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Saturday, 10 July 2010

Alarm Bells are Ringing.


The fugitive Raoul Moat has shot himself after a week in hiding from the police which he so loathed. It seems plausible that the recent spate of spree-killing and teenage knife crime in Britain is closely related to social deprivation and the inequality it has resulted from. As there is a correlation between inequality and social deprivation, in more unequal societies there is greater illiteracy, obesity, teenage pregnancy, violent crime, mental illness, depression, drug and alcohol abuse etc. So the "Broken Britain" that David Cameron whined about could be the result of the economics of the last 30 years, which have welcomed inequality and we are now more unequal than we were 40 years as a consequence. Over the same time period, symptoms of social deprivation, such as violent cirme, teenage pregnancy and obesity etc. have all risen sharply. What can we learn from the actions of men like Moat?

The Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995 was a product of the rise of a militant anti-government sentiment in the US, who want to tear apart the Federal Reserve and “roll back” the state, and was a violent response to the Waco siege. This anti-government sentiment developed as corporations sought to direct all anger and hatred against the state in a bid to further deregulation and privatisation in the US. The bombing was an “alarm bell” to the collapse of America’s civil society and the welfare state, for the benefit of “Corporate America” and completely supported by the federal government. Timothy McVeigh probably hold-heartedly believed the emotive rhetoric about the “invisible hand” and the free-market, his criminal actions were a response to what he saw as a tyrannical government contrary to the individual liberties and rights guaranteed in the US Constitution.

In Britain, we have seen Raoul Moat shoot police after shooting his ex-girlfriend and her lover. Moat’s letters expressed a deep and burning hatred of the police, it could be that the police represented a “destructive force” to Moat just as the state appeared tyrannical to McVeigh. Moat had been harassed by the police; his car had been stopped by police around 100 times over a period of four or five months - in the lead up to his brief incarceration. In his first letter to the police, Moat accused them from taking his "freedom" from him. The police are supposed to be a helpful presence in the community, but to Moat and many in this country, the police have become more like a “pest” and a “threat” – fining us for saying “bad words” etc. Perhaps, this rampage is a sign that the violent anti-statism of American militias has come to Britain. Moat could be a precursor to something far much destructive.

In February of 2010, Joe Stack flew a small plane into an IRS building in Houston, Texas and in his suicide note he expressed a similar rage to McVeigh’s – except it was aimed at corporations as well as the state. Nevertheless, the target of Stack’s desperate rage was an IRS building, he chose to attack the American tax system – a common target of disdain for many Americans, for tax is theft to them. Stack’s note ends by outlining what he refers to as the “creeds” of capitalism and communism. “The communist creed: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: from each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.” Though Stack's plane crash and notes are a more clear expression of rage, against the political class and the economy, than Moat's shooting spree. But Stack's attack on the IRS shares the same connotations as Moat's shootings of police.

The desperation of these men, in the face of such problems, is evident in their actions. Destroying the state is not an answer to the problems created by the economy, as the state is merely complicit in the misdeeds of a deregulated and privately-owned financial sector. The chaos of the financial crisis was enabled by the state and the structure of “Big Finance” has not been altered by the state, so it is the government who are responsible for the perpetuation of an economic system which will enrich the few at the expense of the many. But as far as the state’s role goes it is merely complicit in the irresponsibility and greed built into the system. Nevertheless, this is a common reaction to the chaos of the economy. Just like MPs expenses, when bankers were walking away with millions of pounds in bonuses, the newspapers and the public turned on politicians who had claimed thousands of tax-payer money.

It would appear that Raoul Moat, and others like him, should not be ignored and forgotten after death. Alarm bells are ringing and we have a responsibility to respond. How should we respond? By focusing on changing government policy to compromise on these spending cuts, which will worsen the situation, and to further redistribute wealth, improve education standards and create jobs in deprived areas. It's like the rise of fascist groups in Britain, like the Aryan Strike Force, the problem will fester if allowed to and we could see a resurgence in militant racism. The media coverage Moat's killings, and his hiding for a week, with a 24/7 zeal for bloodshed may have turned Moat into a nihilistic anti-hero. Forensic psychologists often expect one or two copycat killers, Moat may have acted to emulate and "outdo" Derrick Bird's recent spree. The coverage of such stories should be minimal and utterly boring, to avoid inspiring further violence.

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