Thatcher’s Grandchildren get the Sickness - T4, The Summer Riots and the Biggest Comedown in History
Paul Knight tries to make some sense of the crazy shenanigans that took place in the summer of 2011...
There are pockets of our society that are not only broken, but frankly sick”- David Cameron
Something really big is happening in the world- spiritual, social and financial meltdown is upon us- but is this a good, or a bad thing? There are riots in our major cities, people are abandoning the Catholic Church (and Judeo-Christianity in general) in record numbers, we have seen the so-called Arab Spring gaining momentum and the savage responses from those in power… there are disenfranchised unemployed people marching across Spain, as well as fascist madmen in Scandinavia shooting up summer camps… Good or bad, people are clearly on edge. Something feels wrong. Everywhere there is an all pervading sense of doom being sold to us via the mainstream media and our elected leaders. What’s happening? What are these symptoms? Are we sick?
Essentially, my best guess at what is happening is that we are being over-run by the dangerously hysterical. No, worse- dangerously hysterical addicts suffering from nightmarish withdrawal symptoms. Many people just now seem to be bordering on some kind of mental event horizon, and our collective sanity apparently stands on the very brink. Nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions, everybody blames everybody else for everything they perceive to be wrong in society and the hysteria is rising. It is becoming frantic. Everybody agrees; we need a fix. Bad things are starting to happen in broad daylight at an alarming, and seemingly quickening pace.
The biggest problem is that nobody can seemingly agree on exactly what’s happening, or who (if anyone) is to blame. But everyone can feel it. Something. Happening. Something big- so big you can’t see the edges of it, and being naturally paranoid, fundamentalists of all denominations are scared out of their wits. They are probably right to be, but not for the reasons they imagine- and that is because they literally think the world is ending… In fact, they can’t wait, because they all think they will ascend, while we will all burn. They are wrong.
The situation is very quickly descending into farce- the Rapture came and went without too much fuss, leaving fields full of white robed Christians scratching their heads and talking about human error (not for the first time, either- they have now apparently re-scheduled, again). I’d like to add that I’m sure what happened doesn’t mean that all those disappointed fundamentalist Christians have missed the last chopper out of town and are set to be damned with the rest of us. A simple case of human error, I’m sure… must have misread the instructions. Nothing to worry about...
The hippies and the wider new age movement are currently working themselves into a frenzy of hysteria and bad weirdness in yurts, vegan cafes and sweat lodges all over the world. “It’s coming, man. Look to the skies. Then run, run to wherever it seems best to you to die”. They are perfectly serious about it. Ask them. Actually, there’s probably no need. They’ll tell you if you go anywhere near them.
“Beware”, they will say, “of flood and fire and great winds, and the mysterious deaths of wildlife, and dirty bombs and anthrax and testicular lumps and militant religious fundamentalists, and chem trails and early onset dementia, and black helicopters and Satanists and killer nanobots and reptilianoid shape shifting aliens. You know what we should do”, they will confide, bloodshot eyes staring madly- “we should get as many noodles as will fit in the Beetle, and just go. They are coming for us soon, they have tentacles and they want our brains”.
The hippies may yet still turn out to have had a point.
Clearly, something is happening. We are obviously building to some kind of thrilling climax, and people are just trying to get all their fun in now, because nobody is sure what tomorrow will bring- but they all agree that it will bring nothing good. Look at the bankers and the politicians and the corporate business criminals- they too are trying to have all their fun now in a frenzy of greed… People are responding to this in various ways. Some are writing about it, and some are rioting about it… (perhaps). If they are rioting, it is in a generally polymorphous, disappointing and misguided fashion. The writing is often worse than that.
So, who is responsible for this most recent soggy explosion of global madness? How did it all get so bad? Why are people such dicks?
Yours pilgrim, is a question with many answers.
The Jews blame the Arabs. The Arabs blame Western Infidels and the Jews. The West is running out of people to blame. Foreigners? Drug dealers? Gays? MTV? Radical Islam? The permissive society? Is it the youth? Our own kiddies run amok in frightening hooded mobs? How upsetting…
Whatever the cause of this global rash of frenzied antisocial outbursts, it obviously can’t be the fault of laughing, faceless bankers or corrupt, hate spewing politicians or flabby, lying, perfumed estate agents. Or “ham fisted” police. Or people in marketing and advertising. It’s got nothing to do with a general consensus that we have been sold out again and again by one institution and one government after another. Most importantly, it has nothing at all to do with the profits of a minority who operate far beyond the reach of basic human decency or the law. That would be paranoid rubbish of the first order. Blame the youth, because they’re illiterate, violent and they wear hoods. And because it is easier to do so.
