27 August 2011

Street Cred?

There is a difference between street protest and riot... or at least there used to be. I am very aware of the changes in how groups behave now in comparison to the 1960s and '70s.

We atttended a peaceful march years ago, but once dark fell arsonists took over and used the presence of a large group of well willing citizens to draw attention to themselves, even though they were a very small minority.

This phenemon became organised more recently, as "les casseurs" (the breakers) took to joining peaceful marches in order to use the situation to loot and perform acts of violence.

Many contemporary analysts mention that the streets are now like "A Clockwork Orange" where the riot police use what seem to many to be excessive force. Kettling as used in London last year has had an interesting effect. It makes some people, usually those who are not engaged in protesting, feel more secure, as the forces of law and order are shown to be powerful and competent. However, since it is impossible to discern who is a threat and who is not in such large groups, this ensures that anybody who is truly peaceful will no longer get involved in street protest. One's presence is liable to give validity to riotous behaviour.

I replaced peaceful protest with writing to various departments of government when simple situations like a dangerous school building affected me personally. Since this seemed to be a source of amusement to all concerned, I just stopped getting involved.

It is often mentioned that young people are not interested in politics. I think this is about to change simply because they will be compelled to think about the consequences of social unrest on the streets of Europe and decide whether it is useful to perform random acts of vandalism and theft in order to draw attention to their dissatisfaction with contemporary urban society. From watching the way people move on the streets, I think they have integrated the way gamers think into their strategies.

One interesting detail... the songs and poems that were a feature of the 1968 student revolt in Paris gave a certain artistry to the struggle. However, it was dangerous to be in Paris at the time and it is noteworthy that some of the leaders lost their fine social conscience once they graduated and joined the establishment.

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