Media reports covering the violent protests following the police murder of George Floyd have sought to separate the “good protesters” from the “bad looters”, aiming to completely separate the two issues: one of protest and freedom of expression, and one of a simple criminal act. Sounds pretty straightforward.
Not so fast. What we are witnessing, when it comes to looting, is the result of a series of lootings that took place way before the protests, hundreds of years ago. Putting looters into jail won’t stop the real looting that has been taking place, and which is responsible for a vicious cycle.
Looting of our dignity
Looking at helicopter footage of the looting that took place all over the US, one sees people running with a hunger. It is a hunger to “take back” what they feel a system of inequality has not allowed them, and will never allow them to have. And the looters are mostly black Americans. Because they are the most disposessed. They are the ones most likely to feel that they have been “done wrong” by the system. That their only hope for wealth redistribution, the last resort, is to actually steal. So why not go for it? Twenty minutes of looting is nothing compared to the looting that they feel they have been subjected to, all of their lives. I’m not justifying them. I’m simply explaining how I think they feel.
Looting of our souls
Yet these looters are also the ones most brainwashed by the big brands. By our consumeristic society. By a system that tells us that we are not good enough. That we are what we buy, what we wear, what we own. That happiness is largely dependent on having “stuff”. These looters were blinded way before they broke the shop window of Ray Ban. No expensive pair of glasses will ever help them see the light. They were looted of their sense of what makes a person happy way before they cleared the racks at Nordstrom. However many different sizes they grab of their favourite shirt, none of them will ever really fit. Because there will always be another shirt, in their mind, which fits better. Because they are not looting out of a real need for any of these things. They are looting because they’ve been told that they need them.
Looting of the Earth
Of course all of these goods are stolen in the first place. They are the result of looting of a planet that is being pushed to the brink to give birth to raw materials, at the expense of more CO2 emissions and natural habitats. The luxury brands being stolen are themselves laced with the blood and sweat of workers in third world countries, often underaged, working with no health benefits while often putting their health at risk being exposed to chemicals.
The real looter is Capitalism.
(from the book Disposable Earth)