Date Posted: June 24, 2011
Print Edition: June 24, 2011
I’ve always been a closet fan of riots. I find the idea of arson, civil disobedience, and general hell-raising fairly attractive, even romantic, in the right context. I’d give my left arm to be able to whip my shirt off, set a vehicle on fire, and shout “Freedom or death!” and really mean it.
Which is why I’m a little concerned about that fiasco in Vancouver after Game seven. Now call me a snob if you must, but when I think of riot, I tend to equate it more with “demonstration” than “drunken brawl.” I picture thousands of people uniting to violently protest some moral wrong, not nicking Coach purses and debauching innocent Porta Potties. Ideally, I imagine something that has a common goal, a legitimate reason for existence beyond greed, booze, and unadulterated testosterone.
The pictures are especially troubling. CNN boasts photo after photo of the 18-30 crowd (generally of the XY persuasion) in Canucks jerseys, posing in front of burning cars. Their passionate conviction is obvious, but I can’t help wondering what exactly is so convicting. In several cases, the would-be rioter is also triumphantly waving a Canada flag as if the whole issue is one of national pride. “Come to Canada,” they seem to say, “the beer is good, the women are pretty, and we often burn cars in the streets. Especially if they’re foreign imports.” Some of these people are also pictured jumping over burning vehicles in what is, presumably, an eloquent expression of their frustration with the established order. Other protestors are seen making helpful hand gestures normally only seen at rock concerts, which I can only conclude are meant to express their discontent with our under-funded medical system, the abuse of First Nations’ land rights, and the HST.
Of course, while we’re on the topic of the horrible sales tax, I should probably mention that looting is highly improper rioting behaviour. You see, if rioters are gaining material benefits from rioting, then they lose their ability to claim that they are pure and idealistic citizens forced to act by gross governmental abuse. They can no longer shout “Freedom or Death!” in good conscience, but must instead proclaim “I am here to acquire three or four toaster ovens from London Drugs, which I will subsequently sell on Craigslist under an assumed name*.” These people give their fellows a bad rep; we all know toaster ovens are far too bourgeois for the true radical.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is the events of last Wednesday are hard to describe through logical means. Some claim that we would have had a riot in Vancouver, whatever Game seven’s score, and I tend to agree with them. The riot was, in essence, the combined total of all the tensions of the four playoff series’, motivated by the memory of ‘94, and fueled by a passion which would have been equally overwhelming in victory or defeat. A passion which led to actions with no meaning beyond that passion, no purpose except in the immediate moment.
And that, my friends, is no longer a riot. That’s just plain anarchy.