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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  • John Goss

    Clark, on this one we’re going to part company. I never mentioned black or white, but they were working together. If not, why didn’t the black man stop the thief?

  • Jives

    Im completely opposed to the violence and looting.but not ONE politico or media rent-a-quote. Is being honest about causd and effect.
    Cameron just said that ‘ pockets of Britain are broken and evil’..
    Not one mention of the rapacious criminal bankers,the self-serving political and media,ahem,elite or the Met-who all seem to be thick as thieves and deeply and corruptly involved in our current societal malaise.
    Cameron,BoJo,Miliband et al inspire zero confidence and until these disingenuous droids start to truly address the underlying causes then this problem will only grow.

  • Clark

    John Goss, have you rechecked the video? The man who helps the youth up does not appear to steal anything. He does look in the lad’s backpack and pocket, but I think he could have been tricked by the white man in the cap, who looked and acted like a professional pick-pocket.
    .
    They don’t seem to be working together. The white man walks off quick, the black man doesn’t. I think he didn’t stop him because he was so surprised (he moves that way), and probably scared.

  • Clark

    The black man moves like he’s surprised when he sees the white man looking in the backpack. At this point, maybe the white man says something like “I’m looking for his ‘phone to call his mum. No, you check his pocket”. The black man again moves like he’s surprised when the white man takes the item and walks off fast. There is no reason at all to believe that they are together.

  • writeon

    These riots don’t surprise me very much. Socially the UK is a powderkeg, as are many other countries, all that’s needed is a spark and the whole thing explodes.

    But surely one needs to, or should attempt, to look at the context surrounding these disturbances? The youth of Britain don’t live in a vacuum, they are part of society too. So why do they act the way they do? Is their a ‘simple’ answer, they are simply criminals on the rampage? But then why do we ‘create’ so many young criminals? Criminals are part of society as well, they weren’t born criminals, or is that what we really think?

    Why does Britain have the largest prison population in Europe, the largest percentage of people in prison? What’s so special about Britain? Or are the British especially criminal? Is there something in the water, is that the reason?

    One can’t really ‘create’ a society like the UK, with its vast, entrenched, inequalities; in power, wealth, employment, education, lifestyle, health… and then act surprised and shocked when the ‘underclass’ lash out at the world around them. It would be surprising if most deprived sections of society were also the most politically sophisticated.

    Successive economic policies by both the twin parties of the state, have promoted policies that have destroyed the traditional working class, and the traditional family unit. Increasingly the UK resembles the US, where millions live in kind of sub-strata of society, which is falling apart, not really surprising kids grow up the way they do and act the way they do. Expecting people to adopt genteel and respectable middle class values and norms of behavour, when they don’t have middle class educations and most importantly, middle class incomes, is a bit rich.

  • writeon

    I also think it’s ridiculous to brand young people as scum and feral almost across the board, when, in reality, so few are actually involved in these disturbances, why is that?

    It’s like there’s a process of demonisation going on, almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. A way to label a whole group in society, who are no longer needed, who are excess to the requirements of the marketplace, who no longer fit; to find a way one can ‘morally’, and with a good concience, cast them aside, because they don’t deserve anything better. This is of course very convinient. One creates the conditions that lead to the crippling of an entire strata of society, then one blames them for being handicaped, brilliant… but a bit pathetic too.

  • John Goss

    Clark, I’ve looked at it again and I’m still convinced the black man is in on it. As soon as they’ve got whatever was stolen does the black man continue to help the young lad? No. In what direction does the black man go? In the same direction as the man who stole. Also look at the point where the young lad tries to see what’s going on behind him. The black man gets hold of the lad’s arm and turns him so he cannot see. Sorry mate.

  • writeon

    I think these disturbances are symptomatic of a corrupt and decaying society. It’s bizarre and hypocritical to hear the elite, Cameron and the rest, condemning the rioters as ‘simple criminals’, when the elite themselves are so criminal themselves, only is it because ‘white coller’ crime is somehow different? Sure, it’s apparently less violent, but then, they don’t have to use violence to steal do they? Middle class crime and elite crime is different, but is it better? Compare the battery, rape, murder and robbery our genteel leaders visited opon Iraq, for example, and the same bunch of murderous gangsters, make our young people look like innocent quireboys in comparison.

