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This is just a round-up of some of the better things I have read on the riots. I might add to it as I go along.

Owen Hatherley:

Riots always start with an immediate grievance—a hugely corrupt police force shooting a man to death, this time—and become a free-for-all, where people exploit the absence of the law, in which the people who suffer are often innocent. Rioting is a politics of despair, but to claim that these riots are somehow different, somehow ‘neoliberal’, because of the allegedly novel phenomenon of mass looting, is asinine. It would be infantile to cheer on rioters against corner shopkeepers trying to defend their already small livelihoods; but equally so to pretend that this had nothing to do with the demonisation of the young and poor, nothing to do with our brutally unequal society and our pathetic trickle-down attempts at amelioration. Then we line up with those who think that looting Foot Locker is worse than the looting of an entire economy.

Nichole Smith at Racialicious:

As we face-off with the returned ugliness of the 80s British conservatism and increasing hostility, conditions are being set for a ‘police army state’. I was disgusted listening to a BBC Radio 5 reporter commenting ‘If you shoot at the police what else do you expect?’ I expect the police to arrest and charge their suspects. I expect individuals charged with crimes to face court and the full length of our judicial process as required. (The Guardian has since published information stating early ballistic tests show that all bullets were fired from the police – evidence of the false account used to cover police corruption.) I have not been so deceived out of my citizenship, nor convinced of the absent humanity of those of us living in the inner city, as to expect and humbly accept rising numbers of curious deaths at the hands of our police – and certainly not when they are all men of African-Caribbean descent.

Richard Seymour at Lenin’s Tomb:

The truth is that riots almost always hurt poor, working class people.  There’s no riot that embodies a pure struggle for justice, that is not also partly a self-inflicted wound.  There is no riot without looting, without anti-social behaviour, without a mixture of bad motives and bad politics.  That still doesn’t mean that the riot doesn’t have a certain political focus; that it doesn’t have consequences for the ability of the ruling class to keep control; that the contest with the police is somehow taking place outside of its usual context of suspicion borne of institutional racism and brutality.  The rioters here, whenever they’ve been asked, have made it more than abundantly clear what their motives are – most basically, repaying years of police mistreatment.

Seumas Milne in the Guardian:

If this week’s eruption is an expression of pure criminality and has nothing to do with police harassment or youth unemployment or rampant inequality or deepening economic crisis, why is it happening now and not a decade ago? The criminal classes, as the Victorians branded those at the margins of society, are always with us, after all. And if it has no connection with Britain’s savage social divide and ghettoes of deprivation, why did it kick off in Haringey and not Henley?

Lasophielle at Bankraub: eine Initiative von Dilettanten:

We create a system based on only-just-barely controlling (through law-abiding earn-and-shop mechanisms of governmentality) visceral urges to HAVE MORE SHINY EXPENSIVE STUFF all the time, and then have the cheek to regard those people who break down the shop windows (and the figurative barriers around that gluttonous drive to consumption) with disgust. What pigs – grabbing as many mobile phones and trainers as they can – we would definitely not do that; we have earned ours.

Stafford Scott in the Guardian:

To behave in this manner young people have to believe they have no stake in the neighbourhood, and consequently no stake in wider society. This belief is compounded when it becomes a reality over generations, as it has done for some. If the riots at the weekend and the disturbances around London today have come as a surprise to the police and that wider society, the warning signs have long been there for those of us who engage with black youths.

Nina Power in the Guardian:

One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.

Edit:

Francie’s take on the riots:

A large proportion of London teenagers know the police are racist and violent, and hate and mistrust them accordingly (including my teenage self). They shouldn’t know it, because happy children don’t know how fucked up the world is, but many of them know it from first-hand violence and humiliation. In Forest Gate, where everyone has been mugged or burgled, everyone hates the police. There were lots of stories on Twitter on Tuesday and Wednesday about Asian boys in Green Street, Forest Gate, defending the local businesses from rioters. My favourite story, unfortunately completely unverifiable, has those boys saying ‘We don’t want no looters round here. We don’t want no cops, either.’

