Re: London riots—where’s the careful listening?

Social psychologist and author Meg Barker offers her thoughts about the London riots and the media's frequent use of the word "mindless."

In an attempt to make sense of the destruction caused by the recent rioting and looting in London, some in the media and politics have been referring to the rioters as “mindless thugs,” among other labels, says Barker.

However she says writing off the rioters as mindless individuals is a cop-out. She says using this label creates an “us versus them” paradigm. This dehumanizes the rioters and negates any hope of understanding the sources of their discontent. She proposes “careful listening” as a form of political action instead.

She writes:

Careful listening is one key aspect of mindfulness, which is generally translated as a form of deep awareness and full attention. When we listen carefully we are less likely to fall into our usual automatic responses, or to act from a single perspective, trapped in categories and ignorant of context. We are more likely to be aware of the full, complex, human beings behind various actions, and the multiple meanings that these events will have for them.

Baker says one of the motivations behind the riots may well be a lack of listening. To read more of her post on this issue, click here.