Tuesday, 9 August 2011
The Psychology Of The London Riots
The riots are explicable in many ways. Idiocy, greed, criminality. These things however are surface manifestations of something far darker and deeper. A whole sub-class of young people have had their desires and needs tweaked in such sophisticated ways by consumer goods suppliers they have been become addicted to the labels and technologies that feed their ego centric craving for social identity.
When the opportunity to get hold of the materialistic baubles that are dangled in front of them 24/7 like high tech designer carrots they are already wound up into a feeding frenzy. As soon as the constraints (either physical, social or psychological) are removed then what we have seen with London riots is readily explained.
Add these extrinsic motivational factors to intrinsic factors that have been developed over decades of a particular type of socialisation that foregrounds entitlement and cosseting and you have the form of Frankenstein-esque petulance that we see on our TV screens today.
Working away underneath our society is a managerialist 'customer' discourse that has generated the twisted and unexpected side effects of the London riots. Years of fawning to people as customers in every walk of life has created an attitude of 'you owe me, I don't owe you anything'.
Its not just young people in the areas we see on TV either. Recently in a lecture on Imagination to some final year students, the lecturer was interrupted from someone at the back of the room who said "I don't need to listen to this crap! I just need you to tell me how to get a good grade".Why? because the student is being told he is a customer. They have been hot housed by the secondary education system and fed like chicks. Gaping mouths incessantly demanding sustenance and attention. Entirely passive and incapable of fending for themselves.
The rioters don't care. There is no point of appealing to a value set that simply doesn't recognise or 'get' the values and norms of our society in general. This is why stringent constraints need to be applied. The application of some straightforward Skinnerian reinforcement is probably the only way to teach these people the social limits of acceptable behavior.
In a liberal society rights come with responsibilities. The London rioters want rights without any responsibility and actually believe that it is OK to think that too. It is time to stop pandering to these self indulgent, poor me's and treat them with the stringency that is equivalent to their disregard for the rest of the community.