Is there a growing undercurrent of hedonistic defiance?

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of attention paid to the #KillTheBill protests that have sprung up in opposition to the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. What played a part in capturing people’s attention was the violent behaviour of the Avon and Somerset plod in Bristol and also the Met in London.

Gaining somewhat less attention, is the revival of street protests against lockdown, the new (ab)normal and the great reset. In a bid to try and get some semblance of unity between these two strands of protest, we wrote this piece: A dialogue is needed – 28 March, 2021. Whether this and some associated graphics we’ve produced calling for a united struggle makes any impression remains to be seen.

If you think these two strands of protest and the response they’re getting from the cops is the whole story, let’s just say there’s a lot more bubbling away just underneath the surface. We’re not talking about anything that can be described as political in any sense of the word. It’s more a case of teens and young adults, who’ve spent the last year of lockdowns and tiered restrictions in an unnatural state of isolation from each other or being confined to a small bubble, deciding that they want to get out, socialise, have fun and let off steam.

Locally to where we are in Thurrock, we had these incidents on two consecutive nights: Police break up music gathering of around 100 people in borough field – 04.04.21 and: One arrest and 22 tickets issued over huge late night car rally as police warn of its dangers – 05.04.21. To be honest, even though we live not too far from the scene, the first we heard about the ‘music gathering’ was reading about it in the local news the next day. With the car rally, we did clock something was going on as we heard a combination of the police helicopter hovering overhead and the sound of engines revving up in the distance as we were contemplating turning in for a night’s kip.

Prior to this, across the country, as you can see from the images above, a varied demographic of teens and young adults took advantage of the recent, all too brief, spell of warm weather to get out into the parks, socialise and let off a bit of steam in the process. Here’s just a few reports among many more about what happened:

Large group gathers at Nottingham’s Forest Rec after parks are locked – 31.03.21.

Hundreds gather to sing and dance at massive outdoor party with ‘no social distancing’ – 02.04.21.

There’s nowhere else to go’ Students speak out after crowds condemned for littering Leeds parks – 02.04.21.

Unsurprisingly, this did spark a bit of a moral panic with much of the focus on the litter that was left behind along with what some people thought was too much of a hands off approach from the cops in ‘dealing’ with these gatherings. There was a lot less in the way of understanding as to why these young people have had their fill of being the fodder for a mass psychological experiment and just want to get together with each other without any restrictions being imposed upon them. That’s symptomatic of where we are – in a climate where condemnation by virtue signallers comes all too easily while any attempts at genuine empathy and understanding are few and far between.

We have indicated in a few previous posts that one strand of resistance to lockdowns and tiered restrictions will come from people deciding they’ve had enough and deciding to start living life by their own rules instead. So far, these gatherings haven’t resulted in any major clashes with the police. Given the differing demographics present across the locations ranging from students in some places to working class youths in others, it may be a case that the cops are trying to work out the right strategy in ‘dealing’ with these situations. It may be the case in some instances that the cops took one look at a large gathering of predominantly working class youths and concluded that the odds would not be in their favour if they decided to try and break up these gatherings. This was discussed by Martin Wright a.k.a. The Whitechapel Anarchist in one of his Red and Black Telly videocasts: NOTTINGHAM YOUTH DEFY RESTRICTIONS EN MASSE – 31.03.21.

There’s only so much being cooped up and isolated that teens and young adults can take before something starts to blow. It’s an integral part of who we are as humans to want to socialise and be with each other. To have that denied or severely restricted will impact people’s mental health. Anyone who is condemning these gatherings really needs to take a look at themselves because they are denying the right of other people to interact with each other in a genuinely human way. That means face to face in real life and not online via a sodding screen.

At the time of writing, the dollop of cold air that has dropped down from the Arctic has put a temporary halt to these impromptu gatherings. This cold spell which looks set to last for another week has given the authorities the breathing space they desperately need to try and work out how they’ll be ‘dealing’ with these gatherings as we move further into the spring and towards the summer.

As the weather starts to warm up again towards the end of April, these gatherings will start up again. How the authorities will respond to these will determine how resistance to the new (ab)normal develops. As stated at the beginning of this piece, it’s hedonism and a desire for togetherness that’s the motivating factor for these gatherings. It will take one heavy handed intervention from the cops attempting to disperse a crowd in a park or break up a rave to completely change the dynamic. With some of these teens and young adults, they’ll be up against people who face a very uncertain future and feel they have nothing more to lose – things could start to slip out of control very quickly.

How all of this will pan out is very difficult to predict. As we’ve said a few times before, we live in ‘interesting times’. Suffice to say, our gut feeling is that we’re facing a long, hot summer…

2 comments

  1. […] It was this hedonistic, semi low key resistance I wrote about back in the early part of April: Is there a growing undercurrent of hedonistic defiance? The publication of that piece was swiftly followed by one of the cooler April/May periods we’ve […]

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