First, a good point well made about the rioters in London:
Painting these riots as some kind of action replay of historic political streetfights against capitalist bosses or racist cops might allow armchair radicals to get their intellectual rocks off, as they lift their noses from dusty tomes about the Levellers or the Suffragettes and fantasise that a political upheaval of equal worth is now occurring outside their windows. But such shameless projection misses what is new and peculiar and deeply worrying about these riots. The political context is not the cuts agenda or racist policing – it is the welfare state, which, it is now clear, has nurtured a new generation that has absolutely no sense of community spirit or social solidarity.
Amen, brother. The idea that these people are protesting capitalism or the stock market or the banker bonuses or the situation in Greece or anything like that is so ludicrous. They’re all dressed in expensive, designer clothes, coordinating with expensive smart phones, barely literate, hardly articulate, and I guarantee to you they don’t watch Newsnight. But anyway, next point:
Another left-wing friend of mine in the UK has another interesting theory — that the particular targeting of electronics and clothes shops represents an explosion of consumerism. Stay with me, because I think he has a point and I’d like to explain why. Much of the British underclass has had easy access to credit over the past decade or so — and why not, when they are on a secure income stream of state benefits — and they have spent this for the most part on TVs, video games, and “chav” fashion.
Because I think there is something to be said for the idea that get-away-with-anything culture might be affecting this, somewhat. Because the ultimate rise to fame in the UK is having money. If you’re rich, you tear down a sweet old Georgian home with excellent proportions and you build some awful monstrosity where the rooms are just a little too short for their width and the walls are a funny shape because everything’s designed to have a big screen TV hung from it; you buy an $800,000 car with your initials in the wheels; and you cover your every article of clothing, from sunglasses to underwear to handbags to cellphone cover with an Italian fashion label. So part of this is that the bankers are getting bonuses that are ludicrously proportioned compared to the rest of the country and it’s screwing up the economic situation, but that’s not all of it. It’s just generally too much money and no shame, basically.
But I digress. As advertised, this all leads to Cheryl Cole, who famously spectacularly failed to make it in the US market as a judge on the American X Factor because, as one TV boss put it, he thought he was getting a sex object and instead she turns up in giant purple trousers. But as a British celebrity, and this is my thesis, her job isn’t to get her t*ts out like American celebrities do, it’s to look expensive. Her proof that she’s made it is that she has lots of money and dressing as expensively as possible, in high-fashion, hopefully from a line that won’t be released to the public for another season or two, and can be splashed all over the tabloids with a precise dollar amount in the photo caption is her currency, whereas here all that’s meaningless, and most people would just think she looks a little chubby with all those ruffles.