  • Clark

    John Goss, I didn’t catch that detail of the black man holding the lad away, I’ll check again. But from my viewing, I can’t see where the black man went, but he wasn’t going off fast with the white man.
    .
    The white man goes to walk past at first, but then turns back, and starts at the backpack immediately. It looks like the white man discovered the situation. Also note how the black man straightens like he’s surprised. Twice.

  • Dave Hansell

    One of the key communications problems which exists here is that of the blockage which almost automatically tries to equate any analysis other than mindless individual thuggery as some attempt to rationalise, excuse, and justify the behaviors which are taking place.

    This approach and attitude is not only short sighted it is a straw man. Worse still its a negation of Enlightenment values – what Dan Hind (The Treat to reason – how the Enlightenment was hijacked and how we can reclaim it: ISBN 978-1-84467-253-0) calls a Folk Enlightenment. Even those, like the woman interviwed on TV yesterday whose business had been trashed, who ask the question about what are the parents doing recognise implicitly that there is a context.

    The anyone who seeks to analyse this is beyond the pale because its nothing short of mindless individual criminality and needs no other rational thought approach gets us absolutely nowhere. Its the other side of the coin Nilhism we are witnessing in these events. Caricaturing anyone who tries to comprehend what’s going on as no better than those committing these atrocities is the equivilant of burying your head in the sand.

    There was an interview on one TV channel last night – Tuesday 9th – with a mature local man whose community had been trashed but who did not want his face to be shown who tackled this issue head on by asking the question (and this is paraphrasing) “OK. so its mindless violence and these people are committing mindless acts. But why are they committing mindless violent acts?

    But perhaps he’s just trying to excuse them? I’m sorry but that’s nothing more than a self indulgent comfort blanket.

    I don’t know whether Craig was having a go at my post from last night when he made the comment about “someone” claiming he (Craig) had got all his information from the media, if it is I’d suggest you go back and re-read it Craig because you’ve totally missed the point being made in that post.

    No one is suggesting that things we saw on TV or the posts on you Tube did not happen. That’s a fact. But lets apply some gray cells here – the mature criminal gangs which went into Ealing to take advantage of the situation were not the same sort of young people who we saw in other parts of the London or elsewhere. Neither were their motivations the same. Neither was the context the same. The people in the video clip on this post were not young people in the 10-18 age group – they were clearly grown men.

    The immediate instant interprtation, lazy journalism and caricaturing from the MSM in many of these events has an effect. Not everyone has the time or energy at the end of an increasingly heavy working day to think things through. What we’ve had in the immediate aftermath of the initial events exploding was simplistic. Some, as is the usual case after allowing time for thinking things through rather than knee jerk reactions (some of which, like water cannon and baton rounds, are rejected by many of the professionals who are the ones charged with using them as impractical in many of these situations) are starting to employ a more rational approach.

    Of course the problam now is that the simplistic instant interpretations that we got at the start are the one’s now lodged in the popular mind. Hence the comment last night about lies (or simplicities) going around the world twice before the truth has got its boots on.

    It’s not hard. It’s not justification. It’s called analysis. Its called thinking. An approach developed to enable human progress to take place and civilisation to evolve.

    If that is, in this case and with this specific issue, considered somehow beyond the pale than those who are seemingly viewed as guilty of this are in good company.

    After all, the link on this page in the bottom right hand corner to the post “Much More Vile Than Englands Riots” has the same sub-text of contextual analysis. That is that those responsible for the bombing and civilian death’s in Libya (and by extension the similar atrocities in Iraq and Afghanisatan and elsewhere) are providing the poor example which the rioters are following.

    Lets face it, the mantra which is being correctly criticised and analysed on this whole blog that “Greed is not just good, it’s legal” is the one these people (the rioters in all their different varieties and demographics) are following.

