Vancouver hockey riot is a symptom of a larger problem

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      We've heard a lot of reasons (excuses?) batted around as to why last night's post-Cup riot happened. A very outraged man on the radio this morning blamed the whole thing on faulty parenting. Others look at the idiocy of city politicians for inviting 100,000 people into the downtown core, TransLink for ramping up service to a peninsula with limited escape routes, and the provincial order to close downtown liquor stores at 4 p.m., ensuring that those in attendance would be drunk before they even arrived. You can also look to the mainstream media for hyping up this series to unheard-of proportions and constantly reminding the populace of the infamous 1994 Stanley Cup riots.

      But maybe what we have is just a sick fucking culture. Maybe as a society, we've simply become borderline psychotic. You only need to ride a bus to see what an angry group of people we’ve become. We're rude, we're snotty, we don't talk or engage with each other. We've created the stupidest generation: a barely literate group of narcissists who don't know how to take care of themselves, but are like military-trained experts when it comes to tagging themselves in Facebook photos.

      From all reports, there was a small group of young hooligans determined to riot and smash 'n' grab no matter what the outcome of the game was. Several sites have been set up to post pictures, Facebook screencaps, and video of morons proudly declaring their involvement in the violence. Should we be surprised? And doesn’t it seem a little obvious that there was never going to be a good outcome, regardless of who won? At 4:30 p.m. the streets of the downtown core were already simmering with the dangerous and hair-trigger emotions of the mob, and all that emotion—good or bad—was going to be purged, somewhere, somehow. In the weeks leading up to the final, the magnitude of our bizarre, tribal attachment to a hockey team became more and more clear. And it exceeds far beyond a natural and healthy spirit of competitiveness or an appreciation of the beauty of the game itself. It’s pathological. It’s monstrously unhealthy. And it speaks to a monumental emptiness at the heart of our culture.

      So, why are there so many hungry souls out there, ready and willing to bring chaos down on the so-called most livable city on the planet? In reality, matters have only gotten much worse politically and economically since 1994, and Generation Y has been delivered into a beyond-callous world facing a perfect storm of crises. They know it. What does the future look like for the average 20 year old? It's a depressing, empty place where they can't get decent-paying (let alone secure) jobs or ever have a hope of owning property. Can you imagine how much more fearful and angry they would be if they fully comprehended the seriousness of peak oil?

      And yet despite the terminal condition of a socio-economic superstructure hurtling towards the edge of a cliff while wondering if it even has enough gas to get there, the market rolls on, plundering the public coffers and starving the arts and education, producing a society that is spiritually malnourished but not sensitive enough to ask why. Meanwhile, we have dissonant messages relentlessly beamed into our heads: wealth is good, the poor have nobody but themselves to blame, personal devices make you happy, war is peace, “Save money, live better”, Don Cherry deserves your attention and respect, and have some pride in your Canucks. Because what the fuck else have you got going for you?

      The market practices institutional violence on every single one of us, every day, just by virtue of existing. It's not the game of hockey that's the problem; it's the capitalistic appropriation of our national pastime. It's the myriad of advertisers trotting out the "I am Canadian!" sentiments in order to sell products. It's the message we are force-fed that if we don’t pay attention to the spectacle, we are somehow disenfranching ourselves. That's the way advertising has always worked: make people insecure about a fictional problem, and then sell them the fix.

      This isn’t to excuse the rioters, and we should remember and praise those who were there, and who resisted, and who did the right thing. There's a powerful clip on YouTube right now of two men—one in a Canucks jersey, one not—trying to prevent assholes from smashing out the windows of the Bay downtown. They have some initial success, but then the non-jerseyed man pushes a rioter back and gets beaten for his efforts.

      But we can’t just blame a few “bad apples.” This riot didn't happen on its own. Society as a whole ensured that it was the only outcome, starting with the assumption that our over-amped if not war-like passion for something as inconsequential as a hockey game is appropriate to begin with, let alone officially sanctioned. But hey, it’s a fucking goldmine for advertisers and a hell of a vacuum to suck in a growing population of bored, distracted, disassociated, and quietly despairing Lower Mainlanders marinated in the hegemony of cheap sensation, and governed by institutions hostile to art, truth, and beauty. It’s a problem that, as always, starts at the very top.