I would remind our readers that the maximum estimated cost of the London riots was £100 million- whereas the bank bailout cost the taxpayer £131 billion. So where are the real criminals? My advice would simply be to follow the money. I’m not saying that the recent looters weren’t despicable idiots- they were. But the bankers have cost us much more money, and have acted in much the same manner as looters and terrorists without anyone with any power doing anything to stop them, or even curb their worst excesses. Some perspective is all I can offer.
I predict that over the next couple of years, we will see a rash of hysterical suicides, mass killings, riots and general angst. “Normal” people will roam about maiming, looting and burning; old women will piss in the streets and smear ordure over shattered cake displays. Restless mobs of sexy young people will smash stuff in a photogenic manner and fuck in the remains. Furthermore, none of them, if asked, will be able to explain exactly why they are doing it. They will say many things, not all of them untrue, but they will look confused and distant while they say them.
There is a good reason for this. Because what’s happening is very difficult to see from the inside, as it is literally so big that you can’t tell the wood from the trees. So what can it be? This thing? Why is it so difficult to define in language which seems remotely rational? So many questions… I’m not sure if I have decent answers for any of them. I have some pointers though.
As a child of the 1980s, I was fed a fair amount of targeted advertising designed to make me need shiny stuff, like an addict needs drugs. I was exposed to much more advertising-led media than the generations before me- and ‘brand bullying’ (a specific type of status anxiety induced in children addicted to branded consumer items- bullying peers who don’t display an acceptable visible level of designer goods and status objects) hadn’t been defined as a term, though it did exist. Reality TV hadn’t happened yet. Nor had blip-verts. I was not advertised at via my android mobile phone, because such things were still science fiction at that point. My generation were the last to be born into a world without personal computers- we have some glimmer of memory of a time before the internet. Anyone born after the early 1990s cannot say this. So, did all those consumer-led messages make a difference to me? Yes, of course they did. Did they affect those younger than me to a greater extent?
Can we really say that the London riots had absolutely nothing to do with taking a generation of children and raising them on the X Factor, reality shows and hundreds of hours of footage about the amazing life of Katie Price and other talentless chancers? Nothing to do with glorifying irrelevant, stunted, pop fuckwits like Dappy from N-Dubz and Tinie Tempah, then wondering why that generation who consume this hollow, aspirational, content less, flickering gibberish are hopelessly capricious and wildly out of touch with anything you can understand? I can’t even really comment; until very recently I thought Tinie Tempah was a doll that pissed itself. I am not down with the kids. I didn’t even like kids when I was one.
Anybody currently under the age of about 21 has been exposed to a larger amount of targeted advertising during their formative years than I ever was- probably much more. They have also been exposed to advertising of a more advanced and polished type than I was exposed to in my childhood. The illusion wasn’t as slick or as believable in my formative years, and I wasn’t getting it from multiple sources for such extended periods of time. I was forcibly addicted to shiny trinkets, but I was not as addicted as the generations following myself. Addiction is a beast, as any addict knows- when you try to take control of it, it bites. I’m not making excuses, and I’m certainly not condoning the looting this summer- all I’m saying is that wildly overblown youthful expectations being dashed en masse might have been a factor.
