The Good Delusion 143


Comments on my last post revealed many of the regular commenters here to be victims of what I might call “The Good Delusion” – a belief that anyone at odds with the political and economic establishment must be good, as the establishment is unjust and corrupt. But the sad truth is that vicious materialism and sociopathic behaviour is neither confined solely to the upper classes nor in all cases instigated by them.

I should for example be grateful for an explanation by some of the commenters on my last post as to why the following is an act of revolutionary vanguardism, constitutes a protest against government spending cuts or is a product of police stop and search powers:

The answer is that such claims are ludicrous. The idea that all thuggery is the fault of the bad example of the Bullingdon Club or of higher university tuition fees is an absolute nonsense. And I speak as somebody who is utterly opposed to any tuition fees paid by students, absolutely deplores the privilege that the Bullingdon Club represents, and is completely against stop and search.

The idea that no personal blame can be attached to the looters because of their background or of government policies, is one with which I have no sympathy. Strangely those who hold that the looters are blameless victims of oppression tend to be the same people who have no sympathy for the policemen who get injured, whatever their motives or circumstances that led them to join the police. Apparently all looters are innocent and all police are villains. What nonsense!

In direct answer to another critical commenter, you are quite wrong in stating that all my information came from the media. It did not. As far as I know, the store security guards badly beaten up in Newham have not been reported yet in the MSM, for example. How were the attacks on those people justified, who were just trying to earn a living? What about those leaping for their lives to escape fires, or who had their flats attacked with firebombs? What of the bus driver pulled from his bus and beaten up so the bus could be wrecked? The cabbie who had his arm broken trying to defend his takings?

There is a key fact here. The vast majority of those arrested have existing criminal records – many of them very long indeed. This is not a spontaneous uprising of a repressed class. This is a large number of existing criminals seeing an apparent opportunity to rob and mug with little chance of being caught as they temporarily overwhelmed the police. Anyone who believes these were frustrated would-be university students is so warped by ideology as to have descended into gibbering idiocy.

Frankly the idea that these were oppressed representatives of a suffering class is an insult to the very many decent people in low paid work and without work who struggle to get by and never burn down anyone’s home, mug anyone or loot electronic bling from shops.

Some commenters also have chosen to allude to my own middle class background. There are a very few people who frequent this site who have known me since childhood. I can guarantee you that I grew up in much greater material deprivation than almost any of the criminals out looting. It is a simple matter of fact that I owned no clothes which were not secondhand, other than underwear, until after I went to university. I never had a watch. But did that entitle me to go and loot a shop and burn out the people living above it?

I was brought up, with my siblings, by my mother and grandfather. He was a coalman from the genuine British working class tradition, a lifelong socialist, entirely-self taught. He used to read to me from Burns, Hazlitt and Tressell. When in doubt on any moral question, I always consider what old Henry would have done. If anywhere near, he would have been out there with his coal shovel defending people against the vicious looters trying to attack them, ruin their livelihoods and burn them out. Any of you who cannot see that that is the authentic tradition of the British people, are suffering a case of the good delusion which is beyond repair.


143 thoughts on “The Good Delusion

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  • voila

    A Nato airstrike near Tripoli has killed 85 people, including dozens of women and children, Libyan officials have claimed.

    A spokesman for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime said missiles struck a cluster of farm buildings in the village of Majar, around 150km east of the capital.

    Among the dead were 33 children, 32 women and 20 men, he added.

    However, Nato has said the airstrike hit a legitimate military target.

    Reporters have been taken to the scene, where they were told by Moussa Ibrahim : “This is a crime beyond imagination. Everything about this place is civilian.”

  • genovese

    craig you know nothing about the working class in this country, our struggles and grievances. Stick to something you know about instead of spouting the sort of right wing bigotry i don’t expect from you. You let yourself down today, typical of the upper class ignorance that’s propagating this violence. Be quiet until you have sonething intelligent to say instead of falling for all this right wing proto fascist propaganda

  • IC

    It might be worth remembering that the event that started the riots was the shooting dead in the back of a cab of a man by the police. The same police now being provided with more armed deterrents to protect “our streets”. When did Cameron/Osbourne/Johnson ever live on “our streets”??

