In the aftermath of the London riots many in the United States are asking, “Could it happen here?” There is fear in the question, an acknowledgement that if such events could occur in Great Britain with its civil social traditions what portends for us whose civil traditions are of a less restrained variety?
I’ll intentionally ignore the precedents of riots linked to political and social unrest on both sides of the Atlantic, not because I don’t think history should be ignored but because my point is more to the point of what has been called “the commodification of dissent.”
One need only consider the recent Iowa Straw Poll where Michelle Bachmann emerged as the front-runner in a pack of political midgets. Fun House mirrors furnished by the largely corporate media exaggerate to chilling affect Ms. Bachmann’s victory. And as outrageousness eclipses any vital political discourse, other charlatans join the fray. Enter Rick Perry, the anointed candidate from Texas!
What I’m suggesting is our political process has degenerated to the “cult of personality” and that our campaigns are but exercises in vanity for those who parade, not ideas, but hubris. Once in office these egoists rum amuck behind the façade of patriotism, behind engineered catastrophe, behind self-righteous religiosity, and behind a fear promoted for the continued enrichment of the privileged. With faux outrage they loot the public coffers for their comrades in the private sector and ride roughshod over democratic ideals.
So, while the pundits continue to dissect the etiology of unrest in London, I’ll hazard this premise; in the United States we’ve domesticated unrest, tarted it up in ersatz Christian piety, shrouded it in notions of outraged elitism, and, every 4 years we run it up the flag-pole to see who’ll salute. And in a culture primed for spectacle the candidates can count on the bedazzled populace to make the appropriate gesture.