Saturday, 13 August 2011

Are the rioters thugs, or a true political voice?

It is odd that whenever something really bad happens, the media always react to the culprit in a neo-primitive, quasi religious sort of a way. When Brady and Hindly became the Moors Murderers many years ago, they were demonised as "beasts". Peter Sutcliffe aka "Jack the Ripper", was similarly treated. It seems to be an instinctive reaction of the press to a senseless evil crime, to demonise in an almost religious way, the person to blame. In this way we can detach ourselves from what has happened, and put it "out there" away from the sort of lives that we lead.

In just the same way the youth rioters have been isolated, and put in a different category to the rest of us, so that we can alienate them. They are "mindless thugs" who are different from us. "We could not do that sort of thing." I heard one interviewee say, that it is likely, that one of the reasons they have gone out to commit motiveless mindless vandalism, is because, as a group of gang members, they have already been alienated, and isolated from society. Because they are so isolated, it is easier for them to do something so wrong, because they are away from the norms and mores of the rest of society. Ironically, by treating them as scanalously criminalistic thugs, we isolate them even further, which makes it more likely that they will go onto commit similar offences in the future.

What creates such a mindset? It is said that, in London alone there are several hundred gangs already. When the riots took place, they all called a truce, and all worked together in a co-ordinated way with the ultimate goal of riotting. The other gangs in different parts of the country then engaged in copy cat type behaviour.

So that is the gangs. What of the other non-gang members, who apparently came from decent backgrounds, and were in full time employment. One of the rioters was a primary school teacher, another a pensioner of 60. Well, what we don't know is what sort of backgrounds they have experienced in the past. Victims of abuse, whom I deal with daily, have a very chaotic and disorganised type of existence. They have low self esteem and resent any sort of authority. Indeed they find it hard to understand why anyone can be kind to them and give them anything valuable, for the simple reason that they regard themselves as undeserving of affection and love.They constantly fight authority. The first person they trusted in childhood abused that trust, and abused them. For this reason they never accept authority, particularly when they feel out of control.

So how deeply politicial were the riots? Were they really the product of the alienation of the youth of the inner cities, or the pure wanton vandalism of youngsters engaging in speculative acquisitive behaviour, arising out of the cynical greed of kids who have nothing.

I believe the riots were a pressure valve. It is likely that beneath the surface of the psyche of the individual rioters lies much anger and resentment, whether that be against their parents, former abuser, teacher, police, or life in general. They live in subcultures where the role model to look up to is the wealthy drug baron, who has a fancy car, and lots of bling. This is what he wants, so what a good idea it would be to go into the city where looting is taking place. He is told through his mobile phone that one can find plasma TV's, and designer clothes free of charge. All one has to do is walk into shops and help yourself. 

It is rather like normal middle class people receiving a text saying they are handing out £50 notes in Marks and Spencer in the city centre. You will have to go now, because they might run out. How many people would go for it? Obviously riotting is another thing altogether, but I am not sure that they saw it in this way.

Now, every media channel is doing their best to explain away the riots as the youth's way of protesting against government cuts, something illustrating a deep malaise in the discipline of our young people, parents are not allowed to use corporal punishment, children can sue parents etc etc. It is even being suggested, supported by Ian Duncan Smith, I just saw on Channel 4, that people who riot should lose benefit or even their council houses as a way of punishment. How knee jerk and reactionary is that? If you take away all forms of support from an angry alienated person, what is going to happen? He is not going to take the punishment like a man, turn round his life and deeply analyse his motivation. No, he is going to go out and commit more crime in order to survive, eat, and find somewhere to sleep. What a stupid idea, that at least 100,000 people signed up to, apparently, on the Number 10 Downing Street opinion poll.

I think that the riots are a product of the way in which young people have become empowered to exercise their rights over the last 10 years. Without doubt, the events which took place are a product, also, of the power of social networks, and Blackberry Messenger. Undoubtedly there will be many who have inner anger generated by abuse in childhood, in the same way as others are angry about racial abuse, and alienation from the police. Many will have been grossly influenced by their peers, and the social influence of gangs. I really don't think many of them will have been motivated by thoughts of the way in which David Cameron is decimating the Legal Aid system, and removing the right to free legal advice, or even cutbacks in school building programs, or the funding of child support groups. Many are simply taking advantage of an opportunity for a free lunch. We are all generated by greed. This is what drives the consumerist, capitalist society we all live in. We are all sinners, but some sin, without thought of the consequences, more than others.

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