Whilst reading about the London Riots I decided to write down my 2cents worth of thoughts about the matter. I am reading stuff now and of course what I read shows (and very rightfully) a sense of indignation, loss, despair and helplessness. People trying to react, some successfully – some not so successfully. The riot cleanup campaigns are in full blast, however people, especially outsiders are on the hunt for excuses, for justifications and for explanations of why this is all happening.
But I ask myself, are there? I mean rather than are there… can we just pinpoint this to one simple excuse or is this much more complex, much more than is apparent to the onlooker or to the people who are outside the circles of those stricken by the riots?
I have looked at the Twitter hashtag for London Riots and I was amazed and at times horrified reading about people bragging about their loots on this social network. Videos have been posted about the lootings, people are happy. Some people are commenting, this is real life ‘Grand Theft Auto’.
And then – lo an behold – there is the great justification. The rioters are all youngsters, kids as young as 11??!! and this has all happened because of Social Media and the impact it has on spreading rage, or information. This has all happened because our kids are playing these violent games, they are addicted to these games. This all happened because parents are not in control of their kids – could it be because parents work and therefore they don’t know where their kids are or what they are doing??!!!!
And again my thoughts on these ‘justifications’ if they can be so-called are that such excuses are completely irrational and they simply scratch the surface of deeper social problems. Connections, networks and the spread of virtually anything, both physically, emotionally and even meta-physically have existed since the birth of man. Phenomena, such as these which we are seeing now, have existed throughout the ages. The only difference is that now we have the means to really get a glimpse into what is going on in people’s lives all across the globe. The only difference is that now people feel they are connected across separate geographical distances. This isn’t about games, or the fact that kids or adults (which statistically represent the higher percentage of gamers across the globe) are immersed in these alternate realities. Because that is what most games do – and most gamers are aware of this – games allow you to create a reality which cannot be recreated physically. If there are people with mental problems who cannot distinguish the real from the virtual or the unreal, they will still react negatively irrespective of whether they play or not.
Journalists and commentators have remarked on the fact that Social Media and technology are to blame… just read a twitter comment which said: “Just heard Chief of Manchester Police (I think) describing young people with BlackBerries as ‘ants’ who must be ‘punished’. Don’t like this.” This is beyond the level of acceptance. Technology is revealing. Technology is connecting. Technology is the means… it is not the end.
These riots, revolutions, uprisals or whatever you want to call them, have been with us throughout decades, centuries and millennia. They will be with us for as long as we have members of the society leading a dissatisfied life. Maybe we should try to dig deeper and try to find the cause of this dissatisfaction. Although I would say that even that is too complex to contemplate. Because human nature is complex and the way people are connected is complex. The ways these connections affect people’s behaviour is something which is not dependent on one person, but on the whole network. What we can do is to think about how technology, which is pervasive and here to stay, can mitigate the threats that we as complex human beings create. And yet… that is more food for thought.