      The wrong questions will inevitably get asked in the wake of all this, and the wrong solutions applied. Expect “tougher policing”, and a ramped up culture of intolerance in a city that already turns a blind-eye to a tsunami of social ills. The VPD—which was quick to blame the violence on "criminals, anarchists, and thugs"—is encouraging anyone with high-resolution pictures to email them to the department, but is that really what we want to become? Yes, last night's violence was inexcusable and the offenders should be prosecuted, but the slope towards becoming a Big Brother-like society where we tattle on our neighbours is already slippery enough. Wouldn't it be preferable to live in a society in which we actually knew our neighbours to begin with? To know and trust the people around us to act like responsible individuals? To enjoy a culture of mutual respect rather than suspicion, hyper-competition, and meaningless interaction mediated through our phones and iPads? All we're doing right now is gawking at city-sanctioned spectacles—or plugging in our headphones so we can ignore each other.

      There was a beautiful outpouring of love and support for our fair city this morning as hundreds of volunteers took to the streets to help clean up the terrible mess from last night. We do have the capacity to be kind, gentle, thoughtful individuals, and, hopefully, we can begin to repair the damage to our tarnished reputation. Unfortunately, there's no simple band-aid solution that will fix a sick society. The symptoms are clearly manifesting but, without facing up to the fact that there is an overarching problem, there is absolutely no chance for us to heal. But perhaps the first step towards solving this systemic problem is to acknowledge the fact that there is actually something wrong with us.


      You can follow Miranda Nelson on Twitter at @charenton_. Adrian Mack is too cool for Twitter but you can read his extensive archive of articles here.


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      Jun 16, 2011 at 3:30pm

      "Seriously man... try optimism - it's intoxicating."

      Darryl, intoxication is part of the problem. Try realism. It's sobering.

      Excellent article, too.

      5 3Rating: +2


      Jun 16, 2011 at 3:43pm

      To suggest that today's society is vastly more f'd up than any previous to it is nonsensical. This kind of thing has been happening for time immemorial and the only difference now is the technology that gives us the ability to spread the spectacle faster than ever before.

      What is wrong with us? We are human. Sheer statistics coupled with the randomness of nature dictates that among us there will be a choice few who have the tendency to become irrational and "stupid". Even amidst this and all other spectacles however it can be seen that the vast majority of us condemn the kind of behaviour seen last night and that is what matters.

      2 0Rating: +2

      Peter F

      Jun 16, 2011 at 4:00pm

      Inciting riots is what the Black Bloc do and in the case of the "powerful clip on YouTube right now of two men" it is obvious that the "fans" were in fact organized anarchist. Sworn to cause mayheim and damage to property and not to individuals, if you watch the video closely the rioters (many with their faces covered) quickly swarm the man. Then a female black bloc with a mask on tells her anarchist warriors to leave the man alone. Soon the area is empty. Although I am impressed with their military order, it sickens me that young folk would dedicate their lives to such chaos.

      For me, however I will remember the many that tried to protect property against the anarchists. That shielded Boston Bruin fans from drunken dicks. As well as the thousands that showed up the next morning to help clean up the mess made by others. We are a big city. I will not ignore the ugly parts but I will certainly embrace the many positive people in our community.

      1 4Rating: -3

      Miranda Nelson

      Jun 16, 2011 at 4:08pm

      @Peter F For the record, the "black bloc" is NOT a group of people. It is a set of tactics used by individuals or groups in protest situations.

      From Wikipedia: "A black bloc is a tactic for protests and marches, whereby individuals wear black clothing, scarves, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding or other face-concealing items and often carry some sort of shields and truncheons. The clothing is used to avoid being identified, and to, theoretically, appear as one large mass, promoting solidarity."

      There is no organization calling itself "the Black Bloc" that is masterminding events like this. It is not "obvious" that these people were "anarchists" either. While you wouldn't know it from the way the mainstream media frames events, anarchists do NOT destroy property for no reason. Anarchism is a thought-out political ideology. Unfortunately the term is now used loosely to describe anyone who causes property crime, disagrees with the government, or acts contrary to public order. Noam Chomsky writes about this kind of framing language at length.

