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Because they can
Many people have commented and speculated on the recent events in the UK, which are being referred to as riots, criminal action, feral youth rampaging.. call it what you will.

For those readers not in the UK, this started as a peaceful protest at a police shooting (which was possibly a mistake but investigation takes ages) and the rather poor treatment of the family of the victim. In the UK, most of our police don't carry guns, so this is a rare and troubling event. The local community spontaneously protested. And someone decided this was a good setting for a riot.

But pretty quickly it became evident that this was not really anything to do with that. This is about young people taking the opportunity of a temporary breakdown in peace-keeping to have some destructive fun (smashing and burning things) and to get some stuff – it's no accident that the targets are phone, electronics and high-end sports and fashion shops. That's apart from the woman photographed looting armfuls of haribo – kids and grown-ups love it so!

Are these kids natural criminals? I don't think so. I think they're opportunists. Him Up North has written a lovely creative piece (I assume it's creative, as I have reason to believe Him Up North is not a teenager living at home ) expressing the sense of 'getting caught up' of what's going on.

So why? I'd like to make a simple suggestion: because no-one has given these kids any reason not to do stuff like that. And if our leaders really want to prevent this sort of thing happening again, that's what they need to do.

Historically, lots of things have been used to prevent criminal or amoral behaviour. Will any of them work here?

The fear of God.
Time was when God or religious belief was motivation enough to behave appropriately. People literally had the hell scared out of them. They were taught from an early age that stealing a sweetie or talking back at teacher was liable to end you in eternal torment. Unfortunately, most people these days don't actually believe in God. And those of us who do are highly uncomfortable with his/her being used to promote social control because of the dangers inherent in that: what happens when the state does need opposing? Besides, who wants to believe in a divine creator who loves people so much s/he send them to infinite torment for extremely finite crimes?

Because it's wrong
With God out of the picture, he has been replaced with a humanist morality. Some things are just 'wrong' because they obviously are. Or are they? Our collective social morality has become increasingly relativistic, to the point where 'right' has become equal to 'you can get away with it'. These young people have seen plenty of people – leaders of industry and politics among them – make off with huge wealth that wasn't theirs. And get away with it. So the notion that some things are just 'wrong' no longer has much currency. And when you're stealing from large corporations (like big chain stores) it feels vaguely victimless. So if you can get away with it, it's ok, right?

Fear of the law
It's no accident that this started at a peaceful protest into the police mis-handling something. Because that ensured that they were on the wrong foot. Did the police try the 'softy softly' approach a little too long out of fears of headlines about brutality? Realistically, how many of these young people will be brought to court? And if they are, what can/will the courts do? Our prisons are already overflowing. We lock up more of our population than anyone else in Western Europe. A fine? A few hours community service? Our law isn't scary any more

Fear of public disapproval
Really? Most of those kids will have had their peer group around them. When I was a kid the idea that a policeman came to a house in our street would set the neighbours talking for a week. If you had a social worker, it was something to be ashamed of. But “What will people think” is no longer a reason not to do something. People don't actually care any more. Besides, you can always take out an injunction to stop anyone making news out of it.

Because it will screw up your own future
This might work. If these folks had anything to lose.

And that's the point, isn't it? These are folk who cannot see that they have anything to lose. They have no reason not to opportunistically grab a wii, a pair of trainers or a bag of haribo. Most of them will get away with it. Our politicians will rant that there's no justification for this sort or behaviour – but was there justification for the bankers getting huge bonuses? for MPs (and fraud investigators, and council leaders...) claiming expenses that certainly don't look like they're job related? for sports-people and entertainers to earn the sorts of wealth most of us can't even imagine while ordinary people like nurses and firemen lose their jobs? If we want moral behaviour from the populace, we have to start by demonstrating moral behaviour from the leaders.

Otherwise, sooner or later this will happen. People have learned that they can get away with something for nothing. And they have no reason not to.

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I suppose one of the many reasons that can be thrown in there for why it's got to this point is the demonisation of the young and the poor. Just the fact you're either is enough for you to be seen as a danger and a problem, and probably scrounging scum. I suppose there's only so long you can hear this before you think you might as well be if that's all people are going to think of you regardless. Add that to everything from lack of jobs to cuts in services that increase the anger and make people feel they have a lack of a chance getting anywhere in their life.

No doubt there's no excuse for what people are doing, though there are understandable reasons for anger and feeling they can get away with it. And to be fair they are just doing it because they can get away with it. Doesn't seem like a lot of them are thinking they're proving a political point beyond "Don't tell us what we can do." So I guess the main thing that needs to be thought about is why these people, not just kids, feel so separate from society and what can be done to make them feel more included.

People are doing this out of selfish greed. Parents no longer teach their children right and wrong, and there is always a rationalization for any behavior to make it OK.

Yes, leaders and athletes are greedy (and corrupt in the case of politicians). But using them as an excuse to go and do likewise shouldn't be a rationalization to loot and rob. Was that an excuse for that injured teenager being helped up by several other boys only to be stealthily robbed? Was that an excuse for burning shops, above which innocent people lived? Or robbing people's flats when they fled in terror of mobs?

It's pure greed. This is by no means a UK-only thing, sadly enough, I could see that happening here. There are few moral restraints anymore and people know this and are taking advantage. I think it will only get worse in future.

I blame leaders (who will never change) but even moreso, as a parent, I blame parents. They're not raising their kids right and I'm sure some are even enjoying the bounty their little thieves are bringing home. Because he's entitled to it, you know. The leaders are robbers, why not the kids too?

Two wrongs don't make a right.

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