I’m not going to write about what I think about the riot. I’m going to write about what I think about what other people think about the riot. Maybe I’m foolish in thinking that I can detach myself from the whole situation and write a “meta-reaction” blog…I’ll take the risk for the sake of peanut butter bloggy time.
In reading the below, please do not misinterpret me: I’m very pleased at the overwhelming response that Vancouverites have given this issue. Everyone is publicly shaming the individuals with family, friends, and colleagues. Online, there are half a dozen websites up with photos and videos of the rioters published so that people can identify them to the police. Facebook statuses, Twitter tweets, and online blogs all decry the actions. There was a voluntary clean-up Downtown this morning. People have written messages of hope on the plywood boards currently covering up smashed windows.
Having said all that, allow me the privilege of reacting to the reactions.
This whole situation has reminded me of the phrase: “Every village needs its idiot.” I’m not sure that’s even a saying, but it sounds like one.
What fascinates me is not so much that villages have idiots, why they exist, how many there are, or where they come from. But that a village NEEDS them–that a village without an idiot can’t be called a village at all. (That is not at all the intention of the phrase, I don’t think, but I’m using it that way.) Of course by village, I mean a society that is big enough that not all members know one another: like a city, or the population of Canuck fans.
Reading everyone’s rants and philosophical opinions, I’ve noticed how we have a need to feel morally superior to others—and when an opportunity comes to bask in our superiority, we actually become quite relentless in it. The anti-riot comments seem so widespread and so intense that I wonder if there’s more at stake here than simply condemning the rioters. I mean, isn’t one of the reasons people watch Jersey Shore or follow the failings of celebrities they don’t even know personally is so that they look down other people? Or so that they drown their own problems in the failings of others? I wonder if this happens at the individual or community level, or both. It’s like “Othering” but with legitimate moral backing. Edit (June 20): Check out this blog by a UBC professor to see more of what I mean.
I’ve also watched the process of public shaming, so integral to us as a society, unfold before me. John S. Mill says that there are two great forms of tyranny: political and social tyranny. Social pressures can be just as tyrannical as a government’s laws and need to be safeguarded against. However, Mill actually found certain social pressures to be beneficial to society—anti-riot pressures would be one of them. I agree, and I think we’re doing quite a good job at it so far!
Another reason we might need idiots is for entertainment. A question that is quite embarrassing to ask, but perhaps should be asked: to what extent did the rioters accomplish what they set out to do? To what extent did they entertain us? And does it matter if they did? Let’s face it, we just watched a 0-4 game that just kept on dragging on and on…we live in a young city just coming to terms with its bigger role on the global stage and looking for some historical moments….the comedians of the day act like idiots to make us laugh….Hey, just asking.
And to keep up with the village theme, do villages care about what other villages think about them? Is it possible we are slightly blowing things out of proportion? I know, I know, it was a terrible day for Vancouver. I also realize that we will naturally care more about our kitten stuck up in tree than anonymous children starving on the other side of the earth because that’s the way geography works. But I’m wondering if we are being slightly “Canadian” in our reactions of worrying about our image so much. Some of the comments I’ve seen reflect more of a mourning over good publicity than anything else…which then leads to questions like: why aren’t we more embarrassed by the fact that BC has the highest rate of child poverty in the country? Why this event? I think the answers to this question tie back into what I was talking about earlier.
I’m going to end this blog without a proper ending and just slip into bed. ‘Night all! But share any thoughts.