Chuck Palahniuk had it right in Fight Club. We are a generation that has been raised to firmly believe that we can be movie stars and pop icons, but we can’t- it was just a trick to move units of stock we cannot afford. Forget fame and fortune- my generation and those younger than me can’t even get a really shit job- because we have no meaningful qualifications or experience. I know what I’m talking about. I have a degree in Cultural Studies. It is worse than meaningless. But they don’t even have that…
As a generation, they are slowly waking up to the truth of it, and they are angry and disillusioned because this is not what they were sold when they were watching Glee and the X Factor. They were sold a lie… forcibly addicted to rubbish… In these most recent riots, I think we are seeing the biggest comedown of all time- a whole generation suffering painful withdrawal as it realises it can’t have what it craves. They are so down about it they are taking horse tranquilisers and aluminium polish for fun. That is fairly depressing. You can tell a great deal about a subculture by the drugs it consumes…
It is a great pity that the looters did not funnel their anger into something more constructive than ripping off sportswear outlets, but what exactly were you expecting? A moving piece of youth theatre about alienation? The funding for such things is long gone, my friend. Long gone… And it was bollocks anyway…
The looters simply went out and did what they needed to do. What any serious addict would do. David Cameron might be right- this might be a real disease- like the acute stages of heroin withdrawal- Thatcher’s children getting the sickness…
On the subject of youth culture and disease, I’m afraid I thought that T4 was a Nazi, eugenics-based “euthanasia” programme, not Sunday yoof TV on Channel 4… Actually, I think I was right about T4. The similarities between the Nazi programme and the TV programme are too obvious to ignore- in particular, that both were used to induce brain death in thousands of children who politicians deemed “incurably sick”…
Furthermore, T4 strikes another chord with the response to the riots by Tony Blair in The Guardian. If people in government start talking about the routine sterilisation of those exhibiting “hereditary antisocial behaviour”, you will know where they got the idea. Tony is already hinting at it… What was it he wrote? Ah yes, “By the end of my time as prime minister, I concluded that the solution was specific and quite different from conventional policy. We had to be prepared to intervene literally family by family and at an early stage, even before any criminality had occurred”. That’s a fairly bold statement, isn’t it?
So who is to blame? What are the mainstream media feeding us? Forget all that stuff I just said about bankers and politicians, ok? Put such foolish thoughts from your mind. The real problem is… (Dramatic pause)… Erm… Anarchists.
Aha! Weren’t expecting that were you? The old switcheroo! What will the Daily Mail readers say?
(A kitchen, somewhere in the South of England. 11 am. Enter Maude, trailing hankies and in some distress.)
“Heavens! croydon is aflame, Pam!”
“What’s all that about then?”
“Well it’s all these anarchists, and street dancers, and N-Dubz fans…”
“Anarchists now, is it? As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with all the foreigners and gays! What about the kiddies, that’s what I want to know?”
“We’ll all be murdered in our beds…”
“And probably interfered with sexually…”
“I should cocoa.”
It took the media a while to work their way down to anarchists, but we are hearing the term as a pejorative in the news more and more. What can it mean? Well, for one thing it means that anarchists still apparently rank well below foreigners or terrorists in their ability to scare your mum, or you would have heard about them sooner.
One of the most interesting things about the looting for me was finding out exactly what was looted- mostly aspirational, shiny, designer status objects of little or no real value. So who are these “anarchists” looting London for its sportswear and iphone 4s? I cannot think of a single anarchist of my acquaintance who would deign to lower themselves to loot from Liam Gallagher’s shop, even to make some kind of situationist statement. I saw the footage of the riots, and I didn’t see a lot of anarchists. What I saw was a lot of dissatisfied capitalists, and N-Dubz fans.
This wasn’t the revolution; it was just Boxing Day sales with masks and petrol bombs. Anarchists will not loot Abercrombie and Fitch, or JJB sports- that will be jumped up little dickhead gangsta twats with very little imagination. This is not, as the vile David Starkey would have you believe, a question of nice little white children behaving like the horrible Blacks. It is the product of a popular culture which values status objects over anything else- good little capitalists in other words. Looters love money. These days, they often seem to like gold clown necklaces, N-Dubz albums and sportswear too.
All of which brings me to my next point- that anarchists will not loot JJB Sports. Anarchists will loot book shops, hardware stores, distilleries, pharmacies and abandoned cold war weapons dumps. They just want to relax. They don’t especially care how they are dressed while they do it, and in fact, most seem to favour the hard wearing over the fashionable. In fact, most anarchists I know (the boys at least) tend to be balding, oddly dressed persons with more interest in beards than bling. The ladies tend not to have beards, but we are nothing if not inclusive, so bearded anarchist ladies would of course be welcome.
