Posted by: rogermitchell | August 10, 2011

the riots

I am aware from the traffic on this blog over the last few days, that some people are clicking on to see if I’ve anything to say about the riots. While for the discerning and patient who are ready to wade through my past posts much of what is discussed there has a bearing on what is going on, up until now my immediate responses are to be found on twitter, where I have been making a number of simple statements. Yesterday I retweeted a link to the sociologist Zigmunt Bauman’s assessment of the riots. I find his use of the metaphor of land mines a good one. His point is that like land mines remain in the land from past wars only to be detonated by an apparently unrelated action, explosive social consequences of past political decisions are now being ‘accidentally’ activated. So while these riots appear to be extreme and tangential reactions to an ‘accidental’ police operation in Tottenham, they are really social explosions with their roots in the politics of Christendom of which the marginalised multitude have been the long term victims.

The fact that the political authorities, together with the media are taking the line that the riots have nothing to do with the current economic climate or the cuts in services, is only to be expected. The truth that the pursuit of money and power at the expense of the poor reveals a lawlessness among the authorities as destructive or more so than that of the rioters is too difficult for most of us to admit.  But the deep structural role of the law to favour the rich and powerful has now been revealed by the scandals of the greed of the banks, the MP’s expenses, the bankers’ bonuses and the media’s amorality. The law has been invoked a little to provide some recompense, but not enough to reach to the roots of the system which it so deceptively upholds.

The rioters are not alone in being destructive criminals, and we need to hear the message that they are giving society loud and clear. The civilised law and order of the High Street is the product of political institutions that have been built for centuries on the pursuit of sovereign power to the benefit of the rich and powerful while granting the minimum freedom necessary to the poor that either serve it or are excluded from it. This system is fundamentally unjust and is falling apart. This is in large part good news if people of peace are ready to move into the gap with a new way of political being based on life laying down loving. Thank God for people who are appearing with brooms and forgiveness to reclaim the streets. But unless people of peace rise up, the flawed law will be wielded with ever greater ferocity on behalf of the rich and powerful, and while in the end it won’t win, the social explosions will soon or later become a conflagration.

The kenarchy pursued by this blog provides the opportunity to explore and activate the kind of alternative rule that I believe can prevent this conflagration. It indicates the way in which we can give practical expression to the loving rule of God originally revealed in Jesus but that the mistaken marriage of church and empire displaced from the public sphere.


  1. I have made comments on peoples posts about the wreckage done by the banks. Millions of damage done by rioters and people are up in arms, billions and possibly trillions done by bankers and it has all gone quiet and not quite the calls for justice and hard sentences. As someone replied, the shame of it is that what the bankers probably did was within legal frameworks, not moral but legal.

    So anyway thanks for your take on the matter

  2. I think the question for me is how do we avoid a hard right wing, militaristic response that takes up even more of the oxygen from the rest of us. What I see going on for example in the US is reflected in Naomi Klein’s book – Shock Doctrine. The rich elites, to gain more power, allow or encourage shocks to the country politically and economically or take advantage of natural disasters. When the country is reeling from the crisis, either man-made or natural, the elites move in and take over more turf with things like privatized services rather than public ones. Obviously, the presumed economic crises in the UK and the US give space for extreme and forceful responses by the authorities which opens up more civil and personal space to them on a long-term or permanent basis. I too celebrated the army of brooms heading down the streets in the UK. It was a great response by ordinary people. But clearly there will have to be much more of that and it has to be done in a wise way so that it does not inadvertantly end up actually supporting empire too.

    P.S. I say ‘presumed’ economic crisis because, of course, there is lots of money out there. It is simply in the hands of the few, the greedy, and those who don’t feel compelled to share.

  3. Here is a BBC interview that vividly illustrates the disconnect between empire supporting media and the people at the bottom. It is well worth watching if not just to see how the interviewer completely negates anything real the west indian, london elder has to tell her about life. c.

  4. I too was pleased to see brooms in the hands of sensitive volunteers and cups of tea being doled out balanced on riot shields to police and firemen who’d been on duty for 30 hours…these things bring hope and love into communities. This is a human (Godly?) face in difficult times.
    But your comments, Roger, express exactly and accurately what I feel about causes and effects in this situation. I particularly like the landmine analogy. Your last point about people of peace needing to rise up to prevent greater conflagration is especially poignant and prophetic.

