Yes, these rioters are thugs...

... but understanding why they are thugs is what matters now.

It's not often that the majority of the adult population who comment on youth-related issues are right. But since the riots erupted in Tottenham a week ago today, the youth who have destroyed buildings, set alight random cars and looted shops, have been labelled as "animals" and "thugs" and quite rightly so.

The excuse of government cuts, student tuition fees or the brutality of the police is a farcical and frankly ridiculous vindication for this indiscriminate thuggery.

The killing of Mark Duggan by a policeman in Tottenham last week was indeed the catalyst, but it also acted as a pretext for widespread looting by those who knew nothing about Duggan. One particular masked hoodlum confirmed my accusations about the riotous youth when, upon being asked by a Sky News reporter: "If you're law abiding then you've got no reason to fear the police," he replied: "But I'm not law abiding." No wonder Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester police says he has never witnessed anything like in his life this before in his life.

I tweeted on Saturday evening "# Tottenham is the first of many." I was right, it was all too obvious to me. Like Twitter and Facebook, the youth have become people who follow trends in a profoundly impulsive manner. For these opportunistic youngsters, the prospect of free trainers, TVs and apparently even 'sausage rolls' was something far too irresistible.

My only fear is that the riots may emerge again some time in the near future. It has become clear that sporadic and mass rioting will catch the police of guard if they have no intelligence beforehand. There is only one way to prevent this from happening in the future. Harsh penalties need to be meted out to those found guilty to act as a deterrent to anybody thinking about causing havoc in the future.

Although severe reprimanding may be a preventative measure for future rioting, it will not cure the "sickness" our Prime Minister describes. Ed Miliband believes the causes for the riots are "complicated" and he's right. Yes, these rioters are thugs, but understanding why they are thugs is imperative. Deprivation, government cuts and police brutality may play a small part in it all, but really, it has everything to do with the voracious and egotistical messages espoused to us by various media outlets causing us to behave in such dysfunctional modes.

There has been palpable tension between the police and the youth in many areas in London for years -- especially Tottenham. The chronology dates back to the mid 80s when race riots ensued; the police were accused of institutional racism and, eventually, a policeman was hacked to death by a group of men armed with machetes.

Sherish Aftab, 22, is a London based youth mentor and Secondary School teacher, she said: "First, it [the Tottenham riots] was understandable; then it became ridiculous, and now it's out of control and grim. I say it was understandable at first because I still agree with the initial motive behind the riots. That is, the first protests that took place in Tottenham in retaliation of the police officer shooting Mark Duggan. A lot of young people have always had a vendetta with the police, particularly from areas such as Tottenham, Hackney and Peckham. Incidentally, these are the areas where the riots have taken place. It worries me, as a secondary school teacher, who works with young people from 11-18."

David Cameron put the riots down to a "complete lack of responsibility". Responsibility is one factor yes, but a word more befitting is the ubiquitous and old-fashioned term "respect" - or the lack of it for that matter. The riots have done nothing but confirm the profound egoism and immorality prevalent in many of the youth today.

Indeed, the police do abuse their powers on certain occasions and that needs to be redressed, but the underlying issue why the youth see the police as an anathema is because they don't respect authority. This view is echoed by England footballer Rio Ferdinand who said this week: "It seems these kids/people have no fear or respect for the police."

Miliband described the unruliness as "complicated" and the Prime Minister said "there are things badly wrong in our society." Well, obviously. Disgracefully, three young Asian men were run over and killed in Birmingham amidst the riots. And Mohd Rosli, a Malaysian student studying in London, was another victim of harassment -- after suffering a broken jaw he was robbed by those pretending to help him causing nationwide disquietude.

If anything, the riots will serve to better relations between the various ethnic communities in the country. Take, for example, the group of Sikhs who stood outside Southall Mosque to allow Muslims to pray during the riots. And those who stood up against the riots and decided to clean up the mess on the streets the following mornings. Indeed, we have seen the worst of Britain, but also the best.

Omar Shahid is a freelance journalist currently reading journalism at City University

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I am special and I am worthless: inside the mind of a narcissist

There's been a lot of discussion about narcissists this week. But what does the term actually mean?

Since the rise of Donald Trump, the term “narcissistic” has been cropping up with great regularity in certain sections of the media, including the pages of this journal. I wouldn’t want to comment about an individual I’ve never met, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the troubling psychological health problem of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

People with NPD (which is estimated to affect about 1 per cent of the population) have a characteristic set of personality traits. First, they have a deeply held sense of specialness and entitlement. Male NPD sufferers frequently present as highly egotistical, with an unshakeable sense of their superiority and importance; female sufferers commonly present as eternal victims on whom the world repeatedly inflicts terrible injustices. In both cases, the affected person believes he or she is deserving of privileged treatment, and expects it as a right from those around them.

Second, NPD sufferers have little or no capacity for empathy, and usually relate to other people as objects (as opposed to thinking, feeling beings) whose sole function is to meet the narcissist’s need for special treatment and admiration – known as “supply”. In order to recruit supply, NPD sufferers become highly skilled at manipulating people’s perceptions of them, acting out what is called a “false self” – the glittering high achiever, the indefatigable do-gooder, the pitiable victim.

The third characteristic is termed “splitting”, where the world is experienced in terms of two rigid categories – either Good or Bad – with no areas of grey. As long as others are meeting the narcissist’s need for supply, they are Good, and they find themselves idealised and showered with reciprocal positive affirmation – a process called “love-bombing”. However, if someone criticises or questions the narcissist’s false self, that person becomes Bad, and is subjected to implacable hostility.

It is not known for certain what triggers the disorder. There is likely to be a genetic component, but in many cases early life experiences are the primary cause. Narcissism is a natural phase of child development (as the parents of many teenagers will testify) and its persistence as adult NPD frequently reflects chronic trauma during childhood. Paradoxically for a condition that often manifests as apparent egotism, all NPD sufferers have virtually non-existent self-esteem. This may arise from ongoing emotional neglect on the part of parents or caregivers, or from sustained psychological or sexual abuse.

The common factor is a failure in the development of a healthy sense of self-worth. It is likely that narcissism becomes entrenched as a defence against the deep-seated shame associated with these experiences of being unworthy and valueless.

When surrounded by supply, the NPD sufferer can anaesthetise this horrible sense of shame with the waves of positive regard washing over them. Equally, when another person destabilises that supply (by criticising or questioning the narcissist’s false self) this is highly threatening, and the NPD sufferer will go to practically any lengths to prevent a destabiliser adversely influencing other people’s perceptions of the narcissist.

One of the many tragic aspects of NPD is the invariable lack of insight. A narcissist’s experience of the world is essentially: “I am special; some people love me for this, and are Good; some people hate me for it, and are Bad.” If people with NPD do present to health services, it is usually because of the negative impacts Bad people are having on their life, rather than because they are able to recognise that they have a psychological health problem.

Far more commonly, health professionals end up helping those who have had the misfortune to enter into a supply relationship with an NPD sufferer. Narcissism is one of the most frequent factors in intimate partner and child abuse, as well as workplace bullying. The narcissist depends on the positive affirmation of others to neutralise their own sense of unworthiness. They use others to shore themselves up, and lash out at those who threaten this precarious balance. And they leave a trail of damaged people in their wake. 

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times