My family around the world are looking on the riots in London with concern for us and disbelief that this could be happening. Riots are not something you associate with one of the most developed nations of the world. But times are tough, and the few catalysts have been sufficient to create an atmosphere of volatility and fear. And in this atmosphere, all it takes is a few opportunists to â€˜justifyâ€™ the behaviour we’ve seen.
It’s happened to all of us, although generally in less dramatic contexts. The line at the airport that forms around a person who’s standing at the new passport control desk – that is unmanned and will continue to be. The perfectly nice boys who end up inexplicably picking on the kid who’s a little bit different at school. Group permission is granted by one or two triumphant acts of wanton illegality, in this case, and suddenly its ‘socially acceptable’. Of course itâ€™s not, but groups sometimes behave in ways that individual people do not.
They should get Derren Brown on the case. His experience of manipulating large groups with psychological trickery is probably what’s needed to diffuse this (as well as the police, and maybe the army if things keep escalating).
In the meantime, I’ll duck and cover when I change trains at Clapham Junction…