesting that protestors involved in riotous behaviour across England should be treated with draconian punishments of equal levels of violence -and also calling for what can only be described as severe police brutality in dealing with activity in our streets- however sadden me more. To treat such violence with violence is futile. As discussed in our previous post, merely annihilating large swathes of people with such apathy would only worsen the situation. Is such marginalisation and negligence not a cause for what we see now?

What saddens me about this situations is that any such potential political protest or motive - if indeed one exists and this is more than an outburst of emotion - will likely be overshadowed by the continued demonisations of 'riotous behaviour'. Instead of these protests being hijacked by political agitators with clear motives as such, I am dismayed by our current media and government backlash which applies a generalised violent label against everyone involved in any form of demonstrative activity across the country at this moment, reinforcing such labels and attempting to justify their blind lassitude by focusing on incidents of the extremes. Indeed David Cameron has spoken claiming he "completely condemns" activity as "criminality pure and simple." This only serves to act as a distraction from the real issues at the centre of this story, and speaks of ignorance so significant it could only serve to perpetuate these issues.

Furthermore, why are we imprisoning rioters? Community service would be a far more profound punishment. Violent reaction is craved by an ignorant public and enforced by an ignorant government. This only perpetuates the distinct alienation these people feel from their leaders, their societies and the law, as criminal labels fuel them to engage in behaviour that defies all law and order without momentary moral questioning. The label of criminality serves absolutely no productive purpose, other than to malign and ostricise those involved in a desperate display of frustration and 'justify' our authorities' embroilment in heavy-handed draconian responses.

It is also saddening that any form of focus on copycat activity is also allowed to overshadow any true motive or desperate emotion underneath which may have better highlighted and brought focus to the current issues we face both politically and economically. We may very well at times such as these be better served instead of condemning all activity, to question its motives and triggers, and to ask ourselves how we have come to such a point where it is permissable to such volumes to feel the necessity to conduct themselves in this manner.
History reminds us that mere ignorance is rarely the answer.

- sandlefish -


  1. An intelligent and well expressed analysis.

    As a British citizen now resident in the Netherlands it's clear to me that the problems causing these riots are largely absent here.

    The reason most Dutch people would give for this is called "the polder model". Polders are the areas drained from the sea and reclaimed. Because the country is so vulnerable to flooding it's always been important to build defenses against water and that is too big a job for any one person. Thus, keeping everyone's feet dry requires a coordinated effort and thus a cooperation within society.

    Britain had such a spirit during and after the war. In more recent times we've seen Thatcher's corrupt government followed by Major's which was worse, and Blair's which promised to be better but was actually even worse. With cowardly and corrupt leaders is it any wonder that the population are behaving similarly?

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  3. It's definitely fair to make a comparison between the corrupt nature of those involved in these riots, with their counterparts in the banking sector and in Whitehall.

    For instance, how can we condemn the 'selfish' and 'immoral' behaviour involved in these riots as unacceptable when these people see their government and top officials fixing expenses, or making backdoor deals for their own political gain?

    Therefore should we be surprised that these people feel some degree of resentment for figures of authority, when the rules they are required to follow seem ambiguous or inapplicable to some.

  4. The riots didn't happen all across the UK, they happened in England. You talk about disenfranchisement in your post, think about how we in Wales feel.

  5. I couldn't agree more with Terry's commentary on the decline of a unitary spirit in England (and by extension, the rest of the United Kingdom.)

    However, it is a sad indictment of British history and society, that the only time it is perceived that the country was able to rally together, was during the period surrounding the (Second World) War...

  6. Though I agree with your content and theory, I think there is no real reason for the riots.
    The conspiracy theorist in me believes the Government allowed the rioters to 'run riot', so the events could be turned on the public, the sheep to become grateful for the loss of civil liberties, still bullied but in a civil, law abiding manner. Thus, the rioters just took advantage of a small period of anarchy. They did it because they could. No thought, just the high adrenalin rush that comes with any nefarious act.
    Britain has not lost it's spirit, it is exploding from our very core, but we have lost our voice and have taken to using sign language.