Nobody ram raided the Special Brew canning plant did they? Wasn’t anarchists then, was it? Some of the earlier riots, perhaps- it’s been a legitimately busy year for protesters- and people will get carried away when their protest is descended on by hundreds of baying riot police intent on spilling blood… But anarchists were not behind the summer riots…
When the crowd of rioters all have massive beards, then they might be anarchists. Of course they might also be Orthodox Jews, lumberjacks, women going to a stoning or gay bears. Or indeed any combination thereof. If the rioters are dressed as Santa, they might be anarchists, or they might just be an unruly mob of Christmas shoppers. That would be superbly festive- if everyone is dressed as Santa, the CCTV guys are really in trouble… Plus, it has a sort of historical precedent in the Roman Saturnalia, and various other pagan midwinter festivals dedicated to the ritual reversal of ordinary social norms.
As should be obvious by now, the 2011 summer riots were not caused by anarchists, because if they had been they would have been funnier, for one thing. Anarchists tend to like jokes. The funniest thing I saw about the summer riots was that one particular idiot was caught looting some Tesco Value range chicken kormas. I cannot pretend to understand the level of mind that loots from the Value range, and unless the man in question is some kind of satirist or performance artist, I am at a loss. But the guy was clearly neither a satirist nor a performance artist- he was just an idiot, and yes there is a difference. It is a question of semiotic layers, or something like that.
If the chicken korma guy had been a performance artist making a satirical statement about the mentality of the rioters, we would be living in a far better world. He was not, however. Annoyingly, he was just looking for something to eat, and didn’t want to steal anything he wouldn’t like, so he just stole his normal brand. That’s still a bit funny, isn’t it? But it’s funny in a Waiting For Godot kind of way.
Who knows? This year during the Holiday Season the streets may well be over-run by gangsta Santas in red hoodies with a white fur trim, laughing behind their false beards as they smash their way into Cash Converters in order to steal 2nd hand Playstations and pawned Argos jewellery. All the while, bogling, bearded Mama Santas will gyrate outside in tinselly bikinis to blaring grime, pouring mulled cider on the pavement for their dead homies. It will be as Cypress Hill seemingly predicted in the ’90s, “get your ho and another ho, Merry Christmas”… Will the news media blame elves? Anarchist anti-Santas? How will the kiddies react to blurry footage of the jolly old elf being held on the ground and shot in the face by the police?
Speaking of predictions, predictably we will now have to suffer months of tedious media campaigns against anarchist scum. It began immediately- the morning after the riots, The Daily Star couldn’t wait to bring out the great and the good to stand alongside Coleen and Wayne Rooney to campaign against “the scum”. Goody gumdrops. The Star, and Coleen and Wayne are on a “Crusade”. But why? Because they are better than you, and you should try to be more like them.
It didn’t convince me, because I know that Coleen and Wayne Rooney are neither great nor even good, and neither are Jeff Brazier, Kerry Katona, Peter Andre, Kym Marsh, Simon Cowell, Chantelle Houghton, Amy Childs or Max Clifford. Being, as they are, a vaguely simian footballer with the wit of an open drain who likes to pay grannies for sex, his shameless, stoic, gold digging wife, and a massive crowd of media dickheads.
In particular, I reject the notion that Simon Cowell or Max Clifford can look down on anybody at all. Was this seriously the very best The Star could muster? Perhaps it was just short notice… But perhaps the people at The Star genuinely thought that the admonishment of Jeff Brazier would have a greater effect.
“Heavens! Croydon is aflame!”
“Good God… Call Jeff Brazier!”
“Are you sure?”
“Damnit man, if we’ve ever needed him, now is the time. People need to be told they are scum by the father of Jade Goody’s children. They will be lost without his expert social commentary. He is the voice of these people…”
But thankfully nobody cares about Jeff Brazier, the ex-boyfriend of dead, talentless, reality TV racist Jade Goody. In my view, there is nothing that Jeff Brazier could ever say which could bring more shame onto anyone else than he has already brought upon himself.
I think what I am saying is that if you want to tell someone off, you need to have some kind of superiority to them, which Brazier, in my view, lacks. If you’re going to say anything at all, you should at least not be the guy who was fucking Jade Goody. What could such a person possibly have to add to any discourse on the subject of scum? That he likes to fuck it? Unless Brazier’s experience with the Goody family has led him to become some kind of vigilante scum killer, in which case he should presumably begin at home. If Brazier manages to wipe out the entire Goody bloodline, his own children included, then I will perhaps take his views more seriously. But don’t bet on it.
