The looters who ransacked our cities last week truly were ‘Thatcher’s grandchildren’ – materialistic consumers, lacking in any political agenda who are simply angry at being on the wrong end of the ever-widening gulf between rich and poor. Below is a passage from my first book ‘Cityboy’ (pages 208-211) that I wrote in late 2007. I think it has some relevance to recent events:
“One definite consequence of the recent boom-times in the City is an increasingly divided, dissatisfied society. Cityboys’ relentless ostentatious displays of wealth help make sure that most other Londoners feel that they are working in McJobs and so act like the underclass that they are rapidly becoming. Between 1990 and 2005 the top 1% of the UK’s richest people’s share of the national wealth moved up from 17% to 25% and has undoubtedly risen further over the last 3 years. The rich are getting richer and the poor relatively poorer. Ironically, this has been especially true under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s management of UK plc. Eighteen years out of power had made these jokers so paranoid about being viewed as ‘old Labour’ that every time Cityboys and entrepreneurs asked for ‘business-friendly’ reforms they rolled over and allowed tax and regulatory changes that facilitated the rich accumulating ever more capital. This very visible ever-widening disparity in wealth helps cause such resentment that an increasingly violent, crime-ridden society becomes a racing certainty. We are all Thatcher’s children now living in a country where there is ‘no such things as society’ – just a bunch of individuals competing with each other for the scraps on the table. In this unhappy dog-eat-dog world the only answer for many of the repressed is, as Fifty Cent so sweetly put it, to ‘get rich or die trying’. Call me old fashioned, but that attitude doesn’t seem conducive to a healthy, joyous society.
Admittedly this process has been helped by the decline in religion and the discrediting of its successor, left-wing idealism, by failed experiments in Russia and China during the twentieth century. Into the void stepped money as the one true God and the Gospel according to Adam Smith became the only one that anyone now listens to. I won’t pretend that selfish greed was invented by we Cityboys but we have become its finest and most visible exponents. We are missionaries for the new faith and our conspicuous consumption foments the jealousy and discontent necessary to convert the masses. Capitalist economies can only survive if they grow and that requires people to be dissatisfied because only people desperate for material betterment will buy that flasher car or that smarter jacket. To ensure success we have enlisted advertisers as our propagandists to spread the word. These scumbags will sell us the ice-cream that makes us fat and then make sure we buy the diet pill to make us slim. The trick is to make people as unhappy about themselves as possible so that they strive to spend the cash in the false hope that it will make them happy and sexy. The last thing we want is for you to be content because then you’ll just stick with your beaten-up Ford Cortina and the whole system collapses.
The question, of course, is why haven’t the dispossessed got their shit together, realised ‘all property is theft’ and changed an unfair system that condemns them to living as second-class citizens. ‘Bread and circuses’ were used by the Roman elite to keep the plebeians in line and now we have Sky and KFC, football and MacDonalds. As the radical William Cobbett said two centuries ago: ‘I defy you to agitate a man on a full stomach’. Radicalizing people to try to change a corrupt system is made even harder when the alternatives have been discredited by the likes of Stalin and Mao. The unity required for the masses to act is also not present as race and religion makes dividing and ruling so easy for the elite. Anyway, our masters have successfully employed clever propaganda to feed our pathetic obsession with celebrities and so distract us from unjustifiable wars and the hideous unfairness of our socio-economic system. What’s even worse is that the media have so successfully extolled the virtues of the market economy that most people blindly ‘believe the hype’ despite Public Enemy’s best attempts to dissuade us from doing so. Hence, we live in a superficial, bling bling society that is neither happy nor peaceful. The seething anger that is necessary for revolution exists but is not used to change the system – rather it just results in the ever-present violence and aggression that are inevitable when there is such a blatant and ever-expanding gulf between the haves and have-nots.”