    “Our streets” won’t be made safer from gangsterism by unfettered state sanctioned armed thuggery It ‘s worth considering also that rotten attitudes and grotesque behaviour is not confined to the poor and the marginalised – see bankers, political elites, corrupt police etc etc. It’s just easier to coral and condemn the poor. Frankly Cameron’s speech on the steps of No. 10 recalls only Kurtz’s ramblings from Apocalypse Now “We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig, cow after cow, village after village. army after army”. Ruled by Fools.

  • craig Post author

    Genovese

    What actually disqualifies me from being working class. My failure to subscribe to a one-eyed Marxist philosophy? My lack of addiction to violent robbery? Define “working class” and explain why I am not from the working class. You know nothing of my history and plainly have not read what I just wrote.

  • craig Post author

    MJ,

    No, they should go to prison, for lengths of time determined by their degree of participation in violence against people or which endangered life.

    Tell me, MJ, seriously, what do you think should be done with the specific perpetrators in the video I posted?

  • Old Trot

    To dismiss the rioters and looters as just criminals is a staggeringly facile oversimplification. There are opportunistic criminals at work, and some truly anti-social elements among them, but even they don’t happen in a vacuum. But there are also many who have built up a visceral anger at the Police for literally decades of harassments ad criminalisation, who have had all hope of a better life and most of their meagre benefits withdrawn. They have no political representation at all and no-one who listens to them. Many have been pushed to the point of literally not giving a tuppeny fuck any more. They are a thoroughly predictable result of a society that places more value in propping up the thieves of Wall St and the City than its children. You were lucky, you had a way out back in the days of full grants and half decent benefits. Today that doesn’t exist anymore.
    There may be a lack of politics in the minds of the rioters, but the roots of the problem are absolutely political. Sure there are some warped people out there, but to paraphrase, Power corrupts, and lack of power corrupts absolutely

  • MJ

    With regard to that specific case I’d go for a lengthy community service order plus full compensation and damages to the victim.

  • Scouse Billy

    I talk with people on the street here in SE London, Craig.
    We’ve lost any trust in the Met. – the de Menezes “execution” was the real eye-opener/step change IMO.

    For my part I pass on the Cressida Dick – Common Purpose aspect. The kids may have had fun and freebies in mind but the rest of us are watching and analysing the authorities’ responses bearing in mind this is as nothing compared with when the economic shit really hits the fan.

  • craig Post author

    Old Trot,

    I am well aware that government smashed up the ladder I and many others of my generation could climb up. I think the end of state funded higher education is the biggest disaster of my lifetime. But I honestly do think you are deluded in reading social protest into this. They were not protesting politically, they were looting, by far the majority of them, and behaving very violently towards ordinary people, and burning working people out of their homes.

  • craig Post author

    ScouseBilly,

    But what does losing faith in the Met – which is understandable – have to do with looting local shops and burning people out of their homes?

  • Uzbek

    “With regard to that specific case I’d go for a lengthy community service order plus full compensation and damages to the victim.”

    And exactly how is this going to help anybody get out of the poverty trap which seems to be the root cause of all of this rioting.

  • Beeston Regis

    reminds me of the IMF ‘helping’ a poor victim ‘recover’
    whilst robbing them blind
    both a gang of despicable tosspots

  • Scouse Billy

    Craig, I suspect there’s widespread, largely tacit support for youth taking on the authorities, in particular, the Met.
    .
    Nobody wants to see people’s homes and businesses burnt but to take on the Met you have to have serious civil unrest.
    .
    My point is that this is a test of this government – and it’s failing badly with it’s sheer, criminal hypocracy.

  • technicolour

    “There is a key fact here. The vast majority of those arrested have existing criminal records – many of them very long indeed.”

    1. Where is this ‘key fact’ from?
    2. How many rioters were there, and what proportion of them were arrested?

    “This is not a spontaneous uprising of a repressed class.”

    Youth unemployment in Tottenham was running at 55 percent. You have mentioned stop and search. I’m glad to hear you disagree with it: are you simultaneously trying to say it has no effect on people?

