Thoughts on a riot

I’m from Vancouver.  So, even though I’m not a hockey fan, after the Canucks were the best in the league in the regular season (and by a record-breaking margin), it was disappointing that they didn’t win the Stanley Cup.

It was much, much more disappointing to wake up the next morning, and find that there had been a riot.  Particularly when, after the 1994 riot, the city had planned well (well, maybe), and had had such a great time with the Olympics and the six previous games.

The disaster was somewhat mitigated by the spontaneous cleanup crews the next morning, and the “Love Wall.”  (And, you’ve undoubtedly seen “The Kiss.”)

The riot was rendered more disastrous by the subsequent social media vigilanteism.

Actually, riots and social media have a lot in common.  In both cases, they seem to be driven by people wanting to get “in on the action.”  What actually creates a riot in a city, or “viral” in social media, doesn’t seem to be predictable, although, in both cases, lots of people are willing to explain, after the fact, why they should have been foreseen.  (Stereotypical black swans, in both cases.)  A wonderful piece in the Vancouver Sun notes that the same blame placement; on hooligans, outsiders, and a new technology; was used to explain the Paris riot of 1789.

In fact, that idea of “outsiders” seems to run through almost all of the articles and opinion pieces spawned by the riot.  Canucks fans say “it wasn’t us,” residents of Vancouver say “it wasn’t us,” and people who don’t live in Vancouver say “we didn’t have a riot: it wasn’t us.”  (I remember flying into Chicago and landing in the midst of a riot.  They burned quite a few cars, trucks, and buses, and had quite widespread looting.  In that case it was because the Bulls had won.)

Every time I read that kind of thing, I am reminder of what Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, quite some time ago, in “The Gulag Archipelago”: “If only it were all so simple!  If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

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  • Lots of Evil

    But, there were lots of evil people involved.

    They were the hundreds of people standing around the rioters doing nothing to stop it. But laughing and videotaping it with their phones.

    Just because police exist doesn’t mean that you have no moral requirement to intervene.

    This was as embarrassing as the recent beating of that girl in the McDonalds in the US – where the staff and management stood by and videotaped the assault instead of stopping it.