glitzfrau: (knew it all by sinsense)
[personal profile] glitzfrau
I HAVE A NEW THEORY ABOUT THE RIOTS. And I will mention it briefly, then move on, because the analysis and reconstruction are much much better left to wiser, more patient, more experienced people than an armchair middle-classnik like me. (Read [livejournal.com profile] ultraruby, for instance.) But anyway, I am wondering to what extent the Great British Narrative of Decline informs the situation, at every level. Tories spouting that family breakdown and liberal policing have caused the misery, unlike an imagined golden age in the past where paterfamilias kept order and your friendly local white bobby just had to frown at one of the dastardly gypsies from Enid Blyton and crime was averted. Lefties blaming the cuts in EMA and youth services, as though there were never any riots, any theft or any deprivation in the glorious Blair years or in the 1950s, as though people weren't still dying young of TB and as though all those vaunted manufacturing industry jobs didn't also routinely cause hideous industrial accidents and life-long disability. Liberals talking about poverty of aspiration in an increasingly unequal society, as though the "more equal" Britain of the 1960s wasn't built on a toxic practice of empire and on trade protectionism; just look at Britain's filthy little satrapy in Northern Ireland in those years for a flipside to the narrative of the "age of opportunity", never mind the ways in which Jamaican immigrants or Kenyan freedom fighters were treated.

Britain was better, then. People worked harder, aspired more, had decent jobs to go to, respected community more, were wealthier, healthier, less in thrall to television. Not like today's broken Britain. All the coalition government and the UK media have to offer the British public is a non-stop narrative of misery, austerity, corruption, sinking living standards, cuts in services, poverty in old age, massive middle-class debt, the pauperisation of social tenants, decline and fall.

Maybe I'm wrong, but thinking back to the 1980s Ireland of my childhood, where there was an enormous amount of poverty but not so much social unrest (we exported it to the North), I think that narratives of decline and fall had no place. There was no golden age for us to hark back to; there was the grinding poverty of the 1950s, the unsustainable and preposterous separatism of the 1930s, and the humiliation of colonisation. Whether or not things had been better under the British in the 1910s than under de Valera in the 1940s (as I sometimes suspect they must have been), no Irish citizen in the 1980s and no Irish citizen now yearns to return to British imperial rule. Even now, I don't hear many Irish people saying "if only we could return to the glorious Tiger days of 1999". We know we've messed up, but the only way is forward, hoping and planning for a new better Ireland. And I suspect - though what would I know? - that this is why the Irish culture of education is so much stronger than the British one, where 50% going to university is only an abandoned aspiration (in Ireland, it's the norm, and numbers are going up year on year). Maybe I'm just a big Hegelian banging on about narratives of progress here, but the British narrative of decline just seems to be leading to despair and rancour. I am very tired of it.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 09:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chiller.livejournal.com
If Britain were a person instead of a country, it would be the one who is really really lovely, but who sits in the corner of the pub each night and gets wellied, and cries into their beer about being old and single and hopeless, and cannot be persuaded to do something outside their normal routine to change their level of happiness. Britain! You could go hang-gliding! You could join a choir! Get a cat so you have something other than your own navel to contemplate! Go out dancing a bit! Put some shiny clothes on!

When I run for President it will be under the banner: "BUCK UP, BRITAIN!"
Edited Date: 2011-08-15 09:36 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 09:38 am (UTC)
ext_37604: (Default)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
I LIKE YOUR MOTTO.

I also think I should switch off the radio, stop reading the paper and live a little myself. Even if it's life in books.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 09:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chiller.livejournal.com
BUCK UP, GLITZ!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 10:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultraruby.livejournal.com
This is what I've been trying to do lately. Deleting my Twitter account was SO libverating, seriously.

Actually I got into an almost-argument with a friend the other night who was very worked up at having seen racist and judgemental comments about the riots and the rioters online and in their office and on the telly etc; my view was that they shoud JUST STOP LISTENING, that a lot of what was being said was just noise. 'But soevermanypercent of people think the rioters should be shot!' 'Maybe so, but that won't actually happen, so in a way it doesn't matter' 'But don't you think that's awful?' 'It's only a very very low level awful though isn't it? People can say what they like, if you listened to all of it you'd give up and curl up in a bundle in the corner, the thing to do is try to ignore them and make louder better more positive noises yourself'. My friend though I was having a go at them for being too sensitive, but I guess (and we realised) was also talking about myself as well.

