What Caused The Riots?

Everyone seems to have an opinion on what caused the riots seen across the UK since Friday. Some think a hard hand should be taken with these ‘thugs’ who are symptomatic of the moral decay in this country, whereas others take a more liberal stance, blaming sociological infrastructures and poverty rather than the youths themselves. According to criminologists, there are a whole host of causes for the riots.

Some argue that a culture of entitlement has permeated the British psyche, and not just that of the underclass. This attitude of something for nothing has not only been seen in the outlook of the lower-class youth, but has also reared its ugly head in the politicians’ benefits scandal, where the nation saw their educated leaders effectively stealing luxury items. What is the difference between a fraudulent benefits claim of a politician for a flat-screen TV and a youth from Tottenham stealing one from a looted shop?

Consumerism has also been cited in the debate. The youths partaking in the riots are from a culture of ‘stuff’, the more you have, the better. Designer labels, the latest gadgets, the best phone are all important social symbols in all communities in the UK. Many of the youths live in poverty, surrounded by advertising for things that they cannot afford. Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by consumerism, a lifestyle that many of these youths will never be able to afford. So they have started to take it without paying for it.

Opportunism was undoubtedly part of the reason for the riots escalating as they did. As the crowds grew, more people who would not usually partake in such behaviour would have been tempted to join the mob. The more people involved, the lower the risk of culpability. The mob culture can sweep people up, especially the young, the feeling of being in a gang and the usually powerless demographic of society now being in control, at least for a short time.

There are many more factors which led to the events unfolding as they did. Undoubtedly poverty and social standing contributed in some way, and even the lack of male role models in many lower class families has been blamed for the goings on. Whatever the reason, something’s got to give.

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