“Just like what happened to those punk rioters in England, who grew up on the Dole and won’t motivate themselves to live beyond what government provides for them,” he or she said, pseudonymically.
Gold and riots must have some unique hold on the imagination of the economically and culturally fundamentalist. There are psychological theses to be written there. But for today, I just want to point out, in our country alone, the long and storied history of young punks rioting. It was particularly acute in the days of no dole, but why take time to know that when you can make half-baked, ignorant assertions and dress them up as theory?
I’ll start with the 1863 draft riots of the Civil War just because I don’t feel like going further back. Then we’ll take the Hamburg Massacre of South Carolina in 1876, typical of Reconstruction rioting across the South.
How about 1898 soldiers riot in Lakeland before deployment to Cuba in the Spanish American War?
We can accelerate from there. 1906 Atlanta. The Jack Johnson riots of 1910. East St. Louis and Houston 1917. The Red Summer of 1919, every freaking place, from Chicago to Washington D.C. to Elaine, Arkansas.
Ocoee in 1920. Tulsa in 1921. Rosewood in 1923.
Douglas MacArthur, the Bonus Army and the National Mall in 1932. Harlem 1935. Detroit and Beaumont 1943.
About the only post Civil War decade before our own that we might call reasonably free from rioting was the 1950s, which were characterized by enormous marginal tax rates on the rich and widespread union penetration. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence; I’m equally sure it’s a coincidence the devout aren’t interested in adding to their limited data set for analysis.
And then there was the 60s, with assassination and Detroit again and Atlanta again and Washington D.C. again. And a lot of other places, including the Stonewall Riots in New York. I’m sure Chuck remembers Louisville 1968.
Camden, NJ, 1971.
Miami 1980. Crown Heights 1991. LA. 1992. St. Petersburg 1996. Cincinnati 2001. The University of Wisconsin at some point I remember. And maybe Katrina in 2005.
And our country’s history is more or less typical of social disorder, I would say.
All things considered, modern America, really since LA, has done a pretty good job of containing the traditional riot. Is that because people are better? Policing smarter and broader? Safety net programs deeper? Jails larger? All of the above. I don’t know.
I would submit that the “cause” of the London riots is actually the same cause of the financial crisis and most conflict in the world: the inherent viciousness and competitiveness of young men striving to dominate each other and their surroundings. In fact, I would argue that the whole of human history is essentially the story of efforts to harness, deploy, and suppress the animating force of young men in the service of the interests older men–and much more recently women. No economic or belief caused that viciousness–it has surfaced under all systems–and none will make it go poof. We do, however, need to consider how best to anticipate it, maintain order, and recover from it when it goes amok.
That’s a very exacting intellectual and moral challenge. It requires a bit of honesty and thoughtfulness.
People who say things like “Just like what happened to those punk rioters in England, who grew up on the Dole and won’t motivate themselves to live beyond what government provides for them,” who want to reduce human nature and behavior to their pet equations, are really very silly and lazy.