      3 2Rating: +1

      Patrick Crowe

      Jun 16, 2011 at 4:11pm

      Bullshit!! When facsimiles of these thugs kick in your door, rob you and rape your women will you have an over analyzed, sympathetic response to explain their deplorable actions? I thought not.
      Stick your psychology degrees up your ass and buy shotguns. They will be coming! The police can't protect you.

      6 0Rating: +6

      Another Canuck Fan

      Jun 16, 2011 at 4:12pm

      "Wouldn't it be preferable to live in a society in which we actually knew our neighbours to begin with?"

      I thought I knew him but then he burned my car, took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook.

      "To know and trust the people around us to act like responsible individuals?"

      Yeah, I know, it really bums me out that my parole officer doesn't trust me.

      "To enjoy a culture of mutual respect rather than suspicion, hyper-competition, and meaningless interaction mediated through our phones and iPads?"

      I can't afford an iPad but yeah, my girlfriend is always going through the inbox of my cell.

      All we're doing right now is gawking at city-sanctioned spectacles—or plugging in our headphones so we can ignore each other.

      You're right, I'm going to have to think about all of this in a much wider scope.

      Those looters and arsonist should get much more genuine social interaction.

      Great article.

      0 5Rating: -5


      Jun 16, 2011 at 4:15pm

      I never noticed until yesterday, through the lens of the 2011 playoffs, that virtually no-one in the 1994 riots was wearing Canucks gear. Look at the playoffs (and riots) today, it was a sea of jerseys, flags, stickers, pants, hats, mascots and on and on. Obviously fans are no more passionate today than they were in 1994, but it speaks to the sentiment you've expressed here. Well written.

      0 8Rating: -8


      Jun 16, 2011 at 4:18pm

      "Society as a whole ensured that it was the only outcome, starting with the assumption that our over-amped if not war-like passion for something as inconsequential as a hockey game is appropriate to begin with, let alone officially sanctioned. "
      Didn't read the entire article but this is so true!
      I am seriously tired of all this hockey talk as if hockey is some kind of most important event of all!
      Vancouverites should really get out more and do stuff. Instead of talk about hockey non-stop. This obsession needs to stop.

      The problem with this "world class city" though is that there is absolutely nothing to do here. Zilch. Big nada. Idiotic bylaws for liquor and live events have insured that we now have secured the label of no fun city. The juiceboy mayor needs to step it up a notch. His bike lanes are great, but they don't make this rained out village a world class anything.

      1 1Rating: 0

      DP Ludwig

      Jun 16, 2011 at 4:18pm

      I checked out Miranda Nelson's Georgia Strait blog/writer profile, she had a picture she obviously put some effort into making. How many attempts did it take her to come up with that?

      And for her to say that she enjoys whiskey but dislikes throwing up whiskey in an attempt to be witty / amusing / funny smacks of self absorption.

      Her comment on narcissism is quite telling. Takes one narcissist to know one, eh.

      6 7Rating: -1


      Jun 16, 2011 at 4:23pm

      This article and the comments that follow are laughable. "Riots happen after a sporting event. Reasons? Obviously everyone younger than us is an idiot with a rage problem and is living an empty life."

      I think you authors (please keep in mind I use that term loosely. My young cousin is an author in my eyes, having taken home her first drawing of the family from kindergarten) have over-analysed this event into such twisted radical depths, that I am convinced it's satire of other left-wing publications.

      "This event couldn't possibly be a case of mob mentallity or a miniscule percentage of the more than 100,000 fans that showed up being assholes. No it is a product of our sick culture." Nevermind the fact that sporting riots have been around since the middle-ages (think soccer) and were far more violent even a few decades ago. Despite the fact that many cities throughout hockey history have had riots after hockey upsets. Despite the fact that you "authors" are writing an extremely biased article that is quick to throw out sensationalist sweeping statements.

      I appreciate the acknowledgement of the pitfalls of a consumerist culture that is moving towards a right-wing government, but please, for the sake of the magazine you write for and the poor souls that stumble upon your articles, try thinking a bit more before spouting stupidity such as I've just finished reading. There are more productive solutions to the issues you are upset with than poor writing.

      2 1Rating: +1