Thursday, July 15, 2004


What a riot!

Marc Moiders about rioting again - I believe he's got some sort of research project on the subject going. What struck me - and a couple of others I asked - was the smiles on the faces of many of the rioters. There seems to be an established practice of "recreational rioting" in Norn Iron - even in a fairly serious case like the recent one, where lives could have been lost. Radio demagogue Rush Limbaugh was rightly scorned (by most, though not all) when he defended the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners as "blowing off steam". Contemporary Northern Irish rioting really seems to be just that, with some flexing of communal identity thrown in.

Two of Marx's most famous sentences appear at the beginning of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon:

"Hegel observes somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as high tragedy, the second time as low farce."

The new "recreational" rioting now appears as though a parody of its equivalent from 35 years ago - shorn of any real conscious political motivation of any consequence, the old anger at oppresson and discrimination replaced by a sort of inchoate and hollow rage at not much in particular. Content gone, form remains, a habit like any other, it would seem.

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