I'm horrified by the rioting but I can't say I'm surprised at it. Trouble has been simmering away in the background for years.
Before I go any further I apologise for adding my opinion to the 100 million opinions on this topic that have already been expressed in print, on blogs, in pubs, amongst friends and so on.
I would also like to remind anyone who reads this that explanations are not justifications. Just because I try to understand why people riot does not mean that I condone their actions. In fact I'd definitely fight back if my community was threatened.
What I am curious about is the mindset of the rioters. What is going on in their heads? How do they justify their actions? They no doubt do; they might not be educated but they are not stupid. How do they see the world they find themselves in?
These are uncomfortable questions for us all because we love to demonise others. It is one of the great dirty pleasures of being human. I do it myself. Three or four pints of beer and I 'm saying all chavs/NOW reporters/social workers/traffic wardens/public school boys/fruit and veg traders/ local council officials/Daily Mail readers/Co-op Bank staff/psychiatrists/Jeremy Clarksons or whoever else has happened to upset me during the day should be shot, tortured, castrated, sent to live in Coalville, and worse. Ranting is such fun! No doubt a scientist will tell us 'research shows it activates the pleasure centres of the brain'. But scientists are just a bunch of f...g geeks aren't they?
Demonising is a process that is opposed to empathising. Empathising is what I'm talking about. What would be interesting would be to hear what rioters say about themselves and their actions. Of course this would not be popular, but it might help us to diagnose the sickness that afflicts our society.
Another note: empathy is not sympathy.
In the course of adult life I've talked to quite a lot of bad and mad people and have found it illuminating to discover their paranoid views of the universe, that is the real or imaginary entities that are their demons. These include Galactic conspirators, the Mekon, Muslims, anyone from Africa, Social Services, the Illuminati, the Marcone, Communists, Capitalists, Zionists, the Insect People, Irishmen...It's hard to distinguish the insane from the political and the religious.
Likewise with the rioting tribes: they will have a shared view of the world , they will have their demons. Knowing what these are will be help solve the problems we face collectively. We can guess what some of these are: the police, immigrants, the middle classes and so on. The rioters are part of the great stinking, sticky mass of discontent, anger, frustration, depression, envy, greed, that sits in the middle of our society, that we all contribute to. It needs to be dealt with before - and this is my great fear- it is exploited by political extremists. Check out history and be frightened.
Apologies if I sound like a vicar or an opinion column in the Independent.