The riots in the UK are not pleasant, that much is clear. Seeing such anger and hatred is never nice, but when this is happening to innocent people by a bunch of rioters who just feel bored and want to get kicks it is even more frustrating.
In this context, I find the comments of Nina Power in the Guardian not just distasteful, but sickening. She lays the blame for these riots not on the shoulders of selfish individuals, but on capitalism and on society – she makes it sound as if the rioters are the victims, and that they are rising up to free themselves of some overbearing “system” that has trapped them.
This type of comment upsets me for two reasons:
- It demeans the struggle of those who are genuinely poor, of those who are genuinely oppressed – countries where a dictator presses down the rights of man for his own selfish gain.
- It dishonours the actual victims from these riots, and acts as if the rioters have cause – truly, why would someone who wants to fight against injustice do so by causing injustice?
By asking us to “step back” to look at the issue, she wants to provide a top-down view of what is going on in London, and now in other parts of England. She wants to blame the structure of society, and act as if this rioting is an act of desperation by people who are victims to this system.
In truth, if we are going to step back to understand the issue we need to start from the bottom-up – these individuals view themselves as victims, in a large part because people like Nina Power tells them they are. Given that, they don’t feel any obligation to take on responsibility – or to even ask themselves how their own selfish actions have an impact on those around them.
Truly, it is not the free market system we have that requires wholesale change, it is the victim mentality of people in society that needs to change – we can only have a “better society” when the individuals within it are willing to take responsibility for their actions.
Do I believe there is injustice and inequity within society, within institutions, and within government – yes. But the solution needs to be built from individual responsibility and mutual respect, not the arbitrarily defined institutional structure suggested by intellectuals and columnists.