  • A Sad Jester

    John Goss, I didn’t catch that detail of the black man holding the lad away, I’ll check again. But from my viewing, I can’t see where the black man went, but he wasn’t going off fast with the white man.
    .
    The white man goes to walk past at first, but then turns back, and starts at the backpack immediately. It looks like the white man discovered the situation. Also note how the black man straightens like he’s surprised. Twice.
    @Mary, this is so funny, thanks for posting it, already few have commented on it on my FB
    True and funny!
    I also think it’s ridiculous to brand young people as scum and feral almost across the board, when, in reality, so few are actually involved in these disturbances, why is that?

    It’s like there’s a process of demonisation going on, almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. A way to label a whole group in society, who are no longer needed, who are excess to the requirements of the marketplace, who no longer fit; to find a way one can ‘morally’, and with a good concience, cast them aside, because they don’t deserve anything better. This is of course very convinient. One creates the conditions that lead to the crippling of an entire strata of society, then one blames them for being handicaped, brilliant… but a bit pathetic too.

    http://nathanieltapley.com/2011/08/10/an-open-letter-to-david-camerons-parents/

  • mary

    Courtenay – The BBC have apologised for that interview but not publicly of course so the smear against Darcus Howe remains in the viewers’ minds. Lady Gregor of McGregor, or whatever Fiona Armstrong’s real life name is, will not be reprimanded or subjected to a ‘headcount reduction’.
    .
    BBC email to original complainant
    Posted by The Editors on August 10, 2011, 7:17 pm, in reply to “BBC apologises”
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    Dear Mr P
    .
    Thanks for contacting us regarding our BBC News Channel from 9 August.
    .
    I understand you were unhappy with the Darcus Howe interview conducted by Fiona Armstrong.
    .
    We forwarded concerns on this issue to BBC News Channel Editors and while they accept that this interview was not ideal, they stressed that the presenter did not intend to show Mr Howe any disrespect and the questions were simply intended to gauge his reaction to the events in Croydon the night before.
    ,
    In particular they acknowledge that the interview included a poorly phrased question about rioting. This can and does happen on occasions during live interviews and was compounded by a number of technical issues during the interview which led to the presenter and Mr Howe talking over each other.
    .
    I’d like to assure you I’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is an internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily and is available for viewing by all our staff. This includes all News Editors and presenters, along with our senior management. It ensures that your points, along with all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.
    .
    Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
    .
    Kind regards
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    BBC Audience Services
    .
    “and was compounded by a number of technical [ideological?] issues during the interview which led to the presenter and Mr Howe talking over each other.”
    .
    “Technical”. Right. :o) I didn’t see a lot of Howe trampling over Armstrong’s attempts to speak.
    .
    😉

  • Clark

    I’ve checked it again and I can’t decide. Maybe it’s a gang, and the white man is a member, but he doesn’t seem to be one of that group when he arrives, and he goes of fast, whereas the others go off more slowly. The black man definitely turns suddenly like he’s surprised when he sees the white man going for the backpack, but then soon starts looking through it, too. he points at the floor at one point. The black man does eventually leave in the same direction of the white man (I think), but the white man is well away by then.
    .
    That white man has done that before. He opens that backpack more smoothly than I can open my own.

  • danj

    DanJ, you made – ONE – (lots of) error(s) in your comment.
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    (1) You were replying to me, not “Mark”. – You are right; apologies.
    .
    (2) I didn’t suggest that Craig had “gone mad”, and I object to the generally increasing trend of regarding emotional states as “madness”. Adrenaline is a powerful hormone which makes us ready to fight or run. If theatre doesn’t affect us emotionally, why bother with it? – You were suggesting some temporary mental incapacity. I think it is possible to watch theatre and not lose your reason, otherwise why bother? I am not responsible for general trends.
    .
    (3) You refer to “Craig’s opinion”, meaning this post. I also referred to Craig’s opinion, from an earlier post of his. – I was referring to your explanation of his opinion in this post.
    .
    (4) No, I don’t regard the rioters actions as a “reasonable response”; I regard it as an unreasonable response, but a response none the less. But really, where do “reasonable” responses get anyone? If they worked, we wouldn’t be in this mess. – The response, in your view, is explicable as a product of the cause, and is therefore reasonable as a response. The ‘mess’ is a result of unreasonable responses; and unreasonable responses to those responses from the commentariat.
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    (5) I have previously commented that I regard the use of force as necessary. I still hold that opinion. – Good.
    .
    Danj, do you want vengeance? When society at all levels is corrupt, do you expect good behaviour only from the poorest parts of our inner cities? – Punishment is sometimes reasonable. This has been the case in all societies throught history. I don’t expect good behaviour necessarily, that is why we have the law, and why it needs to be defended and crimes not excused and the correct idendification of crime not categorised as a mental abberation.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @Mary,

