Riots are stimulating. I wanted to write a nice set-the-world-to-rights post about them. Bollocks to that, I don’t have the answers. Here’s some links and rants and stuff instead.
WTF is Ochlocracy?
“Ochlocracy or mob rule is government by mob or a mass of people, or the intimidation of legitimate authorities” (Wikipedia). Concept is familar, the Greek / Latin term is not. I must have skipped that politics lecture. Found via an interesting Economist article about riot control gear.
Was this Ochlocracy. Didn’t look much like it. In Mumbai, home of many a mob, you can feel it on every street, latent, waiting to catalyse around some outrage: a traffic accident, a politician who doesn’t pay for votes purchased, an unpopular boss, a religious infraction, a fight between brothers. In Mumbai, if anything, it’s the relative rarity of mobs, rioting and looting that provides the surprise (as far as I can see, they’re only daily or so). But I digress.
Hello liberals (1)?
Peter Oborne of the Telegraph wrote a blindingly good piece: moral decay is as bad at the top of our society as at the bottom. Cue epic amount of retweeting by all kinds of people surprised to find themselves in agreement with the Telegraph (I’m one, Stephen Fry was another). To use an old quote, even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. Was the Oborne piece similar to this satirical piece by Nathaniel Tapley? Perhaps. Hmm. Good article anyway.
So that was then followed by gleeful tweets along lines of ‘liberals find themselves right wing’ and ‘telegraph moving left’. And this tribal, ideological idiocy irritates me; I wish we could put the ideology back in the box and keep the tribalism out of it, but I’m probably just an aging hippy (my relatively high mach score and pragmatic realism are surely just cheerful personality quirks). (Want a mach score test? Here’s one)
Anyway, having pissing contests over left and right may be a tad silly. Of course it might make total sense to organise all of our political views into left and right because the UK Houses of Parliament happen to have benches on the left side and the right side. A side-effect of interior design is no doubt a great way to figure out how to create a decent society that can overcome problems and threats in society, our environment and our economy.
Or – if we have to have labels (and some of us seem to like them, me as much as anyone) – we could try something a little more sophisticated. Nothing scary, just a square not a line. If you’ve seen Playschool you won’t be freaked out by a square. Have a go for yourself at the venerable Political Compass site. For the record, here’s mine.
Hello liberals (2)?
This I don’t have an answer to: few of us are angels. We may not be looting, or misunderstanding what we’re allowed to claim for as an MP, or conveniently forgetting the law about phone hacking. But we drive too fast, and ‘mis-file’ our own expenses and ‘borrow’ office stamps and copy music we don’t own, and jump red lights on our bikes and do or have done naughty pharmaceuticals. All of which is illegal. Morality aside (and the legitimacy of these laws aside), this stuff is illegal. Serious offences? Individually, no; but added up, it makes ignoring law commonplace. Is it toxic? Maybe. Dunno. Are we all going to stop it? Not convinced. Is a moral crusade in the air?
Moral crusade-schusade. Too many tweets like: ‘omg, now they’re hitting independent shops.’ Yeah right. Hello nice middle classes, you find it rather exciting to see chain stores you don’t approve of blazing, but you’d be truly outraged if they hit that lovely cafe or that place where you bought that darling summer dress? Oh yeah, and the Apple store. Really, omg, don’t hit the Apple store. Hmm. Bring on the moral crusade. And the army, because that always goes well .
So that bit has me all confused. Meanwhile nobody dares tell off kids who are throwing sand at other kids in our lovely twee local park full of nice professional people. And somehow that’s at once a ridiculous thing to be concerned about, and at the same time it’s all connected.
So I only had this conclusion, and it’s an old one. If liberalism is individual freedom, then it needs robust defence. Freedom demands being protected from harm caused by others. And I’d prefer like…law and stuff, because I don’t fancy the route where we all have to stockpile guns and ammo. Suspect I’m not a great shot.
Some stuff in other places:
Rioting is a disease spread from person to person (interesting application of epidemiology).
Riots, game theory and empathy. Something I wrote on the Team Rubber blog, half-a-thought I couldn’t develop further.
#ukriots – not a soapbox, but some insights + some interesting positives – a piece I wrote on the Delib blog, basically ‘Twitter + the riots’.
Also – because words are easily misinterpreted: I am a liberal. That’s liberal with a small l.