From the archives: Riotous emotions

IssueSeptember 2011

Riots bring out a confusion of responses and a whole parade of paradoxes on the left and from the proponents of radical, but peaceful, political change. Much of what is said is thought but not felt, while much of what is felt remains unsaid...

The first undiscussed difficulty is the fact that the gut reaction of much of the left to news of a riot is one of support for the rioters. This is more than the “I understand but cannot condone their actions” stance of the after-riot opinion givers. It is an emotional upsurge, sometimes verging upon genuine joy that someone is finally, quite literally, fighting back against the unemployment, the poverty, the harassment, and the sheer human suffering of inner city life...

People with good homes and jobs, secure standards of living, a sense of equity and just treatment, and – most of all - with hope, purpose and meaning in their lives, do not riot.

But what if all these things are missing, and with them everything which makes life exciting for those who have them? Might not life on the dole be plain boring, and riot a readily roused response to boredom? If the middle classes can climb Everest and walk to the South Pole to get their kicks “because it’s there”, might not the dispossessed throw petrol bombs at the police simply because they are there? And mustn’t even the most self-righteous Peace News reader admit to getting just the slightest hint of a deeply-disturbing thrill from watching it on the telly or reading about it all in the papers the next day?

From the 23 May 1986 issue of Peace News

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