|Pat Bagley's editorial cartoon for The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday, August 14, 2011|
Richard Seymour (aka “Lenin”) has argued that the connecting thread behind the riots is “injustice”. I agree.
It is fascinating to observe how much can be connected by that single thread. But it’s particularly interesting when the thread is used to frame the desperate cries of the media.
“It is not fair!”, they all seem to say, before dwelling over the personal crisis of innocent “victims” of the riots.
“It’s not fair that 15 families had to see their business burn down. A business that had been in the family for generations, a business that survived the great depression and two world wars. I mean, why target them, eh? It’s not fair”.
“It’s not fair that three men were killed after they tried to protect their homes. Honestly, it wasn’t their fault, was it?”
“It’s not fair that so many people lost their homes because of arson attacks. These people lost everything! How can it make sense for members of the community to lose how little they had?”
“It’s not fair that small businesses were looted. The businesses of hard working people were vandalized. How can anyone justify that? These are members of the community”
You know what our answer to all these cries should be?
None of the above things are fair. But at the same time, there are other many things that are not fair.
It is not fair that young black men are stopped and searched twenty times in one month because their skin makes them suspect of criminality in the eyes of the police.
It is not fair that poor youths about to enter the labour market cannot find jobs that will support them. I mean, people who have never had a stake in the labour market cannot, in all conscience, be blamed for what has happened with the labour market.
It is not fair that people born in poverty have no chance of escaping poverty.
It is not fair that young people will never be able to afford higher education.
It is not fair that people die under police custody and nobody is charged.
It is not fair that some severely ill people see their disability benefits cut because they are deemed “fit enough to work”.
Some media heads have pointed out that the reason given by the rioters for their rioting was “because we can”.
That’s it. Those in power inflicting “injustice” on everyone else are also doing it “because they can”.
If those in power have no higher purpose for their actions other than “because we can”, why should we expect any different from the poorest, most desperate and most vulnerable members of society?
Similarly, if the richest people in the country are not “fair”, why should the poorest be?
If society is run under the premise of “it’s not fair”, why should we be surprised when things turn out to not be fair?
A society that breeds injustice should not be surprised to find injustice.
The riots are not a revolution. Rioters are not trying to replace our current system with a “fairer one”.
Riots are a continuation of the theme of injustice, which has become acceptable and par the course, so long as it flows mainly in one direction.
So when somebody from the media cries out that the riots are “not fair”, our response should be “No, it’s not fair. That’s precisely the problem.”
The answer to injustice, of course is, “justice”. But for that you need a Revolution.
(Note: It’s interesting to notice how journalists pick on the examples of poor, hard working people being affected by the riots as evidence of “unfairness” on the part of the rioters. What they are NOT SAYING, and not saying very loudly, is: “If the rioters had only targeted the rich, then it would have been fair”. It’s a lie, of course: when people do target the rich the media still blames them. But another response to these journalists pushing the whole “rioters were mean to fellow poor, brown people” could very well be: “so you’re saying that if rioters had only targeted rich, white people, it would have been justifiable?”. At which point I can easily imagine the journalist squirming in their seats.)