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Margie Orford

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Materialism is Fuelling New Wave of Riots

I have been nit picking my way through page proofs for my new book, a task that makes sticking pins into one’s eyes seem fun. Be that as it may, a pivotal scene that recaptured my attention is a riot. Riots, I discovered during the writing, are hard things to construct. They appear to erupt suddenly and without warning. The riot itself is chaotic, adrenalin-pumped and terrifying, there is no centre to it, and there is no form. Riots leave one dazed, confused and, all too often, ashamed of how one behaved during the event. But riots, like all storms, do not come out of nowhere.

Thanks to the British riots I have my favourite punk band, The Clash, doing a permanent rerun in my head; ‘London Calling’, ‘Police and Thieves’, all those great anthems to anarchy composed in the late 1970s, when Mrs Thatcher school-marmed her way into power. She presided over some exemplary strikes and riots that changed British society forever.

When I lived in London in the late 1980s there were the Poll Tax riots. London surged with East End impis armed with dustbin lids and bricks. There was the standard standoff with the cops, a couple of people were clobbered then everyone went home and had cups of tea. Oh yes, and the Thatcher’s poll tax, a very unfair one, was scrapped.

In the late 1990s there were riots against global capitalism. Again, dustbin lids, bricks, Bobbies, beatings; then it was done, order was restored and it was back to business as usual. Global capitalism seems to have done itself in over the last decade, but who knows, maybe it needed that helping hand with a half-brick.


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