    The BBC is revealing its true colours.The accusation was insulting;the interviewer was baiting; she was provocative – all very clear to me.

    Howvever, Mr. Howe was astute enough to turn it all back on the interviewer. Unfortunately, the BBC is not decent enough unequivocally to admit what its interviewer was clearly setting out to do.

  • Clark

    Danj, you want to argue; that’s your problem. Being involved in theatre is far more affecting than just being in the audience. You can’t transmute “unreasonable” into “reasonable” with any convolution.
    .
    Yes, riots have happened, and punishment will be necessary. However, I have little hope that those at the top who created the context will be punished. Nay, they will continue to be rewarded, and probably they’ll continue the trashing of all decent values, which will lead to yet more chaos like we’re seeing now.
    .
    Do you live here in the UK, Danj? I really don’t want to live in a totalitarian society, but that seems to be what you are arguing for.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    I’m pretty sure most of the rioters are opportunists and that there’s no justification for their behaviour. I’m also pretty sure this will happen again if we continue with welfare “reforms” (i.e cuts), public service cuts and a lack of enough jobs. Some reports i’ve read from eyewitnesses say parents were sending their children to loot, suggesting bad parents are a problem too. It’s certainly a bad sub-culture, but one that won’t be changed in the long run just by punishing the rioters (though some of them are going to have to be punished)

    The Guardian report link below also gives eyewitness accounts suggesting that when community leaders and peaceful protesters in Tottenham came to ask the police for answers on how Mark Duggan had died, one 16 year old girl approached riot police asking for them to “talk to us” and saying “we want answers” and throwing a leaflet and possibly a stone at them. Fifteen riot police then piled onto her with shields and batons and the riot began.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/07/tottenham-riots-peaceful-protest

    I’m not ruling out the possibilities that Mark Duggan was an armed criminal (though given past Metropolitan police lies on De Menezes and others it remains to be seen if that’s true).

    Some of the eyewitness accounts say some protesters arrived with weapons and petrol ready to burn and loot, others deny it.

  • Clark

    Mary, Courtenay Barnett, here is another version of the interview of Darcus Howe on the BBC. This one is better quality with clearer sound:
    .
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xdjr64bBosg
    .
    Fiona Armstrong clearly interrupts him, prevents him from expressing his viewpoint, and attempts to discredit him. There is a slight technical problem. Howe seems to be hearing Armstrong after a 1 or 2 second delay.

  • mary

    Thanks Clark. He is a bit long winded and I agree that there was a delay in the link. At the stage when she stated that he ‘was no stranger to riots’ I nearly hit the roof. She was displaying her own prejudice and the phrase carried cultural weight.

  • danj

    Danj, you want to argue; that’s your problem. – you are also arguing.

    Being involved in theatre is far more affecting than just being in the audience. – sure, but it is still not a reason to lose your facility to make judgements.

    You can’t transmute “unreasonable” into “reasonable” with any convolution. – not sure what this means.
    .
    Yes, riots have happened, and punishment will be necessary. – agreed.

    However, I have little hope that those at the top who created the context will be punished. – not sure who you mean, punished for what, and how, and creating a context is not a crime, in any straightforward sense.

    Nay, they will continue to be rewarded, and probably they’ll continue the trashing of all decent values, which will lead to yet more chaos like we’re seeing now. – who are the they?

