The anatomy of rage.

Do we really understand the causes of riots?  For all the analysis we do, can we really fathom the minds and attitudes of anarchists?  Why are Tottenham and other parts of England burning?  Why did the letdown of the Stanley Cup finals produce lawlessness in Vancouver?  What does smashing store windows have to do with the G20 in Toronto?  Why did Greeks riot against their government in Athens?  What formula is producing the Arab Spring?

Isolating and questioning an individual participant, after the infusion of endorphins has subsided, leaves us with fewer answers than questions. Is it the mob mentality that prevails?  Though some answers are obvious.  Watching a television interview with a British politician about the growing unrest in England, you have a bloody good idea of part of their problem—politicians who have no understanding of the desperation among those they are supposed to represent.  The invasive racism in that country is a constant stepping stone to troubles.  The mouldering class structure of the English themselves leaves you wondering at such a dysfunctional society.  Admire England’s past if you wish, but with so many of them living in that past, you stand back aghast at its present.

Social despair is a quagmire from which few can pull free.  Even among the riches of Vancouver, the social outcasts of the Gas Town scene spoil for a chance to fight back.  In the black mood and disappointment of the Stanley Cup finals, it was the few who lit the fuse on the emotions of others.

At the G20, it was the easily identified anarchists who chivvied a few street people to join their fun and they did their damage while the police let us down.  When they did act, the police took out their rage on the gawkers and justice was brutalized.

The Greeks are more of a challenge to understand.  Nobody wants to take their medicine—especially when you lack trust in the prescribing doctor.  When their autocratic leaders acquiesced to the European Community’s fiscal demands, the Greeks got mad.  It is hard to lay blame in that one.

The Arab Spring, as it has been dubbed, is actually easier to understand.  The Arabs of North Africa, for example, were more than aware of the differences of life style between their countries and Europe.  They want more.  Throughout the Middle East, their news media taunt the subjugated.  They are rebelling against their opressors.  Just bear in mind that revolutions are a process, not an end.  There will be much to watch for in the following Arab seasons.

But Canadians are hardly benign subjects of the Queen.  In John Porter’s Vertical Mosaic, some 50 years ago, he said we are complacent because we can ship our disaffected to the United States.  That is certainly no longer the case.  We have to learn to live with each other.  We have to understand ourselves.  Next time you see someone drive away from a gas station without paying, are you going to say, under your breath, ‘Good for you. Fuck the greedy oil companies!’?


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