Sometimes it's important to stop dwelling on what other people think in order to work out what YOU think and then go on and live in line with it. Also, sometimes there's nothing much to be done and said and the main thing to do is to go for a walk in the park in the hope that everything will work out all right somehow, and even if it doesn't the park is lovely.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 10:45 am (UTC)
ext_37604: (Default)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
Amen to everything you say. I don't really pay much attention to Twitter, but I have to stop reading the Guardian so much, and to stop listening to Radio 4. I am far too sensitive to this stuff too. Mind you, I would go for a walk in the park, but Manchester and Salford city councils have never really got it together to provide one in the city centre. Perhaps I will just sit in my garden and snap my pretty snapdragons.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 02:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marrog.livejournal.com
Oh no I am your friend!


Edit: I mean, not your friend, obviously. I mean, not that I wouldn't be. But what I meant was oh you know what I meant!
Edited Date: 2011-08-15 02:15 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 02:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultraruby.livejournal.com
Hehe, I know what you mean!

I think the things is, there are always going to be people who think looters should be shot, that political correctness is a nonsense etc etc - they were there before the riots and they're still there, shouting ever more loudly, just now. To some extent it's worth listening to them or at least knowing what sort of things they're saying and why, but there comes a point (for psychic defence's sake, I explained to my friend) that you have to accept that arguing with them isn't going to change their mind and engaging with them can cause more harm than good. It's like a real life version of the internet 'don't feed the trolls' meme really, only of course I don't think it's right to dismiss people with other views as actually always trollish. A ton of people might want hanging brought back but that doesn't mean it'll actually be brought back - that's one advantage of the government rarely listening to/acting on mass public opinion.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 02:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marrog.livejournal.com
It's just that much harder when the people saying these things are friends, or at least cordial acquaintances and so it's really hard not to engage with folk who you can't help but feel just aren't thinking it through or they wouldn't be saying this stuff, y'know?

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 04:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultraruby.livejournal.com
Ach yeah, I know what you mean. I had a really weird moment earlier this year when it turned out some of my friends, who I'd assumed sort of just believed in and understood the same things as me, just didn't get some of the political things I hold very dear. It got to the point where I was sending over links to webpages, like 'read this, maybe then you'll understand', which made me feel ever so condescending even though I couched it in very fluffy terms, but no matter how much I myself tried to explain things I just couldn't win them over. These days it's just become something we try not to speak about since it only ends up in anger or confusion. As much as I like to think I can get along with anyone and actually LIKE to know people with a wide range of views and experiences, it's still pretty strange to accept that there's a gap or a bump in our mutual ground, especially when it relates something that I consider and heart-and-head issue.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 04:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marrog.livejournal.com
Like trying to explain to your boy-mates that believing in 'privilege' as a useful concept doesn't mean that you hate them and/or think they're stupid...

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 04:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultraruby.livejournal.com
Hehe, yes! That's exactly the thing that I fell out (or not really fell out, but hit the rocks) with my pals about. It was this very odd 'wait I think your idea of feminism might be different to my idea of feminism, this is interesting isn't it?' conversation that seemed to then spiral further and further out of control over a period of a few weeks and ended up with stand up arguments and tears, hung up phones and all that grand stuff. Quite a long quite a long while later things are much steadier, but it's meant going back (back past the beginning really) to a point of stating principles like 'it's ok for friends to disagree with each other' to get there. I think one benefit of the whole thing though is that it made me realise that my opinions and beliefs etc are really OWNED by me, that even though I've not always conciously thought or talked them through they turn out to be heartfelt and fightable for, which has then made me feel a bit stronger generally.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 04:07 pm (UTC)
ext_37604: (Default)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
Hee, it's rather ace being [livejournal.com profile] ultraruby's friend, actually! But yes, I am her friend at times, too, also.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 04:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultraruby.livejournal.com
(Gawww! It's ace being your friend too!)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 09:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loneraven.livejournal.com
I was completely delighted by so many people last week quoting this:
"What is happening to young people? They disrespect their elders, ignore the law, riot in the streets."

