Indeed. What the Brits are doing at the moment is throwing all the participants they can round up into jail, and more power to them. That's what their society's laws demand and it's exactly what needs to be done with any law breakers, swiftly and consistently, along with the general populace coming out both vocally to condemn the kids' actions and onto the streets in significant enough numbers to literally stand in the way of wanton criminality.
- (There has been a) slow-motion moral collapse ... in parts of our country.
- Behaving as if your choices have no consequences.
- Children without fathers.
- Schools without discipline.
- Reward without effort.
- Crime without punishment.
- Rights without responsibilities.
- Communities without control.
- He promised that the government will "review every aspect of our work to mend our broken society."
But back to the roots of the mayhem. While I do not think that any of it is a result of British society doing the wrong thing, or politicians and civic leaders going awry with their policies, all of the things that Cameron lists above can be said today for most developed countries' youth (and most of the developing countries' youth as well). What I'm getting at is that, while the rabid conspiracy theorists (everyone loves a good story!) will point to politics as a cause, I am a strong believer in Occam's Razor, that we should stick with the most simple explanation that mirrors the basics of human nature in individual behaviour before we start adding in complex explanations about society as a whole.
Something to consider: my "Gen X" generation grew up 'bottle-fed' on WWII movies. My early years were spent glued to the TV watching MASH, a series about the horrors of injuries in the Korean War that left only humour as a defence mechanism and "Hogan's Heroes", a similarly funny take on life in a WWII POW camp (it was a time of healing and 'moving on'). I knew intimately about the Vietnam War as the protests played out during my youth and the casualties, the returning vets, were featured in so many movies and shows. I heard first hand stories from my family elders and their friends about the suffering and death during WWII.
Want to know what the exposure of most of this new teenage generation has been to real life human suffering? (They do not watch CNN.) What these boys have been doing since they were old enough to get access to their older brother's (or Gen X dad's) video game device is play role-playing games like Grand Theft Auto, which involves winning points for criminal behaviour, and Call of Duty, which involves blowing up, shooting, knifing, etc. 'the faceless enemy'. That's it. No stories from their great-grandfather of losing your best friend to a machine gun while running through a field, just 100% virtual death and destruction.
And these boys are addicted to these games, spending endless hours playing them without leaving the couch, the teenage reward centres of their brains lighting up far more strongly, research has lately proven, than they will a few years later. If mom and dad do not intervene, they will stop going to school and will even stop sleeping to play the games endlessly. The thrill they get is just too much to resist!
Now having read that last two paragraphs, go back and re-read Cameron's list above. To this generation of boys (and a few girls) the prospect of finally getting out and, in real life, participating in Grand Theft Auto actions and Call of Duty mayhem MUST be like offering a methadone-addict his first hit of real heroin -- finally the real thing and far too strong a temptation to resist. Add to this the anonymity of a crowd, BlackBerry's untraceable PIN messaging (apparently BB has become the smartphone of choice for those in the drug trade, or who aspire to be like the thugs in the drug trade in England's poorer areas), and a brain that has not yet developed the ability to understand the long-term consequences of short-term thrills, and you will get rampaging 'flash mobs'.
The reality is that if I'd been born in the 90's and found myself in that group, I can imagine I would have participated in the looting and rabble-rousing, but I would never have stooped to hurting people, it is just not in my core make-up. I do know there were a few lads in my neighbourhood who could have taken things further, however, and it is for the sake of everyone in our society that this new 'flash mob' phenomenon, spurred by a sense of entitlement, a lack of real-life experience with true human suffering, new smartphone technology and social media, must be brought under control whatever the cost. These kids today grow up OUTSIDE their parents (dual or single) control -- their world integrates influences from people and groups that no kids in the past had access or exposure to. We need to guide them in new and as yet untried ways, and soon.