Also, another good round-up/reading list at The disorder of things.

Edit 2:

Another good piece from Owen Hatherley:

The idea seems to be that those in social housing could just find somewhere else, they could just walk into private housing. Like the similar proposals for taking away housing benefit from miscreants, it is based on an inability to imagine what poverty is like, to think for a second what might happen to a family when it loses its income or its home. Given that the riots were largely concentrated in areas where extreme wealth and poverty rub up against each other – from Clapham to the Thames Valley, from Manchester to Bristol – it shows the total mutual incomprehension that we have for our literal neighbours.

Edit 3:

John Harris in the Guardian:

You could certainly be forgiven for comparing the fate of the Facebook pair to the MPs jailed for fraudulently taking tens of thousands from the public purse – whose average jail sentence came in at around 18 months. But it’s arguably even more instructive to look at those who merely paid back hefty sums for claims they clearly thought had been indefensible, many of whom are now cheerleading for the sentencing craziness that has seized the courts.

Edit 4 (yeah, this is silly now):

Jews sans frontieres have a great set of links for a more historical perspective, including a recommendation for E.P. Thompson’s The moral economy of the English crowd in the eighteenth century, available here.

 

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The current German elites are enjoying the return to normality as a nation-state. Having reached the end of a “long path to the West,” they are certified democrats and can once again be “just like the others.” What has disappeared is the anxiousness of a people, who were also defeated morally and were compelled to engage in self-criticism, to find their bearings more rapidly in the postnational constellation. In a globalized world everyone has to learn to incorporate the perspectives of others into his or her own instead of withdrawing into an egocentric blend of aestheticization and utility-maximization.

After 9/11, I was shocked by the fact that there was public mourning for many of the people who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, less public mourning for those who died in the attack on the Pentagon, no public mourning for the illegal workers of the WTC, and, for a very long time, no public acknowledgment of the gay and lesbian families and relationships that had been destroyed by the loss of one of the partners in the bombings. Then we went to war very quickly, Bush having decided that the time for grieving is over. I think he said that after ten days, that the time for grieving is over and now is time for action. At which point we started killing populations abroad with no clear rationale. And the populations we targeted for violence were ones that never appeared to us in pictures. We never got little obituaries for them. We never heard anything about what lives had been destroyed. And we still don’t.

…there is a malign dialectic at work here. I buy things in order to try and reassert my identity, but as the marketplace grows I am offered an increasing variety of goods and services, and associated ways of living, from which to choose. Now my identity is even more in question, because it is something that I myself have to select and realize. The impact is heightened as the material prosperity of society increases – even something as basic as food becomes no longer a matter of survival and physical well-being, but a decision about life-style.

These days, IoI bods look like delegates at a Unison conference, or the seekers who gather at Landmark seminars and the Alpha Course. The ones who make the speeches are mostly white and in their thirties and forties (the volunteers on the cameras and boom-mikes are younger and more diverse). They’re more relaxed than they used to be, less aggressive and overtly controlling, but they still have a habit of sitting on panels together, pretending they don’t already know each other, and they still dominate meetings with tedious, well-rehearsed spontaneous interventions.

Why, in any case, go to the trouble of recruiting people completely new to politics when there are about 600 people leaving the Socialist Workers Party each year and a proportionate number from the smaller groups. Concentrate on such people, but avoid ex-members of Militant, whose limited conceptual abilities cripple them once they cut loose from their organisation’s guidance.

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The regulations on owning an elephant are complex. We believe it is not the state’s business to discriminate against pet lovers and propose a simplification in the rules currently on the statute books.

My father-in-law, a quietly spoken pigeon fancier and allotment tender, was described as The Enemy Within just because he went on strike to save his job. In the winter of 1984 I went coalpicking with him at Broomhill, not far from the site of the Cortonwood branch of Morrisons. […] Rows of police vans went by, slowing down as they saw a poet and a bloke in a cap bending and picking. I remember they were wearing shades, like American cops in a film, but maybe that’s just part of the dream. I do recall my father-in-law standing up and rubbing his back. “I don’t know what we’ll do here, lad,” he said. “I can’t run and tha can’t fight.”

