The Eternal Return of the Repressed

The Eternal Return of the Repressed
I was going to write polemical piece, possibly as a draft of a group statement concerning the riots in London that now seem to have spread around the country. After one clogged paragraph my inspiration expired. So here are a few thoughts on the matter a step or two from the events. I live in Lewisham and some of the rioting was actually at the end of my road. A few streets away I photographed burnt-out cars whose very metal has started to melt in the blaze.
We all know that the riots were not political in the direct sense, that the rioters had no particular political intention and little political consciousness, but there is nothing that is not political in the broader sense and the failure to grasp the political is also political. The rage manifest in such conflagrations, literal as well as figurative, is utterly political in its implications from every point of view.
Firstly, even if you only wish to condemn the rioters, consider what actually led them to riot. That they were intent only on looting consumer goods and causing as much damage as possible speaks volumes. Were they all, to a man, (or boy) utterly devoid of concern for their fellow citizens? Perhaps they were at that moment, but is this the entirety of their characters? Were they aware of the likely backlash, especially from the far right? There is certainly an ugly mood in the country now in which the police and politicians, seen only a week ago as too right wing, are seen as not right wing enough. It seems highly unlikely that any such though occurred to any of the rioters, but it might well be something they bring on themselves and on the rest of us. Only time will tell, but I feel little optimism.
The rioting and looting was, in part, due to a lack of imagination and this, at least, is not the fault of the rioters. They live in a society that denigrates imagination and every value except for the most vacuous and greedy consumerism and celebrity culture. It is a real wonder that anybody emerges with an iota of imaginative ability. The coming repression, or re-repression is also due to a lack of imagination. Blind reaction suffocates critical thought. Condemnation drowns out the question why these people seem to be so lacking in values, and indeed if they really are. We are living in a society that is dying from a lack of imagination.
Without knowing the facts I have a suspicion that at least some elements felt so caught up in the insane carnival atmosphere that it felt like a great irresistible absolution of responsibility and those same people will be feeling very chastened in the aftermath, especially those ineffable fools who let themselves be caught on camera, grinning as they clutch their booty. At least some of the footage and the still shots reveal, anecdotally if nothing more, that any attempt to put all the blame on the Black community is to commit a racist lie. No such claim can be made about the riots as a whole, certainly not yet. The far right are now happy to make their own trouble, our society will become more authoritarian and that quality of imagination will become even more fugitive, along with our critical faculties.
I’m sure the LSG will have something to say collectively later on. I hope that other groups will be discussing, thinking, writing as well. I’d be amazed if they did not. I wish I could feel more optimistic, but I fear that dark times are ahead. It is up to us to resist the rising darkness of stupidity and repression.
Stuart Inman

~ by londonsurrealistgroup on August 10, 2011.

One Response to “The Eternal Return of the Repressed”

  1. Not a direct response to your notes, just yet, Stuart. But here’s my localised take on the non-appearance of rioting in my own town, some of the points raised may be pertinent.

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