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Vancouver Riots

Posted on 16 June 2011

It’s ironic that I spent part of game six discussing man’s inhumanity to man.

I was at a pub watching with some friends. As Vancouver failed to rally, we started talking real estate, which of course led to a discussion of a post-apocalyptic society (caused by some sort of physical disaster or complete economic collapse worldwide). On the one hand was the optimistic view that even in the face of this sort of thing, people were generally good and would rally together. On the other hand, and the side I was arguing for, was the view that all it would take is a few bad apples to take the lead and the rest would follow.

Who knew that game seven would provide a case study into this discussion?

I may be reading too much into this. Many people have argued most of the destruction was at the hands of a minority, that it’s not indicative of the “true Vancouver” and that many people have rallied around the city to help identify the troublemakers and help clean up the destruction.

Fair enough. But I don’t think you can ignore what happened.

Alcohol aside, angry-young-man syndrome aside, here’s what we have. For several hours, a city that is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world, in a country that prides itself on freedom, equality, and non-violence descended into a scene of looting and destruction. Over a hockey game.

If these people, minority though they may be, turned that dark that quickly over something so trivial, what do you suppose the odds are they would keep their heads in the event of a real disaster? Or in the face of a prolonged period of chaos? These people were doing this while they  (presumably) had homes to go to, jobs to attend, ready access to food and fresh water, and the visible presence of law enforcement. How would they behave in a darker situation? How many others would join them?

It’s not nice to think about, but there is a darker side to human nature. If there wasn’t, we wouldn’t need laws because situations would never arise where we need to punish people. And it may be a minority of people, but the historic and global balance shows that even this supposed minority are able to tip things enough to create very bad situations for large portions of their fellow human beings. Discrimination. Oppression. Ethnic cleansing.

At my most optimistic, I like to think that there are some bad people, some good people, and the rest fall in-between. They keep their heads down and do what seems to be the best route to survival. We saw that last night. We had the rioters: those destroying buildings, overturning cars, starting fires. We had the heroes: the people who, unarmed and unpaid, stepped in the way of the destruction, asked and demanded that the rioters stop, appealed to reason.

Today, in this country at least,  it’s those people with reason who have largely won. The law prevailed, the mess is being cleaned, and justice is hopefully being served. But again, this was an isolated incident, a temporary flash over a trivial subject in a city and country with the means to do something about it. I’d like to believe that if those means, if those resources, if those laws and rules were to erode or disappear the crowd would gravitate towards those asking for reason. And there is evidence to think they would.

But in light of what we saw last night the question we need to ask ourselves– how dark would it get before we saw the light?

Filed under: Best Of, Canada

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