Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Everyone has a theory no one has an answer

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The Independent Online

Last week Darell Desuze, 17, admitted the manslaughter of Richard Mannington Bowes, 68, in Ealing. Bowes tried to talk sense to crazed rioters last year, was attacked and later died. It was a savage crime, one of many committed over those frightening days. Desuze will be sentenced next month by the judge, who said he would take into account the context when passing judgement. Good luck to m'lud. Even his considerable cerebrum may find it somewhat testing to sum up the context, contested daily by every sector of society and an unending line of headmen and specialists.

Mayor Boris Johnson has blamed our educators and wants strategic control of failing schools in London, a number of which he claims are "chillingly bad". It is a pitch for re-election and also Boris being plain daft. True, some pupils leave sink schools and, well, just sink. However, there is no evidence that the young people who rioted were illiterate and innumerate or that some bracing Latin might have tamed them. The very next day Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, turned on "lax" mums and dads, who expect teachers to be surrogate parents, and double standards: "Bad behaviour and violence is condemned but endlessly available as entertainment." Some of this analysis is compelling – on their bonfires of vanities, winners, like Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell, have tossed good manners and consideration and the burden on many teachers breaks both backs and will. But again schools can't simply shift all responsibility elsewhere.

Camila Batmanghelidjh, who works with some of the nation's most troubled young people, wants us to understand why kids go bad: "It's repeated humiliation, being continually dispossessed in a society rich with possession." Two weeks ago outside Topshop in Oxford Street, I saw people camping, not anti-capitalist protesters as I thought, but capitalism's fools, desperate for new Nike trainers. These consumers have had their brains occupied. They are what they must own. Those who can't buy will take. The panel probing the riots criticises aggressive advertising targeting teens. For a maniacally pro-business Coalition, the messages will be dismissed.

Which makes one ask, is it to do with how the ruling Tories were parented and schooled? Raised by über-businessmen and frightfully society-conscious mums must have left their little hearts undernourished surely. And then to go to schools where bullying or warlike competition is seen as leadership, what hope did they have? Avaricious bankers were similarly made, not born that way. When Chancellor George Osborne can only give to those up high and kick away the weak walls of benefits for those under his feet, the poor chap can't help it. Toffs and street gangsters are more alike than they would care to be. Neither lot know how to care about society, the pain and destruction they cause and both are without any conscience.