Not your mother's brand of anarchist

Vancouver riot aftermath photos by Parisa Azadi

“Water polo player suspended, accused of rioting in Vancouver”

I read the The Canadian Press headline, June 18, 2011.

Then I heard Mike Smyth get all class “warfare”ish on the radio the day after the riot.  Channeling Bruce Allen and Don Cherry, he claimed there was a political agenda afoot…

“Did you see the cars they went after?  High end.”

So they’ve got the first anarchist…  the son of a Mission doctor… star of the water polo team…  attends an elite private school called Meadowridge Academy.

Maybe, the kid was channeling Malcolm MacDowell in the great “IF“.  Or maybe he was just a drunk jock, charged up on playoff hockey, in from the ‘burbs to wreak havoc.

Whatever… They made anarchists different in my day…  Do you think it might have been Mike Smyth who had the political agenda?

We're number one

Put liquor, drugs, testosterone, jerks and sports fanaticism together in one four block space.  Mix, then add Don Cherry.

Is anyone surprised a riot occurred?

Vancouver is no different than any other large, metropolitan area in the developed world.   And we’ve just learned that the things that cause riots in those other cities cause riots here.

So learn from it.  Maybe it’s a bad idea to put 100,000 young men downtown with bars open all day.  Maybe hockey’s no different than soccer and other sports where fanaticism leads to idiocy.  Maybe people from the region and province who want to party safely downtown should pay.  Maybe the bar owners and hockey franchises should, too.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Figure it out before the next playoff.

But there’s another lesson Vancouver needs to learn from the riot.

We’re not exceptional.  Vancouver is no different.  The same problems there are the same problems here.

We are not special.  But we think we are.  That’s our biggest problem. 

We’re like the Americans of Canada, too full of our exceptionalism to see what’s really going on all around us.

You don’t have to dig deep to see a lot of Vancouver’s problems sitting in the trash today along with the burned jerseys.  Daphne Brahmin in the Sun remarked on the issues made evident by the riot, particularly the enormous and still growing economic divide that more than anything dominates our city.

But it doesn’t end there…  From housing and homelessness to cultural infrastructure and architecture… from environment to playgrounds and modern transportation to our corporate culture Vancouver is just plain mediocre.  We are not the best place on earth.

There is more community spirit in Brooklyn than the whole of our city.  Montreal is more fun, more alive and greener.  Chicago has better public spaces and Portland has better bookstores.  Barcelona protects and renews its heritage and Recife houses people.  And just about everywhere has better public transit.

What do we do instead?

If you think about it, since 2001 – and under the direction of the BC Liberal government – Vancouver’s spent a lot of its money and most of its energies building a city that’s dependent upon short lived spectacles and mass gatherings.

It’s a case of exceptionalism run wild: We are the “best place on earth…”  so “Let’s show the world.”

And the day before yesterday we had a riot when it went wrong.   We showed them.

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