...yeah, Plato, you tell 'em.
(deleted comment)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 10:43 am (UTC)
ext_37604: (Default)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
Well, this method of childrearing seems to have worked with me... To a point.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 09:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultraruby.livejournal.com
Arrgh, I so agree! So much of the background noise in England, so much of what I've seen and absorbed growing up and through the whole of my life here, especially lately and more loudly, is that things are fairly awful and are only likely to get worse. It's present in a lot of the way 'they' (the media, politicians, some combined big amorphous mix of the two) see and feed 'normal people' - i.e of COURSE we'll all get excited about celebrities and the royal wedding because such things are basically sequins peeking out of the manure of our normal small threatened little experiences, of COURSE we'll mostly hate ourselves and each other and want to string up criminals and shoot anyone that robs our houses, because we're desperate to protect what little we have (compared to what we could have) whilst all the while knowing that basically the country's going to the dogs and we're all doomed. Bah.

So much of the reporting on the rioting, from all political sides, has been 'ah well, what do you expect?' as in, of course poor people/poor men/black men (in order of awfulness and of declining perceived humanity there) will riot because they're just the worst examples of what this country has to offer and what it will surely become, or of course peope will riot because there's NO OTHER ANSWER to the TERRIBLE HORROR of life in our cities these days. But then if 'they' didn't expect anything different, and they are in charge of the structures and the rules and the messages then surely we're bringing up generations of people to believe that they're really no point in being lawful, or hopeful, or in having aspirations. The rhetoric around it's so awful and depressing - all that stuff about the broken society to make us really really believe that it's all marauding youths and barbed wire just outside our locked windows and then the big society, as if the government's some jolly new headmaster that's come in with an AMAZING NEW IDEA to rescue us.

Argh. It's not that I think everything's great and rosy, obviously, but always thinking about and talking about this country as if it's running a permanent and dangerous emotional/spiritual deficit as well as a monetary one is so unfair and so sad. So disrepectful as well to the people that live here, the places we've made, the ways that we live now and the ways we try to live better.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-16 01:07 pm (UTC)
ext_37604: (jesusgun)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
I would like to be able to reply with your eloquence and enthusiasm, but basically, I completely agree. ALSO, the very few Mancunian Men on the Street whom I know, like Nick-next-door, completely agree with you. As I said below, I like Manchester's bullishness and pride; it puts Cameron's horrible punitive prating into robust perspective. Everyone I know in inner-city Salford (not very many people) loves the place, loves their neighbours and can't abide the Broken Britain paranoia. That said, most people I know here are middle-class and live here out of choice. But still.

Damned rhetoric! Out with it!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 10:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] poliphilo.livejournal.com
I blame Evelyn Waugh.

Once upon a time we were all catholic and lived in stately homes and had a lovely time being sick over one another's carpets and then someone bastard invented oiks.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 10:42 am (UTC)
ext_37604: (Default)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
Hahahaha! You are so right.

But narratives?

Date: 2011-08-15 11:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sorenr.livejournal.com
Narratives shape the world and - by consequence - the way we inhabit it!

I do not know what is the cure for Britain - or perhaps more descriptively "England", since no rioting that I've heard of took place in Wales, Scotland, Cornwall or even NI - but surely speech acts have an influence on perceived reality, and surely you can relate present-day UK journalism to NLP and justify making a correlation between circumstances and the way the run-up has been portrayed. And the consequences that have ensued from this.

As for your previous comments about being too sensitive... I've cried about the riots, just like I cried about the 2005 riots in the Paris banlieues and about the 2007 bombings in London. I understand the sensitivity only too well. And it serves no purpose unless - like in your case - it leads to introspection that is shared with your peers. Your thoughts actually make a difference to me, so thank you.

Re: But narratives?

Date: 2011-08-15 04:10 pm (UTC)
ext_37604: (hazel)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
Hah! Alec Salmond made exactly your point, and got roundly lambasted for it (for if there's one thing urban Scotland's known for, it's, unfortunately, regular violent rioting).

I like your idea about relating speech acts to NLP - I should read up more on NLP, actually, because it sounds so very useful.

I'm really glad the post was of use to you. I'm a wet Libran too, who tends to howl in solidarity and/or self-pity, and I need to draw lines to protect myself. Take care x

Re: But narratives?

Date: 2011-08-17 02:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sorenr.livejournal.com
NLP is - essentially - just a fancy way of saying that language shapes the way we think. Or even - as the social constructivists and the ancient Norse people believed - that language shapes the world.

