Sunday, August 14, 2011
Riots are fun
Protests are boring. Marching around in the hot sun, waving a sign, confined to a “free speech zone,” and ignored by the media. There’s not much to recommend it.
Riots are fun. There’s a lot of running around, noise and excitement. You get to throw rocks. There’s adrenaline and danger. Rioters match wits with the authorities and skirmish with the cops. Better yet, riots get things done. The powers that be can’t ignore a riot like they can a protest. The press covers it.
If you do riot, you’d better win. No half measures work. You’ve got to keep it up until your goals are realized. The backlash for failure isn’t good: police violence, prison time, the tightening of a police state. The average Joe, timid during the best of times, will cry out in fear for the government to do something. The something they do will be a harsh crackdown and disappearance of human rights. The sheeple will cheer them on too, at least at first.
History has taught us that civil unrest and discontent can be squashed with some judicious violence at the right place and time. It worked for Napoleon, and we know how that turned out for France in the long run. Napoleon was willing turn his cannon the citizens and it made his career. That lesson hasn’t been lost. Squashing riots and being the tough guy is a way to power. The citizens are usually worse off than they were before.
Riots, even though they are fun and all, are a risky way of initiating political change. It’s one thing to fight City Hall. It’s another thing to burn down the whole city. Riots are messy. Plenty of the wrong people suffer. Small shop keepers and business people aren’t the enemy, but are the ones who’s windows get smashed in.
Riots are the tactic of the powerless. People who feel the system works for them don’t riot. If they feel they have some influence on their leaders, they use the normal processes. If votes don’t count, representatives don’t represent, and the elite are deaf to grievances, conditions are then ripe for civil unrest.
Well, that and riots are fun. It puts a bit of life in an otherwise drab existence. Then there’s the chance to do a bit of looting and get some of those nice things you can never afford. Nothing like a bit of free range Socialism.
This is a cautionary tale. Keep your eyes open. When the incentives to riot are greater than the obvious downsides, trouble’s coming.