A Psychological Analysis of the Riots in the UK – UPDATE

(Source of picture, HERE)

Zoe Williams, a Guardian columnist, has written the best analysis I have read until now on the roots and the meaning of the riots in the UK. Reading this article I was wondering where are the ethics theologians when we need them.

I paste below a few quotes from this remarkable text, in the hope that this will motivate you to read it in its entirety.

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I think it’s just about possible that you could see your actions refashioned into a noble cause if you were stealing the staples: bread, milk. But it can’t be done while you’re nicking trainers, let alone laptops.

I wasn’t convinced by nihilism as a reading: how can you cease to believe in law and order, a moral universe, co-operation, the purpose of existence, and yet still believe in sportswear?

Alex Hiller, a marketing and consumer expert at Nottingham Business School, points out that there is no conflict between anomie and consumption: “If you look at Baudrillard and other people writing in sociology about consumption, it’s a falsification of social life. Adverts promote a fantasy land. Consumerism relies upon people feeling disconnected from the world.”

Leaving Baudrillard aside, just because there is no political agenda on the part of the rioters doesn’t mean the answer isn’t rooted in politics. Theresa May – indeed most politicians, not just Conservatives – are keen to stress that this is “pure criminality”, untainted by higher purpose; the phrase is a gesture of reassurance rather than information, because we all know it’s illegal to smash shop windows and steal things. “We’re not going to be diverted by sophistry,” is the tacit message. “As soon as things have calmed down, these criminals are going to prison, where criminals belong.”

Those of us who don’t have responsibility for public order can be more interrogative about what’s going on: an authoritarian reading is that this is a generation with a false sense of entitlement, created by the victim culture fostered, and overall leniency displayed, by the criminal justice system. It’s just a glorified mugging, in other words, conducted by people who ask not what they can do for themselves, but what other people should have done for them, and who may have mugged before, on a smaller scale, and found it to be without consequence.

At the other end of the authoritarian-liberal spectrum, you have Camila Batmanghelidjh’s idea, movingly expressed in the Independent, that this is a natural human response to the brutality of poverty: “Walk on the estate stairwells with your baby in a buggy manoeuvring past the condoms, the needles, into the lift where the best outcome is that you will survive the urine stench and the worst is that you will be raped . . . It’s not one occasional attack on dignity, it’s a repeated humiliation, being continuously dispossessed in a society rich with possession. Young, intelligent citizens of the ghetto seek an explanation for why they are at the receiving end of bleak Britain, condemned to a darkness where their humanity is not even valued enough to be helped.”

Between these poles is a more pragmatic reading: this is what happens when people don’t have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can’t afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it. Hiller takes up this idea: “Consumer society relies on your ability to participate in it. So what we recognise as a consumer now was born out of shorter hours, higher wages and the availability of credit. If you’re dealing with a lot of people who don’t have the last two, that contract doesn’t work. They seem to be targeting the stores selling goods they would normally consume. So perhaps they’re rebelling against the system that denies its bounty to them because they can’t afford it.”

As another criminologist, Professor John Pitts, has said: “Many of the people involved are likely to have been from low-income, high-unemployment estates, and many, if not most, do not have much of a legitimate future. There is a social question to be asked about young people with nothing to lose.”There seems to be another aspect to the impunity – that the people rioting aren’t taking seriously the idea it could rebound on them. All the most dramatic shots are of young men in balaclavas or with scarves tied round their faces, because it is such a striking, threatening image. But actually, watching snatches of phone footage and even professional news footage, it was much more alarming how many people made no attempt at all to cover their faces. This could go back to the idea that, with the closure of a number of juvenile facilities and the rhetoric about bringing down prison populations, people just don’t believe they’ll go to prison any more, at least not for something as petty as a pair of trainers. I feel for them; that may be true on a small scale, but when judges feel public confidence seriously to be at issue, they have it in themselves to be very harsh indeed…

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Read the whole article HERE.


