The London Riots: How do we explain them? Alienation meets opportunity? Young nihilistic ragers bearing Blackberries beget and become uber-greedy and hyper-materialistic? How about mass psychology and peer pressure? Is it more an expression of Clockwork Orange 2011 or Planet of the Apes with a British twist? If Phillip Zimbardo could turn Stanford college freshmen into Nazi prison wardens all those many years ago, then why couldn’t a few militant activists and anarchists prime the pump and get a flash mob of bored and empty headed youth on school break to play Demolition Derby and Supermarket Sweep on the rain slicked streets of London’s commercial district?
Its easy to consider them all hooligans and opportunistic thieves, but let’s face it, many of us outraged observers and so called “older and wiser” people, if faced with a situation in which enough of our own emotional, moral and structural supports were removed also have it in us to “revert” to our more primitive and self centered impulses. Let’s be honest, under the right or wrong conditions (think Hurricane Katrina, a blizzard, a war zone, a sick baby at home and no cash reserves, etc.) wouldn’t you steal food from a food stall or clothing from a large department store? How about a stereo or iPad? Would it matter if you saw hundreds of your friends doing it first and heard other people saying, “hey, they got plenty insurance to cover the loss!” It may sound harsh, but we are all still bipedal primates dressed up in a culture-bound costume of human civility and self-restraint. If enough screws came loose or someone or something tugged loose the threads of moral conscience from our carefully constructed super-egos, many of us would also show a similar capacity for extreme monkey business in the form of stealing, vandalism, violence, aggression, and unrestrained herd mentality. How else did Richard Nixon get elected and how many or us at first thought it was a great idea to bomb the shit out of Iraq?