Has anybody learned anything from the riots? The responses across the political spectrum suggest that people are reading into the events what they need to see to reinforce their prejudices. This is happening to me to: I am warming to Ed Miliband with his soothing words about diverse families and immoral bankers, and snorting involuntarily as Nadine Dorreys tells us about the Good and Bad uses of Twitter, as though she had barely left kindergarten.
In times of stress it is predictable that we will cling more strongly to what we know, rather than being opening to new ideas. The research into brain function initiated by Colin Firth as a playful attempt to discover what was biologically wrong with people who didn't agree with him in fact generated interesting results about the security levels of those who identify with Labour or Conservative world-views.
Clearly, I am not a neuro-expert, but it appears that the amygdala, the primitive part of the brain that was found to be enlarged amongst Tory voters, is associated with the foundation of emotional memories, and how we relate these to our responses. if the neuro-scientists will forgive me, I would like to suggest that this relates to our decisions about what should make us afraid and how we should act as a consequence.
The performance by a range of Conservative spokespersons in the past fortnight can be read as a live demonstration of their insecurity and need for strict boundaries. When we hear Iain Duncan Smith being so firm about the difference between Right and Wrong we should remember that, as a Catholic, he believes that these are clear categories determined by the Pope. For his emotional security he needs to believe that, just as he needed to join the army to gain some sense of structure.
Similarly, the talk of absent fathers is interesting coming from politicians whose busy work schedule makes it questionable how much they can really be there for their own children, and whose fathers were also presumably rarely present. For those who were sent early to boarding schools, family life must be something they yearned for, a yearning they are now happy to project onto others.
Might it be going too far to suggest that joining a political party is itself like joining a gang. Each party has its own code, its own set of firm beliefs, a togetherness gained from adversity - except for the Green Party they even have a whipping system to prevent failures of group loyalty. Nothing can repair the damage caused by a dysfunctional childhood, but clinging to a dogmatic belief system can certainly help you feel less insecure.