    “This is a large number of existing criminals seeing an apparent opportunity to rob and mug with little chance of being caught as they temporarily overwhelmed the police.”

    Some of them, certainly. Others were children, many of them children under 16. Are you suggesting that they should be seen as ‘existing criminals’?

    “Anyone who believes these were frustrated would-be university students is so warped by ideology as to have descended into gibbering idiocy.”

    Anyone who believes that none of these people could have gone to university, if their background had encouraged them, as yours did, has lost touch with humanity. Anyone who believes that the actions of this government, in scrapping the EMA and raising university fees, have not sent a loud and clear message to impoverished young people, has not been talking to impoverished young people.

    “I can guarantee you that I grew up in much greater material deprivation than almost any of the criminals out looting.”

    1. How would you know?
    2. Material poverty is not the same as intellectual and social poverty. You seem to have had a privileged time of it.

    “But did that entitle me to go and loot a shop and burn out the people living above it?”

    I don’t believe anyone is suggesting that these people were ‘entitled’ to do anything of the sort.

    Finally, I had quite a Daily Mail reaction when young people were rioting in Belfast a couple of years ago. But then I know very little about conditions in Belfast. What I cannot understand, from a London perspective, is this seismic lurch to the right, as the Daily Mash calls it, in apparently reasonable people. Of course one can condemn the behaviour in the video, above – it happens all the time. What point does it prove about anything else? And of course one can and should condemn the violence, and worry about people’s safety; that’s just human.

  • OldMark

    ‘I was brought up, with my siblings, by my mother and grandfather. He was a coalman from the genuine British working class tradition, a lifelong socialist, entirely-self taught. He used to read to me from Burns, Hazlitt and Tressell. When in doubt on any moral question, I always consider what old Henry would have done.’

    Grandad Henry would be out there with the guys from Enfield & Eltham- their grandfathers worked in the Lee Enfield factories turning out carbines, BRENs & STENs, or at the Woolwich Arsenal, the Matchless motorcycle works or the Royal Docks.

    The likes of technicolour on the other thread, who would smear these guys as simply EDL thugs, are deluded idiots. Sure there may be the odd EDL supporter mixed in with the crowd-there were certainly supporters of the Khalistan terrorists mixed in the guys at Southall (not that technicolour gives a flying fuck about that!)
    .
    [Mod: I’m not editing out your personal abuse of Technicolour as it illustrates your aggressive style. I do ask that you calm down and refrain from further personal abuse.]

  • mary

    From medialens.
    .
    Newsnight journalist not examining subject, but leading argument to totalitarian solution.
    Posted by John Milroy on August 10, 2011, 12:52 pm
    .
    COMPLAINT TO BBC.
    Body: “It seems to me that the purpose of publicly owned news should surely be to examine subjects objectively? Specifically today, to examine government minister, Michael Gove, on what is the cause of the terrible riots we are witnessing, and what can be done to prevent such occurrences? I can’t see how in Newsnight’s first interview with a cabinet minister since the riots began, Gavin Esler, ignoring asking Michael Gove about whether the government bears any responsibility for the uprising occurring, and instead asking him why rioters are not being shot quicker, is serving the public cause?
    .
    I was astonished to see a man who calls himself a journalist, who is employed by the public to do so, to be so draconian in what read to me as his own radical personal solution to what is a dire, sad, and tragic situation. Surely shooting people would make it worse? Is this BBC doing a good job? What we, the public, want to know is why this happened, and what we can do to prevent it in future. Are bullets a solution? Calling them euphemistically, ‘plastic bullets’, or ‘baton rounds’, does not literally soften the blow.
    We want answers from politicians on whether their drastic cuts are the cause of this, and that is surely what Gavin should have been asking.
    Kind regards,
    John Milroy
    ~~~
    I saw the execrable Gove too. He was motor mouthing and sees no connection at all to the education grant cuts and the other cuts to the present trouble. I do not think that anyone commenting here has condoned rioting or looting but rather question where and what the problems are in society for which we, the elders, are really responsible and which we have allowed to fester. The crime illustrated on the video above could have taken place anywhere else in the country and at any other time. The major crimes and criminals are elsewhere as we know. It is a question of degree and accountability. Blair and his cohort have escaped justice, so far.

