Friday, August 12, 2011
Bright nights in England
Trying to suss out what's up with England and the riots.
I think about a shop window in one of these neighborhoods. The neighborhood bit run down, folks are poor-ish and work a lot, there's a working class and street sensibility. I see the shops with the finest merchandise in the window - 100 pounds, that's a bunch of money. I see the crowds mounting and building in excitement and then a window breaks and things start tipping over into a moving frenzy.
You have a job, but it's not too good, and you don't get many hours. Or you have two jobs and it's too many. Or you got messed up in an accident and are off work, and they're cutting your benefit.
There's problems with the bank, or the Tories, or the wogs. There's people that turn their backs on you. You just got dumped by your love interest. The boys just like to get out and break things.
When something burns, the crowd feels power. Where else do they feel power? At work? At the ballot box? On the underground? At home?
The broken store window is a powerful icon for us in the Western world. Because on the one side are the beautiful people and the beautiful things. Your beautiful home or your awesome outfit. They're there, you can see them, but you can't touch them because they're under glass, and you're underemployed, and they cost more than what you have.
The breaking of the window is the breaking of the social contract; or rather the economic contract that the shop owner wants to transact. The one where you don't get to touch. That protection of property is so key to capitalism. To keep people who could break that window and take it - as we see they can do - to keep them from picking up the brick is one of the main reasons we have police and laws and all that.
But these windows, these capitalists, it's like they mock you. They build up the need, in their commercials (another store window where you can look but not touch) and in their magazines and their bus adverts and there in the windows. And now you're angry, you and your mates and the bloke down the way are out and feeling the power. There's some whining, but the pigs are out of the picture and the night is hot and yours and smells like smoke.
So you lift a brick and break the window and put on some shoes. And you run and you feel free.