I’ve often thought that the only functional difference between a politician or a banker and a common thief is their success rate- and of course how they are treated when they are caught. Might I draw attention to the disgusting, hypocritical display by tap dancing ray of sunshine Hazel Blears, who would, if she had not been stopped, have defrauded much more in her recent parliamentary expenses claims than most looters would be able to carry in both arms… Hazel was quick to stick her self righteous, shiny face into everything to ask SKY News in an affronted manner why these kids weren’t in school, the fucking idiot. It was because it was August, and all the kiddies were on holiday. This made me angry for several reasons.
Firstly because Hazel Blears is a smug, fraudulent, insincere affront to my intelligence and sense of taste who reminds me of some kind of haughty doctor’s receptionist, or possibly someone heavily involved with amateur light opera. I just hate her fucking guinea pig face. Secondly, because when she was caught stealing all that money, she was treated very differently to a looter, despite the fact that what she did was actually almost exactly the same, if not worse, because she was in a position of trust.
Thirdly, you would have thought she would have kept her blubbery mouth shut, given that the parliamentary expenses scandal was a major contributing factor to the popular anger in this country which has led to riots in the first place. I wasn’t surprised she did what she did however. She is nothing if not an opportunist, and it was done with her characteristic lack of awareness, charm or grip on reality.
If Max Clifford, one of the most repellent, puffed up, gleefully deceitful little men alive, can be trotted out to heap scorn on the supposed scum of the country, we are, in my view, simply looking at a country with many differing levels of scum, not a campaign by the great and good. However, and this is the real point, most of the looters and “scum” do not even profess to be anarchists- because to do so would require a better basic standard of education than is commonly available in our schools.
Most of the anarchists I know are genuinely trying to affect their communities and culture for the better- why are so many punks and anarcho types employed in the caring professions, or in the environmental movement? It is not simply because they have tattoos and haircuts which preclude other employment. In my experience, it is because they are sensitive people who actually give a fuck about the world around them. They are also one of the only demographics in modern society who read any more. Rather than looters, anarchists actually make great librarians- and very few of them have any interest in N-Dubz beyond the purely anthropological.
This, of course, will not matter- those with a vested interest will quickly crowd the bandwagon. What annoys me most is that this feeble excuse for a riot, one saturated not by a desire for change, but for a desire for certain fashionable commodities gives the politicians and the police all the excuse they need to tighten the screws on all of us, and they will now feel quite justified turning their water cannons and automatic weapons on legitimate protests, with the complete backing of the baffled and terrified populace.
The Daily Mail readership will lap it up- they are desperate to give up their personal freedoms in return for the illusion of safety... But it all seems rather neat doesn’t it? Like playing right into their hands…
No, I know what you’re thinking, but the Police would never allow a riot to escalate in order to secure their jobs in the forthcoming budget cuts- put it from your mind. You are clearly some sort of dangerous paranoid.
I’ve allowed myself to get sidetracked. This thing is bigger than a few thousand angry teenagers smashing some stuff up. That’s just a symptom. Like the civil unrest we are seeing across much of the globe; a symptom. The root cause more serious, and it affects us all. There is something happening, and there is a reason why it is hard to see the edges of it.
The dominant paradigm is changing. Reality is, after all, simply what most people agree it is at the time- the dominant paradigm- not reality itself, but just how we as a culture like to interpret it. Currently, the old power structures in our culture are fraying- religion no longer has the answers or the power over lives it once held, nor does consumerism or the shadow play that we call political discourse. We are starting to see them all for the smoke and mirrors that they are. The dominant paradigm is shifting- and what’s more, we haven’t reached any kind of consensus about what our new reality is yet- a state of flux, in other words. Anybody with a vested interest in the old way of doing things can see the end of their world approaching, and they are terrified. I expect them all to burn out spectacularly for reasons they cannot understand, and wipe each other out in an orgy of fanatical lynchings, mall shootings and witch hunts. This will be the cure to the sickness, and will probably be hugely entertaining to observe. From space. But for everyone on the inside of it, it may appear to be a cataclysm. The question remains: what new cultural forms can emerge from this tempest? I don’t know the answers, but it’ll be fascinating to watch, I’m sure…
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"If you wanted to put Paul Knight's novel 'A Trail of Burnt Paper' into a shareholder pleasing box you might compare it to Japanese horror film 'The Ring'... The writing can be brutal at times, at other times it is controlled and delicate. It hasn't been edited into a neater style or more conventional structure but that is part of its beauty"- ARENA Magazine.