The left blame social deprivation and government under-investment; the right blame a culture of liberal indulgence. Both are correct, but I want to explain exactly why, and how this creates a psychopathic psychology in some of our youngsters.
Listening to young people who are also from deprived backgrounds, asked why they chose not to get involved in the riots, they shrugged and said "Cos I had good parents, I guess". If you want to hear why it's happening, ask those who choose NOT to do it, then the answer will become clearer.
Listening to parents who choose not to discipline their children, one of them said "Because the government doesn't give me the right to be a proper parent". What this parent means, is that because of a culture that defends the right of the child, the parents feels (and in a legal sense, this could be true) that they are subordinate to the rights of their children.
The extention of the rights of the child is one of the major things (as well as women's rights and the rights of gays and ethnic minorities) that seperates modern times from decades such as the 1950s and earlier, when children were beaten behind closed doors. Some on the right wish for a return to those values; it that would be simplistic and lazy thinking, as it ignores the truth that while for some children raised in that environment it enforced a strong discipline and fear of punishment, it gave a green light to any parent of a violent temper to indulge their weaknesses onto their offspring. So let's not return to that era.
The historic result of that was the "baby boomer" generation, who wanted everything to be better for their children; a harmless enough wish, but not when implemented at a goverment-sanctioned level.
The "rights" pendulum swung to the other extreme, where any teacher was obliged to tell social services of any incident of parental violence reported by children. Furthermore, teachers themselves could be reported for any perceived "violence" in the classroom. Added to that, children are legally immune from effective punishment, and those punishments that exist are more influenced by preventative "behavioral science".
In this environment, with children being told that they are worth more than the earth, and at the same time being protected by law from their own parents, a certain psychology develops in the mind of the child. But more on that later.
I should also mention the fact that since the 1950s, and especially in the last thirty years, the gap between the top ten percent and the bottom ten percent has grown to an unbridgeable gulf. It is therefore not surprising if some of the parents at the bottom therefore think that since the government has taken away their rights as parents and transferred them to their children, they have a common excuse to hand the parenting of their children onto the government themselves, and society in general. So a culture of government dependency is born. And also a culture of lack of responsibility. The children raised in the "sink estates have few real chances at the advancement that has been fed into and encouraged by their parents' generation; the frustration grows, with a psychology of interal all-empowerment and external impotence.
So some parents feel disempowered by the law; some parents use that same sense of disempowerment as an excuse to abrogate on their responsibilities; and many parents feel the need to indulge their children (either because they instinctively feel the need to give a better upbringing than they got themselves, or simply through lazy discipline). Either way, it's the children who are psychologically changed from that.
Add something else to this psychological cocktail: as well as the growing gap between rich and poor (by many estimates, one of the largest in the developed world), there is the change in the moral guide that keeps our culture together; I'm talking about amoral materialist capitalism.
This may seem like an easy target, but it's also a pertinent question. Why did so many teenagers go on a mass looting spree (in the French riots, they burned cars rather than looted, although that may also be because their deprived neighbourhoods had so few shops ready to loot) rather than indulge in other violent activities?
They did so because, as many of them put it, it was their way to stick it to the rich and get their own back. For the past thirty years in particular, British culture has been fed a morality of getting rich by any means; the only key to happiness is to get rich, and get lots of stuff. Some on the left blame Thatcher's long legacy for these riots. Again, that's too simplistic, as I've mentioned in the points above; there are a number of components that all need to be in place, rather like a necessary compound to make a dangerous substance.
They all need to be in place in order for this to happen. But now, in August 2011, it DID happen.
So, to summarise: we created a generation of youngsters, many of whom have no sense of right or wrong; who have a sense all-powerful impunity; who feel conversely angry and disconnected from the success enjoyed by those celebrated in the media, and the false sense of opportunity encouraged by their parents.
In other words, these are the bones of the psychology of a psychopath. They are fearless; boundless; and angry.
This is contemporary Britain's bastard creation: a "lost" generation, disconnected from their parents; disconnected from morality; disconnected from material reality. Their only connection is to their peers, the "gang", and whatever they can grab for themselves. Without role models, the only "role model" is the one they create from fake "media reality".
A Clockwork Orange, come to life.