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Vancouver riots: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Many are wondering how a crowd coming out to watch a spectator sport could turn into a mob. An article in the Huffington Post actually thinks that last night's riot occurred because of Canadians are angry at losing a hockey game. Really?  Are we that shallow? Some are blaming it on a small group of troublemakers who mixed youthful exuberance and alcohol.  Let's look at that.

Alcohol, our legal drug of choice, seems to bring out the beast in us - removing inhibitions and revealing a truer face. Certainly alcohol played a part - but it only brought forth something already there.

Given the number of people involved though there was more going on than just a few troublemakers.  It would seem that most were  spectators watching the more violent performers on the street. The entertainment was not on ice, on the political podium or on a screen, it was on plain old concrete: Hi-Res,Up close,  Interactive, and Real.

The onlookers seemed to be continuing to feed their insatiable need to watch others perform. Since the riot had the architecture of a mass entertainment event there also seemed to be a need for spectators to post these performance photos as well as the photos of themselves watching the spectacle to websites like Tumblr and Facebook.

Social Media and privacy pundits must be aghast.  Seems like the crowd is not so smart after all. The police now have more incriminating information than they can possibly process. Even stupid people use social media.

It would seem that these riots, like behavioural training of consumerism, or an insatiable drive for recognition of status or power, are a surfacing the widespread lack of a meaningful existence. But, hey, if folks want to use their one short lifetime as a sentient being to behave like their monkey cousins, then that is their choice. Our civility and sanity has proven itself to be a thin veneer covering something darker, more animal, more reptilian. This is probably very disturbing for most Canadians who have come to accept the Canadian Brand as their own - Polite, Civil, Apologetic.

No, this was not about hockey. This was a warning about the society that we are becoming and we are disturbed by the image in the mirror. We will clean up the streets. There will be no trace of the eruption - but the underlying malaise won't go away.

Are we really that empty? One could understand non-violent civil disobedience over something that actually matters like the fact that BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. Apparently we live in a democracy and will eventually get around to doing something about that. Did I mention that an article on that was released today?

The opportunity here is for Vancouverites and Canadians to consider if the spectacle of a hockey game or a riot is considered more important than child poverty? How does that affect our collective image in the mirror?

So now we must confront the same shadow that haunts all of humanity and in this reckoning there is hope.  In places like Egypt and Tunisia, the youth rebelled for the freedom of democracy - for what we already have. With that freedom, some Canadian youth took to wrecking their city after a hockey game and then took photos of it!

I guess they must be bored. Perhaps the meaninglessness of a narcissistic life based on consumerism and worshiping celebrity is catching up with us.

On the otherside, a lot of people who love this city are getting out on a beautiful day and working together to restore the fabric and streets of their community. There is still nothing better than a barn raising to deepen wisdom, build relationships and move through tragedy. These citizens are not bored. They are engaged. They are not spectators of society and life, they are active participants in it. These are the folks that care.

While it is clear that we can be shallow destructive creatures, it may seem paradoxical that we are also capable of such deep love, wonderous art and the ability to ponder the magnificence of the universe (and ofcourse appreciating a well played game of hockey).  Let us clean up the mess and get on with making a better city and world as we learn from our shadow. Go Canucks.

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