Download PDF

I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that some elements of our society are sick, while everyone else is OK.

Let’s think about what happened in last year’s riots without getting caught up in emotional responses of repugnance or retribution. Or most dangerous of all, deliberate ‘forgetting’.

Many thousands of people, in what appears to have been a series of events spread by contagion and mimicry, across the country in more than 25 locations, have suddenly decided to break the rules, ignore the consequences and help themselves…that last phrase is important- it is the core of the rioters’ behaviour – that the authorities found so repulsive.

Some of these people were young and black (and therefore a recognizable ‘other’ culture) but many were not. Teachers, graduates, females and professionals were also involved.

Where did they get these ideas from?

I think this behaviour is merely a street version of what they have seen the elite of society doing. Here are three ‘educational’ events that suggest it’s OK to help yourself and get away with it:

The investment bankers & traders earning millions in bonuses and fees from selling dubious, often worthless instruments to their own clients. This week JP Morgan were fined $5.2 billion for deliberately selling duff mortgage-based derivatives to their clients. This is explained and detailed at length in the Cannes Prizewinning, ‘Inside Job’. You can watch it below:

[video_lightbox_youtube video_id=”9Xyn3OnsH3o” width=”640″ height=”480″ auto_thumb=”1″]

Here’s a little graph showing the rise in bankers’ ‘earnings’ versus you and me. Many of those on the streets didn’t have any earnings at all:

Bankers-Earnings

Next learning experience – brought to them by their own elected representatives, their MP’s. For 2 months or more last year the Telegraph gradually released details of the extent of the stealing (called expenses fiddling) by MP’s. You will find a complete list here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5297606/MPs-expenses-Full-list-of-MPs-investigated-by-the-Telegraph.html

Obviously there are matters of degree and dispute just as there will be with our rioters, about who did what and how serious it was. But just scroll down the list, it is very, very long! So far I have been able to find only three custodial sentences and of those, one MP is out after serving just 4 months of a 16-month sentence. No wonder people get the idea that the consequences for helping yourself may not be that bad!

Also, if they were so intent on just stealing, why did so many fires get started and so much violent destructiveness occur? It was as if they were so desperate they wished to burn down the very world they lived in and strike out at anything that represented the establishment. How did they become so frantic?

That brings us to the third educational event – the Government’s austerity programme and their publicisation of it. It is indisputable that the Government have used the power of fear and nightmares to mobilise the population into acceptance of a desperate situation. For a year now we have been hearing tales of how dreadful it is…how we must cut the deficit…how unsustainable our debts are. How everyone has to take some losses – even those who have next to nothing to start with.

This, I believe has created a cloud of anxiety across the land and no-one has listened to the more reasoned voices of two of the world’s greatest economists, Paul Krugman and Joe Stigliz who have consistently pointed out that in a period of very low interest rates and low inflation, debt is not the problem, stimulating growth and job creation is the issue. Have a browse of their blogs here:

http://www2.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/jstiglitz/Crisis.cfm

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/

All we have heard is how bad it is, how it’s getting worse and may not get better for a generation. Unsurprisingly the young feel abandoned and dismissed, especially those who did not get their 3 A*’s at A level. Who has been telling them all how bad it is? The bloke in the picture at the top of this post is certainly one of them.

Make no mistake, I’m not condoning violence but I don’t think these people just generated riots out of poor parenting and bad habits – or because they are inferior in some way. This is a tempting rationale – to demonise & portray them as ‘atypical’. The truth is more sinister; they are simply copying their betters.

SHARE
Previous articleBehavioural Economics – the New Answers?
Next articleRiots 2: the role of inequality
As a psychologist, psychotherapist and research practitioner of 40 years, I've had the benefit of the experiences of more than 100,000 people around the world. They've talked about their daily lives, hopes, fears, ambitions and needs. These experiences have helped me to contribute to innovations from Beds in Business and the Fast Track for airlines to television drama and online communities. Specialties:Large groups, facilitation, application of psychological theories to commercial issues