|If you're going to riot:|
They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong. They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others. Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it. -Max Hastings
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. -Zoe WilliamsWhile the British come to grips with this social upheaval, it isn't any surprise that our own Conservative Canadian politicians offered up their own thoughts on the matter which usually results in some of the dumbest social commentary available. With that I offer you the ramblings of one Stephen Woodworth:
Both the advantage and disadvantage of twitter is the limited characters. It's not a medium in which you can expound a treatise on the sociological phenomenons but it also makes the word choices all the more relevant due its limitations. The first thing that jumps out at you when you read this tweet is "further infected with criminal violence". You start trying to understand his reference because the crime rate is the lowest it's been in the country since 1973. So what's the reference? Is he referring to the Vancouver Canucks riot that was sparked by frustrated hockey fans? How is that comparable to the UK riots which are evidently more endemic to a sense of disenfranchisement. What about The G8/G20 protest? Well that turned out to be an example of police abuse more than it was protesters acting criminally.
It's undoubtedly true that, when you're in a mob, it's easier to get caught up in the emotions of the mob and act irrationally. But the notion that antipathy towards police and local shops can "spread like an intellectual virus" is pure fantasy. You don't suddenly wake up with hatred for police unless you already perceive the police to have wronged you. You don't lash out against local shops unless there's an underlying social disconnect that already exists. For those marginalized, the shopkeeper is not a local merchant offering goods and services that facilitate their lives but rather are a constant reminder of what they don't have and seemingly will never have.
"Attitudes and ideas that underly such conduct" don't spread to the more affluent areas of Britain because the reality for those in the poorer areas is starkly different than those in the rich areas. And it therefore makes no sense for the Canadian disenfranchised to hear about the shooting death of Mark Duggan (whom no one in Canada had ever heard about) and get upset about it and decide to go rioting randomly in our major cities.
I don't think anyone has studied "mobology". I don't think that's available as a major in our universities. I guess he could be referring to sociology which, indeed, studies mob mentality. But not all mobs, riots and protests are the same. Sports riots are often more similar to one another than political riots. As for protests, the ones in Egypt for example were planned and organized to be non-violent. Those in power, however, had other plans.
As for ideological creep, Woodworth implies that Canadians will simply look at the television and see what's going on England and be overwhelmed with a desire to go riot. Nonsense! Riots are about power. The rioters felt powerless in light of the shooting death which sparked similar feelings among the disenfranchised. If the police shoot and kill a black teen in Montreal's "Little Burgundy" neighbourhood, then I might be concerned about protest and violence simply because Montreal police tend to target and harass young black teens in that neighbourhood. I am, however, entirely unconcerned about the effects of police violence in Tottenham will have on Canadians.
Ideas can be "infectious" but not all ideas can find fertile ground. If I try to spread the idea to someone living on $3 a day that an iPad 2 is indispensable or that the latest Premium Sports satellite package from Bell is the greatest thing on earth, I doubt whatever excitement and glee I exhibit will transfer to the listener. Therefore, it's understandable to see the idea of political empowerment spread from Arab nation to Arab nation (where conditions are strikingly similar) but the idea of general societal malaise and powerlessness requires similar conditions to exist in the first place. If Stephen Woodworth suggests that there is a growing segment of the Canadian population that falls into the NEET category, I'd be quite alarmed.
The overall suggestion here underlies a great ignorance while masked in vacuous generalities. He doesn't suggest that people behave irrationally (which they often do) but that their behaviour is unpredictable and their motivations are completely random. Woodworth implies that the motivations of citizens are based on transferable emotions regardless of the social conditions in which they live. For the MP of Kitchener Centre, we are all empty vessels from which emotions flow freely from one to another. You aren't a human being with experiences, values and emotions of your own by which you filter external ideas and emotions. The trouble with Stephen Woodworth is that his worldview fails to explain why some ideas spread and some simply die. Why do some protesters gather non-violently in front of political offices while others lash out violently at the material world that is denied to them despite it being so close within their reach? To everyone else, the answer is quite obvious.
For Stephen Woodworth, understanding the basic motivations that drive people is too difficult for his comprehension. I guess it's a good thing he's a backbencher.