You may also read, on the same topic:

The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom

How youth-led revolts shook elites around the world

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

5 thoughts on “A Psychological Analysis of the Riots in the UK – UPDATE”

  1. de la evitarea transmiterii unor imagini cu oameni care au murit violent, la lipsa de reactie a politiei ca sa nu produca durere si la reactia cretinoida a secretarului de interne care a spus ca nu trebuie folosita forta pt ca politia actioneaza prin consens, cit si multe alte lucruri din trecut, cum ar fi ispita creditelor, a consumului si dinamica unei concurente ce face ca tot a doua zi sa apara ceva nou, la moda si fara de care nu poti trai, toate astea au dus la vizionarea unor imagini in direct in care de ex un singur om sparge usa unui magazin universal aprinde primul rack de haine si tot magazinul de milioane arde.
    iata ce se intimpla intr-o societate in care statul a interzis parintilor sa-si disciplineze copiii iar acum ii intreaba de ce acestia nu stiu cu cine isi petrec timpul liber si unde.

    poate societatea ar trebui sa se intrebe care este ideologia daca nu religia care ar putea aduce lucrurile la normal. buba s-a spart si doare, iar daca societatea va continua sa cirpaceasca se va extinde. in fiecare din noi zace un robin hud nedescoperit.


  2. In urma cu sase ani cind Franta trecea prin momente asemanatoare presa nu a facut decit sa le plinga de mila celor ce faceau raul fara sa puna problema responabilitatii actelor lor. Sigur e problematica diferenta de classe dar in cazul revoltelor de aici mare parte din cei implicati erau tineri venite din familii care refuzau sa se integreze si care credau si mai cred ca pot face o republica in republica.


  3. Revin doar ca sa adaug ca Ocidentul a creat o genertie care are mai degraba drepturi decit obligatii. Imi amintesc ca in urma cu peste 20 de ani citeam discursul lui Alexander Soljenitsyne tinut la Harward si care spunea ca tineretul amercan nu are decit drepturi si nu are de loc obligatii.

    Pe de alta parte Occidentul a creat si paradoxuri, de la cel care poarta costume la pretul de 30.000 de euro la cel care nu acpuca sa isi cistige piinea, de la salarul fostului antrenor al echipei franceze care era platit cu o jumatate de milion pe luna si care nu prea stie sa vorbeasca, dar sa nu ma spuneti pentru ca locuieste in vecini, la salarul unui cercetator de la prestigiosul Insitute Pasteur care a facut nu doar un doctorat ci mai mult, a facut lucrari si lucrari post doctorale de valoare, aici si in alte mari universitati ale lumii sau mari laboratoare de cercetare ale lumi si care are un salar de 3.300 de euros. Alors poate nu este nelegitima intrebarea ‘Cum va place?’


  4. Ar fi poate de mentionat si faptul ca li s-a inculcat tinerilor si nu numai lor, ca valoarea individului sta in hainele pe care le poarta sau masinile pe care le conduce, falimentul Crestinismului aici. Si tineri din ultimii anii au fost privati de modele, de eroi sau li s-au prezentati eroi falsi. In urma cu sase ani in Franta era un fel de ‘pocainta’ de tot ce au facut in colonizare, si nu fusese nimic bun ci doar rau, de ce s-a petrecut in istorie, il aruncasera la gunoi si pe Napoleon pentru o scriere a unui ‘mare istoric’ din Guyana franceza. Dar il prezentau ca erou pe un cintaret desfrinat care fusese bigam si care mai fortase si pe fica lui la o relatie incestuoasa si ca orice incestuos isi blamase victima. Nu-i dau numele din respect pentru fica lui. Din fericire Dumnezeu l-a chemat la judecata si fica lui renaste acum prin har fie ca o stie sau nu.


  5. Revin doar ca sa precizez que Napoléon est de retour, exista intotdeauna un Austerlitz, rue Bonaparte, Iena, Rivoli, Wagram, cele doua arcuri, cel de la Louvre si cel de triumf de pe Champs Elysés, umbra luni Napoléon este peste tot in Franta. El este chtitorul Frantei moderne si a lumii modernen in ciuda a ce a devenit la sfirsitul imeriului. Si se mai publica inca carti despre el. Tocmai dupa povestea cu ”mare istoric” din Guyana franceza Domenique de Villepin a publicat doua carti, Max Gallo a publicat citeva tomuri de asemenea si chiar in ultimile saptamini au aparut patru tomuri de analiza a istoriei napolioniene scrise de un autor care imi scapa chiar acum.


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