Journalism is, after all, just speech acts, but they shape the political agenda to a great extent, and by consequence the way our society works.

And sod the star signs; it has nothing to do with this. We just happen to be both bordering on hyper-sensitivity, which can be a great thing but also a liability. Still, when the wet lines have dried we will have thought about the world we inhabit, and that is a wondrous thing, I believe.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 11:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sorenr.livejournal.com
Also, Perfidious Albion is actually a pretty great country, compared to a lot of the countries around the world... Its inhabitants have a lot to be happy about and a lot to celebrate!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 04:06 pm (UTC)
ext_37604: (lowry)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
Absolutely! That's one of the things I like about Manchester, indeed - it's a pretty bullish and optimistic city, and enjoys celebrating the good things here.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-17 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sorenr.livejournal.com
I've always had a sore spot for England's mountains green... And I've always thought celebrating good fortune - as well as lamenting misery - can lead to a better future.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] braisedbywolves.livejournal.com
Well, I don't know if this is entirely fair to the lefties, but then I think I mean my patched-together idea of the left, which comes absent any actual historical schooling.

I've been thinking for ages about doing a series of "Help Andrew Learn" posts about figuring out the connections strong and weak between the dualities that have ended up on different sides of the left-right divide: why does being cautious with money side up with hating minorities (er, but much less facetiously that that)? One of my impressions from rolling these ideas around in my head is that the essential split is that the left is more designed around the idea of the future, that things are getting better and will get better - the line that progress is like oxygen, it makes no sense to have a position on it, but absolutely no sense to be against it.

Of course of course this is as troublesome as any one-point worldview, both in the sweeping aside of "well we did it so it must be progress" as well as the opportunity for pompousness - I was reading The Spy Who Came in from the Cold on the plane over, and one of my favourite bits is where the protagonist asks someone "Well if you don't believe in those things, what do you believe in?" and she says "History" and he stares for a second and then bursts into laughter with "Dear God, you're a Communist?".

Though that also frankly reminds me that I know as much about Communists as I did about Protestants five years ago, and that I should find some equivalent of the Big Book of Protestants. Possibly the Eric Hobsbawm's histories?

Here endeth the ramble.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-16 09:00 am (UTC)
ext_37604: (ueberspod)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
I've been thinking for ages about doing a series of "Help Andrew Learn" posts: the course of study you propose does sound suspiciously similar to curricula expertly taught by your clever girlfriend, but maybe I am wrong;-).

I used to feel as though the Left stood for progress and faith in human development, and the Right for nostalgia and a belief that humans are innately depraved and must be repressed. But over the last while, I've been feeling conservative myself, in a turn-back-the-clock-to-Labour way - roll back the tuition fees! bring back the EMA! stop your terrible changes to disability benefits! which is an unpleasant feeling. I feel as though I too need to learn something about hope.

There's also left anti-futurism, which is what I work on; the belief that all human attempts to improve the world have diabolically turned on us, that technological progress brings environmental devastation and political development brings colonialism, genocide and sweatshops. It's a gloomy view that I try not to get infected by, but it's frequently seductive. I think Hobsbawn or indeed the Wild Man of Theory himself, Zizek, might be considerably more cheerful.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 02:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the0lady.livejournal.com
Any proposed single underlying cause for the riots is wrong. Any significant event that happens in Britain is to some extent informed by its recent history. Not unlike other places, really, though Britain's recent history is one of imperial diminishment, and other places have their own genres (colonialism, fascism, communism etc.).

I don't know if it's because I'm not Irish, so people I speak to try to "explain" Ireland to me, but I certainly do get a lot of what kids these days do and don't know about. And sure the leaving cert is easier.

Make of the above what you will... :)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 04:05 pm (UTC)
ext_37604: (Default)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
I completely agree with para (1), above. I know it may not read quite like this, but I'm not trying to propose an underlying cause for the riots, and am running out of patience with those who are. It's the underlying assumptions in the analysis that are irking me, and that stand out.

Sure the Leaving is easier, but you can still get into a British university with it. So still a useful benchmark, no?

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 06:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the0lady.livejournal.com
I honestly don't know enough about either education system (not having participated in either) to have an opinion. I'm sure you're completely right about that part of it. :)
(deleted comment)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-16 08:15 am (UTC)
ext_37604: (knew it all by sinsense)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
Why thank you so much. I am honoured!