    Do you live here in the UK, Danj? I really don’t want to live in a totalitarian society, but that seems to be what you are arguing for. – arguments for totalitarianism include proposals for the abolition of politics, and replacement with rule by a single movement dedicated the the pursuance of transcendent ideals; I cannot see where I have suggested this. I live in the UK, can’t see the relevance of that.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Mary,
    “Thanks Clark. He is a bit long winded…”
    Could I explain a bit? Darcus Howe is of Caribbean heritage. As with many people from the Caribbean and of his generation and to the present day – the style of speech inherited from England was eighteenth century English. For example, the word “tinnen” was from the eighteen hundreds and still is in popular usage in the Caribbean, as are many words that have long ago gone into disuse in England.
    What is more to the point is that the “long-winded” style is reflective of from whence the speech style came. If you understand that – you begin to understand the words he used to describe himself – to effect – an old West Indian Negro.
    What the point really is – is that with over 300 years of exploitation and association between England and the Caribbean there is much that can be learned one to the other – if we take time to understand.
    Peace!

    P.S. Trust that I was not long-winded.

  • Clark

    I’m prepared to say that these riots have an element of “political” protest, though it is juvenile and primitive. There is protest against “law and order” and its representatives, the police. There is plenty of outright opportunism and idiocy as well, but how do you differentiate when the rule of law is itself discredited?
    .
    Major elements of the police have played a major role in discrediting their force by working for the press. The rule of law has been discredited by the politicians.

  • mark_golding

    A cursory look at the ‘mode deportment’ of current PUBLIC FACES of BRITAIN which I have named ‘privileged commandeering’ rather than ‘spontaneous looting’ – with thanks to Mary.
    .
    There’s Michael Gove, whose wet-lipped rage was palpable on Newsnight last night. This is the Michael Gove who confused one of his houses with another of his houses in order to avail himself of £7,000 of the taxpayers’ money to which he was not entitled (or £13,000, depending on which house you think was which).
    .
    Or Hazel Blears, who was interviewed in full bristling peahen mode for almost all of last night. She once forgot which house she lived in, and benefited to the tune of £18,000. At the time she said it would take her reputation years to recover. Unfortunately not.
    .
    But, of course, this is different. This is just understandable confusion over the rules of how many houses you are meant to have as an MP. This doesn’t show the naked greed of people stealing plasma tellies.
    .
    Unless you’re Gerald Kaufman, who broke parliamentary rules to get £8,000 worth of 40-inch, flat screen, Bang and Olufsen TV out of the taxpayer.
    .
    Or Ed Vaizey, who got £2,000 in antique furniture ‘delivered to the wrong address’. Which is fortunate, because had that been the address they were intended for, that would have been fraud.
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    Or Jeremy Hunt, who broke the rules to the tune of almost £20,000 on one property and £2,000 on another. But it’s all right, because he agreed to pay half of the money back. Not the full amount, it would be absurd to expect him to pay back the entire sum that he took and to which he was not entitled. No, we’ll settle for half. And, as in any other field, what might have been considered embezzlement of £22,000 is overlooked. We know, after all, that David Cameron likes to give people second chances.
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    Fortunately, we have the Met Police to look after us. We’ll ignore the fact that two of its senior officers have had to resign in the last six weeks amid suspicions of widespread corruption within the force.
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    We’ll ignore Andy Hayman, who went for champagne dinners with those he was meant to be investigating, and then joined the company on leaving the Met.

    .
    I say this in mitigation m’Lord – I admit to have been influenced by my superiors.

  • McLeod

    Herbie Wrote:

    The kids call our police and other authority figures “the feds”. Some people think it’s a reference to the merkin FBI, but it’s not. It’s short for “well-feds”, as in those who fatten themselves up at the taxpayers tit.

    This is utter rubbish! do you know any kids have you spoken to any? “Feds” its an adopted Americanism for FBI/Authority, nothing more, the previous slang express was “50” as in “five O”,of Hawaii 50, fame.

    You make it up as you go along don’t you.

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