|Croydon burns; people film|
But these riots are not Ballardian. His concern the middle classes – journalists, politicians, children's writers – who, unable to cope with the psychological pressures of modern life, revert to primaeval tendencies. They have some layer of civilisation which is removed. This is also what I discussed in my novel The Liberators , where the villainous Luther-Ross brothers offered a version of freedom – the removal of conscience – which resulted in murders, violence and rioting in Oxford Circus.
These riots have a deeper significance, though. They are much more frightening than J G Ballard's explorations of the psyche, because we always knew, when reading them, that in our reality our consciences would never allow those things to happen – crucially, though, whilst we remained civilised. What Ballard pointed up was just how thin that layer is. And it's a layer that is completely absent from these rioters.
The Luther-Ross brothers would have no trouble recruiting the rioters to their band of Liberators. They have no consciences to be removed in the first place. What we need to do is systemic, and it needs to be done from the roots up, and it needs to be done now. It has nothing to do with cuts, or even poverty. It is to do with generational psychological flaws: and the only way to solve this is to get in there and talk, and show that every action, mindless or not, has its equal and opposite reaction. We need to show unity, and show these children that their actions are not a form of freedom. Freedom comes from self-regulation, not self-abandonment. Their actions will only lead them into slavery: psychological, and real.
**** A tidied up version of this article appears on The Periscope Post****
**** Read Memphis Barker's account of the Clapham riots ****