Prompted by the UK riots, I was discussing what Nietzsche called 'powder kegs': young men, and the violence within them.
Many of Britain’s politicians, press and citizens believed that everything was under control. They believed that Britain’s rising inequality and insecurity had no serious consequences; that the poor were contained, if not docile. But the threat of violence never left – it just gained in ferocity, with every day of boredom, indignity, hopelessness and contempt.
In these circumstances, powder kegs are looking for a flame. They want to feel their own power, for good or evil. If they are Muslim, they might find it in Islamicist radicalism. If they are ‘chavs’, in looting and torching cars. If they are ‘Aussies’, in attacking ‘Lebs’, and vice versa. The point is this: without any outlet for their energies, they will eventually explode. ‘What attracts them is the sight of the zeal that surrounds a cause,’ wrote Nietzsche, ‘not the cause itself.’ The shooting of Mark Duggan was enough of a cause. And until they have something better to do, days like this will come again, in the United Kingdom, United States and here in Australia.
Importantly, this is not an excuse. I have nothing but contempt for unrestrained violence; for selfish theft and thuggery. What I am offering is a reason: young men without wherewithal, dignity and purpose will turn violent. This violence might be against family, friends, teachers, strangers or themselves. It might be drugs, assault or property damage. And in many cases, the majority will pay for a minority’s rage: for healthcare, extra policing, prisons, lost income, and the many subsidiary losses of a disintegrated, unstable state.(Photo: Guardian)