london : read them the riot act?

Mobs and riots are not exactly new phenomenon. It’s had some water under the bridge, most of it undrinkable, to draw on. When the capital of the Roman empire moved to the East, the mob, at Byzantium rioted with unparalleled violence, egged on by oligarchs and factions in politics and religion. For centuries the mob has arose and destroyed, tearing down buildings, pillaging, burning and howling as it went.

---Officers from Thames Valley, Essex, Kent, Surrey and City of London were drafted in to support the Met. But apparent "copycat" riots continued to spread in the wake of Tottenham's riots on Saturday precipitated by the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan, 29, a father of four, last Thursday. So far 225 people have been arrested and 36 charged. The violence erupted in daylight in Hackney, east London, where police confronted rioters hurling missiles and setting fire to bins and cars. One officer could be seen lying on the ground after being struck on his shield by a missile.---Read More: image:

In the summer of 1780, London erupted. By June 7, the city was a sea of flames; the prisons were broken open; the breweries were looted, and the gutters flowed with beer. In these Gordon Riots as they were called, Roman Catholic chapels and households were first desecrated, then wrecked and finally burned. Among the rioters at least 285 were shot dead, 173 wounded, and 450 taken prisoner. These, were unusual only in their extent. There had been wild rioting, burning and looting in the 1760’s and 70’s; in 1733, 1736 and 1753 London had been at the mercy of mobs, as it had been time and time again during the previous century.---Unlike the rich, lower class people have to depend on others for survival, Keltner argued. So they learn “prosocial behaviors.” They read people better, empathize more with others, and they give more to those in need.  That’s the moral of Capra movies like “You Can’t Take It With You,” in which a plutocrat comes to learn the value of community and family. But Keltner, author of the book “Born To Be Good: The Science of A Meaningful Life,” doesn’t rely on sentiment to make his case.  He points to his own research and that of others. For example, lower class subjects are better at deciphering the emotions of people in photographs than are rich people. ---Read More: image:

In the case of a riot,its hard to put reason over passion. It seems like a somewhat lofty human aspiration that can possibly be attained but will have to combat and negotiate various passions, often dark emotions, symbolic fields of perception and good ole’ animal instinct. The nature of the beast. Perhaps with more reason the London rioters would havoc Hampstead and West London instead of torching their neighborhood. The standard position of psychologists is to claim that these mass gatherings ensure cover for the release of rage. But what about the home life, the domestic existence of this fragmented and disconnected youth? So, it reasons that similar feelings can manifest themselves in several contexts. The only certainty is that its complicated and a bit dicey to comprehend what in actuality is unfolding.

Alexander:In one test, for example, Keltner and other colleagues had 115 people play the “dictator game,” a standard trial of economic behavior. “Dictators” were paired with an unseen partner, given ten “points” that represented money, and told they could share as many or as few of the points with the partner as they desired. Lower-class participants gave more even after controlling for gender, age or ethnicity. image:

Brian Alexander:Psychologist and social scientist Dacher Keltner says the rich really are different, and not in a good way: Their life experience makes them less empathetic, less altruistic, and generally more selfish.In fact, he says, the philosophical battle over economics, taxes, debt ceilings and defaults that are now roiling the stock market is partly rooted in an upper class “ideology of self-interest.”

“We have now done 12 separate studies measuring empathy in every way imaginable, social behavior in every way, and some work on compassion and it’s the same story,” he said. “Lower class people just show more empathy, more prosocial behavior, more compassion, no matter how you look at it.” Read More:

Dec, 2009:Poor people who are desperate for cash have been advised to go forth and shoplift from major stores - by an Anglican priest. The Rev Tim Jones said in his Sunday sermon that stealing from successful shops was preferable to burglary, robbery or prostitution. He told parishioners it would not break the eighth commandment 'thou shalt not steal' because it 'is permissible for those who are in desperate situations to take food that they might not starve'. But his advice was roundly condemned by police and the local Tory MP. Father Jones, 42, was discussing Mary and the birth of Jesus when he went on to the subject of how poor and vulnerable people cope in the run-up to Christmas. 'My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift,' he told his stunned congregation at St Lawrence and St Hilda in York Read more: image:

Not only in London but in town throughout the kingdom generations of Englishmen had to learn to live with riots as they did with disease or death. It became part of the nature of society. Nor was rioting an Englishman’s vice; across the channel they were just as violent. In the 1620’s, 30’s and 40’s France erupted in bloody riots that, in Normandy, finally turned into a Peasant’s war.  For the rest of the century scarecely a year passed without mobs coming out in the streets of some provincial town or of Paris itself. They wreaked their vengeance on those whom they thought responsible for their misery.

---A bus was torched in Peckham as police struggled to respond to the spread of sporadic incidents. Witnesses said a 100-strong mob cheered as a shop in the centre of Peckham was torched and one masked thug shouted: "The West End's going down next." A baker's next door was also alight. One onlooker said: "The mob were just standing there cheering and laughing. Others were just watching on from their homes open-mouthed in horror." A trail of bins and abandoned vehicles were ablaze in Lewisham. At Clapham junction, looters – some as young as 14 – moved from shop to shop laughing as they smashed shop windows and clearing shelves of stock, unimpeded by over-burdened police.--- Read More: image:

The London riots again showed the individual as an  emotional being, but also someone to be thought of as symbolic; people who have invested their lives with meanings beyond the immediate.  Consumerist brands , for example Apple or Louis Vuitton help bridge that link in a similar way that sports brands do.  Somehow how we feel about these brands is a reflection of our inner state of the economy, and when things break down its a devastation when the symbolism is linked to brands, materialism, desire and the unattainable. The reality is the hard times endure. So, one can attempt to concentrate on  real satisfactions, pleasures, in a real actual life; or take the slippery slope of fantasy and illusion, dispersing  to symbols that appear to be a panacea.  But, it really only seems to pacify something more latent and profound to a brief instant and it has a sharp point. We don’t need the academics to remind us that we are vu

able  to our feelings and the symbols and the various interpretations that embody them.

Watts 1965. ---Alexander:Then there is the problem of Tea Partiers’ own class position. While they are funded by the wealthy, many do not identify themselves as wealthy (though there is dispute on the real demographics). Still, a strong allegiance to the American Dream can lead even regular folks to overestimate their own self-reliance in the same way as rich people. image:

Alexander:…published this week in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, argue that “upper-class rank perceptions trigger a focus away from the context toward the self….” In other words, rich people are more likely to think about themselves. “They think that economic success and political outcomes, and personal outcomes, have to do with individual behavior, a good work ethic,” said Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Because the rich gloss over the ways family connections, money and education helped, they come to denigrate the role of government and vigorously oppose taxes to fund it. “I will quote from the Tea Party hero Ayn Rand: “‘It is the morality of altruism that men have to reject,’” he said….

Alexander:There is one interesting piece of evidence showing that many rich people may not be selfish as much as willfully clueless, and therefore unable to make the cognitive link between need and resources. Last year, research at Duke and Harvard universities showed that regardless of political affiliation or income, Americans tended to think wealth distribution ought to be more equal. The problem? Rich people wrongly believed it already was. image:

…Whether or not Keltner is right, there certainly is a “let them cake” vibe in the air. Last week The New York Times reported on booming sales of luxury goods, with stores keeping waiting lists for $9,000 coats and the former chairman of Saks saying, “If a designer shoe goes up from $800 to $860, who notices?” Read More:

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