  • craig Post author

    Technicolour,

    Sorry to be obtuse. There are a fair bunch of people here who know how I know such things, but we can’t tell you here.

  • Kit Green

    Is instilling morality an evil right wing pastime?

    Is trashing your own community a valid response to envy?

    Is being middle class a reason for self flagellation?

    Is working class a genetic condition, you are one or you never can be?

    Is divisiveness the oxymoronic way forward to true equality?

  • Chris

    Only a total repudiation of the rioters is acceptable because it is a mistake made by the leftist masses to sympathise – they are, lending a convenient air of legitimacy to these contemptuous plebeians defiance of civil rule. This whole phenomenon of urban violence spawns from a ugly sub-culture more than socio-political and economic position in Britain today imo.

  • technicolour

    Craig: you’re not being obtuse: you’re being obscurantist. I presume you mean you have police sources: so did the News Of the World, as I remember.

  • OldTrot

    No Craig, I’m not saying social protest is uppermost in their minds,you are missing the point entirely. Riots are the cluster bomb of social unrest, precisely because of their dangerous and fragmented nature. They nearly always occur in areas blighted by poverty, ghettoisation and racism, and they always do the most damage to their own neighbourhoods. If society has reached a point where this sort of thing happens, then of course it’s political.

  • YugoStiglitz

    Here’s a question for OldTrot and the likes of Laurie Penny, as reflected by OldTrot’s comment just above – it goes with the territory that you believe that the U.S. (i) is more racist than the U.K. and (ii) has a less vigorous safety net than the U.K. So … why aren’t they rioting in Chicago and Boston right now? Why not last month? Why not last year?

  • MJ

    Kit Green:
    .
    “Is instilling morality an evil right wing pastime?”
    .
    It can be if it is used by the ruling class to maintain a quiescent populace while they do what they please with impunity.
    .
    “Is trashing your own community a valid response to envy?”
    .
    No, but is this about envy?
    .
    “Is being middle class a reason for self flagellation?”
    .
    No. Right now it’s a reason for some serious thinking. The middle class is the real revolutionary class and they have the most to lose at the moment.

    Sorry, can’t be bothered with the last two questions.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Mr Murray,
    You are a good man. It does not matter which social class one belongs to, as there are good men and there are bad men in any classes. Those who see these riots as an opportunity for their political agendas are very stupid. There are much more opportunities for everyone in the UK than for majority of people in countries like Uzbekistan. Those who come to the UK to work achieve much more than in their own countries. These riots are caused by VERY liberal policies of police and social services towards criminals. As you said most of those are have been recently arrested have criminal records already and some for serious crimes. The question IS, WHY were they free and not in jail?
    .
    There is one Soviet movie to which I would like refer now. There is one moment in that movies where one police officer answering to very liberal argument of another one stating that “burglar has to be imprisoned”. And that is all. Until burglars will remains amongst us walking down the streets without feeling any guilt and fear we will always be in danger of riots and other criminal activities. These are not riots of poor children who wanted to get to universities but were refused places because of their colour of skin or social background. These are riots of greedy criminals who feel no guilt or fear of law.

  • Herbie

    The lesson from Northern Ireland, for anyone that’s interested, is that you need to include everyone in the solution.
    .
    You need to include even those you may perceive as criminals, gangsters and racists.
    .
    It’s difficult, I know, but there you go. You either want relative peace and stability or violence and chaos.
    .
    I realise that current events in England are not quite to the scale of the social conflict in NI, but there are tensions in this country which are not being addressed in national media nor in national politics.
    .
    These tensions need only a spark to set them off, taking us all to a very dark place.
    .
    I fear that over the coming years, as the economic situation deteriorates, we will find many more such sparks and we have neither the politics nor national debate to deal with them.

  • technicolour

    Yes, Jan, a good article from someone who knows their stuff (mind you, I would say that, as I was saying it earlier!)

  • technicolour

    “Those who see these riots as an opportunity for their political agendas are very stupid. ” – yes, agreed.

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