After relatively minor riots in England some ten or 12 years ago, I found myself on the radio with a junior minister who spoke of them as if they were a genuine form of protest or commentary upon the social situation of the rioters, a real attempt to bring about an improvement in their situation. The tragedy of these riots, she said, was that they destroyed property and amenities in the areas in which the rioters themselves lived. I asked her whether she thought it would be better if the rioters came to her area and destroyed property and amenities there. The fact that the rioters only made their own environment worse was quite beside the point. Bakunin might have been in error when he said that the destructive urge was also a creative one; but he would have been right if he had said that the urge was omnipresent in the human heart, and gave great joy when given way to.
The urge to cruelty is not much different in this respect. I doubt there are many people who have never in their lives experienced the pleasure of inflicting some kind of pain on others, physical or mental, from sheer malice and delight in doing so. It is an urge that we overcome first by effort and then by habit.
It is one of the tasks of civilisation to tame our inherent savagery. But who, contemplating contemporary British culture, would recognise in it any civilising influence, or rather fail to recognise its opposite? It is a constant call to and celebration of degradation, not only physical but spiritual and emotional. A culture in which Amy Winehouse, with her militant vulgarity and self-indulgent stupidity, combined with a very minor talent, could be so extravagantly admired and feted, is not one to put up strong barriers against our baser instincts, desires and urges. On the contrary, that culture has long been a celebration of those very urges. He who pays the savage never gets rid of the savagery; and this is only the beginning.
—The always prescient Theodore Dalrymple, “British Rioters The Spawn Of A Bankrupt Ruling Elite,” The Australian, August 11th, 2011.
(How prescient? Dalrymple explored the root causes of 2005 French banlieue riots three years before they happened. And working from a similar time frame, It doesn’t take much at all for the reader in 2015 to plug-in the word “Ferguson” in the appropriate places in the above-linked article from, yup, three years ago.