On the UK Riots, Part Three

[Trigger warning for violence; dehumanization; eliminationism.]

For the latest, I will just point once again to the front page of The Guardian's comprehensive coverage. I'll also recommend this CNN piece on the three Asian men who were killed by a hit-and-run driver while trying to protect their families' shops.

In the Daily Mail (I know, but STILL), Max Hastings writes one of the most vicious screeds I've yet read, which is really saying something, because I've read a lot of nasty shit the past few days. His thesis serves as the blunt headline: "Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalised youngsters."

He writes with seething vitriol, using the vilest dehumanizing and eliminationist language, of the underclass (or, more accurately, his impression of the underclass) that he asserts has been created by wanton liberalism:
The people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and terrorised communities have no moral compass to make them susceptible to guilt or shame.

Most have no jobs to go to or exams they might pass. They know no family role models, for most live in homes in which the father is unemployed, or from which he has decamped.

They are illiterate and innumerate, beyond maybe some dexterity with computer games and BlackBerries.

They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong.

They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.

Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it.

A former London police chief spoke a few years ago about the 'feral children' on his patch — another way of describing the same reality.

The depressing truth is that at the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. They do not have what most of us would call 'lives': they simply exist.
To exist, rather than live, is a profound tragedy; and yet Hastings feels no compassion for people so catastrophically failed by their country—a point on which Hastings and I both agree, despite our difference of opinion regarding the source of that failure (to which I'll return in a moment). Instead, he blithely implies they are fortunate to not have been shot for behaving in precisely the way they've been socialized to behave.

On the one hand, he argues, "Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community," and "These kids are what they are because nobody makes them be anything different or better," and cites at length the alleged failures of liberalism which has degraded the entire society, but, on the other, he sneers at those failed young people: "My dogs are better behaved and subscribe to a higher code of values than the young rioters of Tottenham, Hackney, Clapham and Birmingham."

Not only is he holding individuals responsible for systemic problems, the hallmark of garbage conservative thinking, but he is, without a trace of irony, taking to the pages of a national newspaper to debase in the most Othering, dehumanizing, cruel language the very people he says liberal ideology has failed.

Because demeaning people as less than human in national publications has nothing to do with creating a cavernous void of anything resembling a sense of belonging among marginalized populations.

Hastings explains that liberalism has failed by giving to people in need too much:
An underclass has existed throughout history, which once endured appalling privation. Its spasmodic outbreaks of violence, especially in the early 19th century, frightened the ruling classes.

Its frustrations and passions were kept at bay by force and draconian legal sanctions, foremost among them capital punishment and transportation to the colonies.

Today, those at the bottom of society behave no better than their forebears, but the welfare state has relieved them from hunger and real want.
Suffice it to say, looking back at history and finding the same explosive bursts of insurrection, which can only be "kept at bay" by removing people entirety from society, leads me to a very different conclusion than "ostensibly having relieved people in need of hunger and real want is liberalism gone too far."

In fact, it leads me to the conclusion that liberalism has not gone far enough to create a pluralistic and inclusive society that is materially different for people in need than life in the 19th century.

Maybe people need more than food in their bellies to feel like their government and countrypersons give a fuck about them.

Just a thought.

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