…the suburbs are falling apart     

Last Wednesday, in a quiet, well-to-do suburb to the south of the city, anti-social behaviour changed dramatically. Hedges and flowerbeds were decimated as per usual, new cars were keyed and milk bottles callously kicked over, cats spray painted pink and blue, and dog faeces posted through letter boxes, end walls horribly graffitied and garden gnomes gratuitously decapitated; however this chaos was anything but chaotic.

No longer the reserve of the variously disaffected and drunken children from the lower socio-economic bracket, smashing phone boxes and urinating in letterboxes have become two of the weapons in the arsenal of a new upper-middle-class intelligentsia.

The bored and disenchanted sons and daughters of lawyers, doctors and company directors have acquired a predilection for political intrigue, revolution and defecating on patios. Driving flash cars and spending daddy’s money are now so last year; anarchy is the new hobby of the children of affluence.

These pampered teens have been enchanted in their history lessons by tales of the anarchists in the crumbling Russian Empire and on the Continent over a hundred years ago. For once they have been listening in lessons, listening to tales of Bakunin et al, who terrorised the ruling classes and social order of the nineteenth century. And this new age of fear that has beset us is seen as fallow ground for a return of anarchy as a political ideology. Anarchy is also something to do on a Friday night after all your homework has been done and there’s nothing on the telly.

After writing essays on the rise of anarchy in times past, these A-grade students have decided to do some practical work outside of school. In what is now more than a passing trend, these privileged teens have decided to infiltrate groups of “scallies” or “plebs” in order to foment even sharper feelings of angst and anger, a higher pitch of dissent, and give some direction to anti-social behaviour. What were once random acts of violence and nuisance by drink fuelled hooded youths, have now become something far more insidious. Disparate groups of neighbourhood “corner boys” and trouble causers have been turned into orchestrated marauding gangs by this new intelligentsia.

Dressing in the uniform of the “scallie” – a hooded top, bright trainers and tracksuit bottoms – these neo-anarchists are leading their foot soldiers on to greater and greater highs of anti-social behaviour. On Friday night this nuisance and violence reached new heights with a trail of destruction marked on dented bonnets and smashed in windows of parked cars, as well as heightened fear levels in the magnolia front rooms of every semi-detached property along the winding trail of destruction.

Coordinated by the high-command of the neo-anarchists, this wrecking spree across the southern suburbs of the city, was to mark the dawning of a new age for anarchy. Cars are seen as enemy number one – the means by which society has enslaved itself. They are therefore to be turned on their supposed masters – the wage slaves whose only moment of freedom is driving through an intersection on orange. Driving around in one such “enslavement device”, the drivers all being under-aged and uninsured, the cars stolen or surreptitiously borrowed from daddy’s garage, the gang caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to the property of innocent members of the public. The rules of the road were assiduously ignored.

A spokesperson for the neo-anarchists, speaking through an untraceable chat-room web site, declared that all cars should be “neutralised”. However, owing to the very nature of anarchist ideology, it is impossible to tell if this was the voice of the whole organisation. Indeed, the term “organisation” is somewhat of a misnomer. This is a movement in which every voice is the one voice of the movement and every random action of violence and destruction has been sanctioned in advance.

The fact that the police haven’t realised what is going on is hardly surprising. There is no motivation whatsoever for what is happening. Even the previous label of “mindless violence” does not apply. This is not mindless violence. However, nor does it have a motive, as such. The aim of such violence could be described as the “breakdown of the social hierarchy” or “the collapse of the patronising state” or “the implosion of meritocracy” – all terms bandied about on various chat-rooms and blogs associated with the neo-anarchists. But there is no real personal gain, therefore there is a complete absence of reasonable motive, and so the complete bafflement of our police forces.

Attempts at speaking to these teenaged firebrands have rarely been successful, owing to the nature of their movement, which is little more than a couple of ideas sketched out in cyber-space and a couple of spontaneous meetings in Jeremy’s house after tennis lessons. However, there are some “fighters for the cause” who are willing to speak about their “philosophy” and their intentions.

It would seem that the “dissolution of suburbia” and “the subversion of the middle-class value system” are definite goals. However, other goals seem to run contrary to these, such as the declared intentions to “spread suburban mediocrity” and the “infection of the underclass with table-manners”. On speaking to a self-declared “spokesperson for the cause” he first told me that there was no cause, secondly that he wasn’t a spokesperson” and finally that “victory was around the corner”.

So is this just a harmless hobby for the bored children of the middle-classes? That is certainly not the stance taken by the residents and business owners of the affected area, who are right now suffering from the consequences of having “marauding hoards” roaming their high streets and village greens. These consequences range from smashed windows, horribly vandalized mailboxes, obscene graffiti and mutilated hedgerows, all the way to defaced murals and disfigured commemorations of the fallen war dead.

This so-called “spokesperson” was unrepentant. In fact, he gloated at the chaos which has been spread over the last few months since the movement’s inception in an attic bedroom in a certain leafy suburb. It seems the garrets of the left bank have been superseded by such attic bedrooms and games rooms of our more affluent areas. And when questioned about the future of the movement and what other actions were planned all this self-declared spokesperson would reply was “Who knows?”

But that is the whole thorny issue summed up in two words. Nobody knows. Such is the nature of anarchism.

It I unlikely that this incipient movement will lead to the dissolution of our comfortable society. What is certain though is that it will lead to our society being a whole lot less comfortable over the next few weeks and months, as a series of history lessons on the anarchists of the nineteenth century foment further unrest in our quiet suburban streets. Perhaps it is time for a change in the syllabus.



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