June 16, 2011

Why Men Riot

Immediately before Pompeii was covered in lava people were making love. How do we know? They were forever preserved in the act, turned to stone in the heat of passion. Danger does funny things to human beings, reducing us to the rush of chemistry in our blood and brains. There’s no accounting for it.

Rich Lam’s brilliant photograph (below) has everything but the requisite tide of lava. Caught up in a melee, men find themselves doing the strangest things. A fire becomes a primal occasion to beat one’s chest. Glass becomes an outrage to form that must be smashed. Alcohol in the blood turns to heat, and men become defiant. For an indescribable moment, men succumb to the animal inside.

Or so goes the apology. I rather think that last night’s laying waste to Vancouver was rather more organised and wilful than it was primal and forgivable. The men in hockey shirts – from Boston as well as from Vancouver – likely had no interest in the game, but came with the intent of kicking off. The instigators, I will bet my life’s savings, were not swept along by an animal impulse, but were organised, determined, and acting under their own sober (if idiotic) volition. A hockey loss does not cause men to loot Sears (below). A hockey loss does not cause men to attack the CBC or the police. A hockey loss does not lead men to cover their faces, lest they are identified, before casting the first stone.

The British police have known now for several decades that the presence of a crowd will always attract an element that wishes to degenerate it to violence and anarchy, and they have become the best in the world at preventing it at sporting events. (At political events they have recently taken too many leaves from the book of Italian policing). I do not know what the security arrangements were like in downtown Vancouver  last night, but it stands to reason that if 100,000 people gather to watch a game, someone should be watching for the usual suspects. Quite simply, this should not have happened.

Let’s be clear: men don’t riot because they are disappointed. Men don’t riot because they are hockey fans. Men riot because they are easily led by other men who adore violence and chaos. The easily led are weak, pathetic animals, and (I should imagine) soon remorseful. The others are dangerously rational, but lost to civilisation. Something is deeply wrong with them. Let’s not call them hockey fans. Let’s find out who they are, and determine how, through profound failure, our society has produced these sorry excuses for men.


  1. Hello:
    A very level and well considered post. The point which you put forward at the end is one with which we should concur completely. It is, as we see it, imperative that the cause and reason for the behaviour which you, by example, cite here is investigated and that we, as society, take responsibilty to address and eliminate the root of the problem.

    We have always believed that the solution was to be found through education; these days we are less sure

  2. Thank you Hattatts both. I'm not sure of the solution either. Education depends on having the correct educators, in the right pedagogical environment. Maybe we should work on those things.

  3. A really insightful post. As a lifelong Vancouver resident I'm still in shock at the shameful display and the mayhem demonstrated last night.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly that there were malicious forces at work. I also think that a sports team is so very minute in the scope of our planet that it should be no different in the hearts and minds of men the world over. However, the problem seems to be that some boys have forgotten how to become men. In their prolonged adolescence, they have chosen to identify too strongly with the truly insignificant struggle of these heroes. In fact, the truly heroic are ignored by the media and thus by the larger part of the population. The true heroes fight for truth, justice, life and liberty. You may hear the masses exclaim of their idols, "Their fight is my fight!" as though the spoils of these battles is more than mere pride. In the heat of the moment, in the aftermath of glory stolen by the enemy, a stray spark is all that is needed to ignite a wildfire.

    "Men riot because they are easily led by other men who adore violence and chaos." Please, do not forget that men also riot because they oppose those who adore violence and organized oppression. The world is still wild, and men must always be on guard to protect themselves from the corruption called desire and those who have succumbed to temptation.

    This is not what was exemplified in the least. Gandhi's Seven Blunders of the World include among them "pleasure without conscience." These were people that only understood how to destroy for the sake of destruction. Vandalism for the sake of vandalism, theft for the sake of theft, and violence for the sake of violence are a quality of neither human nor animal nature. This was malice in its basest form.

  5. Thank you anon, and well said. I take the point of your middle paragraph, but I wouldn't call a righteous struggle a riot. A legitimate fight is never wanton, I would urge.

    You have peaked my interest with regard to malice. I fear if it is not of animal nature then it must be distinctly human, and therefore something about which we must be vigilant. But I wonder if malice can actually be found in animals. I shall start the search...

  6. True, there is a negative connotation with the term "riot," but that is the way any oppressor would paint his or her rebellious citizenry. No matter the situation, the call for violence should be nonexistent if possible, or a last resort at worst. It would seem that this is often times not the case when two groups clash. Perhaps humankind has a stubborn desire to hold on to the status quo and the cry "un pour tous" is overpowered by "tous pour un." Perhaps the nonviolent answer is simply underwhelming and is lost amidst the myriad conflicts of history.

    In regard to the malicious intent of select humans, I refuse to see anything less than good as the default for my fellow man. However, I must also admit it may not the most accurate worldview. Greed and envy result in pain and despair; pride and fury result in death and delusion. I believe animals have no malice but rather instinct. Kill or be killed is the law of nature as predators must eat and their prey must survive. The law of civilization is much more complex as humans have the capacity for thought in addition to their instincts. With the advent of thought, there was an introduction of a capacity for both good and evil intentions. It should be noted that merely having the capacity for something does not imply that it is the natural state of things. If humankind was naturally wrathful, the species would have killed itself off long ago. If humankind was naturally generous, there may very well be no widespread hunger.

    Human nature aside, there are behavioral rules and guidelines that generally benefit society. Most people are raised such that these guidelines become so ingrained that they are like a second nature. To work against one's nature in the manner demonstrated in Vancouver requires a complete disregard for societal norms and the consequences for the individuals involved. Livelihoods and lives may have been ruined because someone thought it might be "fun" to wreak a little havoc.

    In short, malice is in fact distinctly human, though I do not feel it is a part of human nature. Evil intent lurks in the shadows of the human mind and everyone must be constantly aware of the motivation behind their own actions. If more people had asked themselves, "Why?" there would not have been much to discuss.


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