  7. I can definitely appreciate your perspective that it is possible - indeed already visible in proposed benefit cuts and actual evictions - that government will now use the dissent and anarchy of the riots, and the current gratitude of some of the public for strong responses, as a means of justifying a more heavy-handed policing and judiciary system.

    That said, Cameron's vision of a 'zero-tolerance' society is neither feasible nor likely. The simple costs involved in a police state would be for the UK in the current climate completely unworkable. Furthermore the government would be ignorant to assume that brutal one-size-fits-all policing would solve our society's current ills. If anything, we should expect to see those further maligned by this system become more disillusioned with society. These measures would not solve rioting, only increase it further. Thankfully, it is likely to be an exercise in PR by a desperate government.

    Whilst I accept that a proportion of those involved clearly arrived at that point to take advantage of a situation that appeared beyond the authorities' control, what initiated them to believe their behaviour was acceptable, or for those initially involved to begin such activity? To dismiss this entirely as mere opportunism is - in my opinion - not quite the full picture.

  8. We already have a brutal police state. The infrastructure is already present in the spying they are doing on our day to day lives - our online posting, our browsing, our trips in the car, every city centre...
    The police even now are rounding up those who dared to put their head above the parapet, and the government has indicated to the non-thinking judges that they should just bang these people up for as long as possible.

    The government aren't the least bit interested in fixing the problem, they are basically intent - as they have been for more than 30 years now - on forcing their will on the people.

    We have endemic corruption, the constant knowledge that those 'in charge' are taking back handers to amend legislation, looking the other way as cartels exploit the vulnerable and the normal members of society (fixing prices for milk, petrol, bread...)

    We can even see this, if we care to look, in the reporting from the media (critise the government - ooh, never), to the treatment of regimes like Libya vs the treatment of regimes like Syria... who is friends with who?

    Even when it comes to employment in this country it is even less what you know as who you know... want to work in the PM's office then you'd better be a friend - who cares how many qualifications you get because you won't even here of the job hes given to his neighbour... or perhaps you'd care to run a high street chemist? Well if you do then you'd better know those who own it because they'd rather employ someone they know who has failed dismally - sunk a hugely profitable bank perhaps - than look around for someone who has some success under their belt.

    The UK is a disaster, more than a disaster its a fraud, it is worse than the despotic regimes of the middle east and far worse than those we have taken to war to 'establish democracy'.

    I'm taking the only sensible route - I'm leaving... I'll head to Russia where most of the corruption is with the mafia and not so much with the government. As for the rioters... well, there will be more of them, the riots will get worse, and perhaps the glorious revolution will start... or perhaps the British will do their normal thing and sit back down in front of the TV and tut tut with the daily mail.

  9. There is no denying that our government continue to demonstrate - on a less than private front - levels of corruption not dissimilar to those that they have condemned in foreign lands. Indeed this site will very soon be posting an article on the very topic of the hypocrisy of our law, judiciary system and government. We would - as ever - appreciate the views and responses of our readership in response.

    Mr Cameron's rebuttal of a 'zero tolerance' society though is a worrying sign of further ignorance, especially given that it follows a suggestion of cutting rioters' benefits and evicting them. Whilst it can be argued that the benefits policy is 'the will of the people' having derived from a petition on the government's e-petitions site which has received more than double the signatures of its nearest competitor, cutting any benefits - that is, assuming all involved receive them - and forcing evictions will simply move the problem from one address to another, and will do nothing to stifle the resentment and apathy towards our society that these people demonstrated in their activity in various cities across the land. Indeed, it will likely only makes things worse. That said, I cannot help but feel some of the 'zero-tolerance' approach outlined will become mere rhetoric, once it confronts spending cuts, and logistical issues.

    This is a key moment for not only the coalition government serving our country, but perhaps our country and society as a whole. As has been mentioned by this site a number of times, the seeds of social issues on this scale do not appear and grow overnight, but fester over a larger duration of time. We would be ignorant to assume we can fix them in any less of a timescale.