  5. […] You can read Roger's full blog here. […]

    • Hi Richard, Thanks for connecting the Together Canada network to this blog post. A big welcome to all those who click on this link. Thanks for your support and interest in the UK. We are simply one part of the Western world a bit ahead of north America in the ending of Christendom and its death throws. But the USA’s current tendency to embrace the dying roots of Christendom will bring it to this experience fast, and tragically the ignorance of much of the American Church is only exacerbating the problem. I am praying that Canada’s will be another story. It has been a privilege to walk with many of you and to see the hearts of those who seriously seek another Way!

  6. The outcry over the recent riots has typically focused on the criminal element of what was taking place,they have been demonized as some sort of sub human species.What will not be picked up on is the fact that this way of life exists in most poor areas of the UK on a day to day basis.There exists an underclass of people who live outside the middle class norms.They see the police and the state as there enemy.
    The riots and looting were a very intense view of what is normal life for many people in this country,they took power from the police and they ruled the streets for a few days.And the middle class are terrified of what this looks like.
    The police may have taken back the power on the streets and made many arrest but this way of life will continue hidden and forgotten by those in power in a few months.
    The political right will use this to oppress the poor even more and all the while continue to allow our nation to be looted by the rich and powerful.In the mean time we have the sickening sight of our rich and corrupt political elite lining up to condemn the riots and call for severe punishment ,while they are able to simply say sorry for stealing and hand the money back.Bankers loot our future generations and nobody will ever face so called justice,corporations avoid paying tax by the bucket load and the needle returns to the start of the song and it all begins again.
    The other day someone said to me that the last man with honor to enter parliament was Guys Fawkes,

  7. You know, I just had a conversation with a 17 year old and it crystalized some things for me about these riots. A preamble to my point:
    1. She told me about a school incident here in Canada where she was wrongly accused (despite numerous witness testimonies to the contrary) of a simple, teen behaviour – nothing criminal or even like a prank – and threatened with suspension. This is a top A student working as hard as she can towards university. She was appalled by the incident.
    2. I’ve noticed in my own work situation at a number of colleges and universities here in Toronto that too often teachers express disdain towards their students. They tell stories of student’s cheating (of course students cheat, so did many of my generation as students) and then the triumph, not of out thinking them to make cheating difficult in the first place, but of being able to bully and threaten and thereby gain compliance. I generally find these stories very upsetting as they have little to do with my experience of the same students.
    3. The police and many in authority have become increasingly belligerent in the past few years. Recently, here in Toronto a commission ruled that indeed, as many of us thought, the police were too aggressive last summer during the G8 meetings. And now we have UK PM David Cameron using language one generally reserves for the worst enemies of society in response to the riots.

    So I think there is a trend here extends from the high schools in Canada and the US that now tout ‘zero tolerance’ policies that appear to have zero tolerance of everything a kid would do to the belligerence of all in authority. I recently read an article that researched the growing incidents of extreme punishment including jail time for primary school and high school kids who do normal kid things which was quite disturbing though that trend might be due to the privatization of juvenile prison facilties in the US. Judges were caught in one state taking kick backs for sentencing any teen to jail.

    But, I digress, or not. The tendency or trend is for my generation (oh my generation, woe to my generation, what is wrong with us?) to treat youth as the enemy with authoritarian behaviour and belligerence. This fascinates me as it isn’t even a form of enlightened rational self interest. Our future as aging baby boomers with the huge demographic bulge is to court this kids. We need them. We need them to be happy to support us in our old age. We need them to delight in paying the taxes that provide my social security, government pension, and medical care when I am a frail and sick senior. Yet, here we are doing everything we can to ensure that many fail, cannot graduate school, endure jail time, can’t get jobs, can’t succeed in life and hate us with our authoritarian responses as well. I can’t figure it at all.

  8. There is a rationality in it if they feel they have put away enough in their barns to see them through. Just a shame it is something that moths and thieves can steal

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