Human beings are drawn to beauty, and nobody wants to live in a dump. Having to do so makes life far more unpleasant than it otherwise would be – and this is an aspect of poverty, heaped on top of the other hardships that brings, which really ought not to be forgotten.

The main characters of these books are all the same guy. He spends three hundred pages aggrandizing or belittling himself, but is ultimately the only fit judge of his self-worth and life. He is usually embattled, defending himself against the intrusion of silly, feminine interpretations of his behavior, lest he start making decisions based on the lives and feelings of others rather than his own childish needs. He blames everyone else for his problems, he is able to take women’s measurements on sight with eerie precision, but he’s not very good at sex. The decline of his libido is always a metaphor for death. ALWAYS.

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42 minutes into the telephone interview, he seemed to register defeat. Apparently I was going to pursue my claim and insist on going forward to the next stage of Benefit Crystal Maze, no matter how many questions they asked me. My next step was an interview (what had I just done? A flirtation over cocktails?) at my local Job Centre Plus, which was… long pause… Stratford.

Few of these debates within evolutionary theory have been permitted to hinder the spread of the evolutionary metaphor far outside its biological domains, above all in the repeated attempts to at least tame and limit—and at worst to eradicate—the social in theorizing humanity, and thus to biologize the human condition. Two instantly recognizable icons have hugely increased the attractiveness of these claims. The double helix and the multicoloured brain within a human skull adorn adverts, book jackets and sober articles in upmarket magazines. Sequencing the human genome made gene talk into a fashionable trope, from car advertisements to politics. Good design is apparently ‘in the DNA’ of the BMW, just as family values are, according to David Cameron, built into the DNA of the Conservative Party.

Overcoming Zionist ideas and practice is crucial, first and foremost, because of the impact of its institutionalized racism and colonialism on the people of Palestine and the broader region. This impact manifests in the demand for political, legal and economic power for Jews and European people and cultures over indigenous people and cultures.

In its current form, under the influence of the dominant social forces, the European construction may have produced some degree of institutional harmonisation, and generalised some fundamental rights, which is not negligible, but, contrary to the stated goals, it has not produced a convergent evolution of national economies, a zone of shared prosperity. Some countries are dominant, others are dominated. The peoples of Europe may not have antagonistic interests, but the nations increasingly do.

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HULK NOT THREATENED BY ACKNOWLEDGING THE PERFORMATIVITY OF GENDER. HULK NOT REQUIRE MASCULINITY OR ESSENTIALISM TO LOVE HULK BODY.

There have really been only two generations of women who have been raised in a world with barriers lowered. And I mean “lowered,” and not “down.” Two generations of women who got to control their fertility, pursue work and higher education, who can plan and build epic lives. There have always been exceptions, of course, but lack of funds, fear of reprisal or social ostracism, and a nonexistent support system has made such lives only for the brave, the lucky, and the scrappy. This is why we have Edith Wharton novels, to help us understand this.

  • Kerry Howley on third wave feminism and Sheila Rowbotham’s Dreamers of a new day at Bookforum:

…the fierce individualism of the women Rowbotham profiles here is something most chroniclers would push aside for the sake of narrative simplicity. It’s this resistance to conventional storytelling that makes Dreamers so moving, the willingness to present a pastiche of quotations from pamphlets and letters and novels, to reveal the messy process of reinvention rather than merely reporting its conclusion. Instead of stern teleology, we get sporting play. When “new woman” Helena Born died in 1901, a friend wrote, “Hers was certainly the experimental life; there were no rut marks on her.”

…these women were just ready to tackle everything. Some want to have a more humane capitalism, so they try to introduce ergonomic design into industry or try to reduce the hours of work. Then there are others who are totally anarchist, opposed to the whole system, and won’t have anything to do with it at all, and then there’s working class women trying to get an eight-hour day.

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