I just got off the phone with a friend of mine in Vancouver. No, that’s a lie. After I hung up the phone, before I sat down at my computer, I wept. The events that took place after last night’s hockey game have left many in shock and despair, myself included. I feel shaken and disturbed by the gravity of the violence, but most of all, I feel humbled. We like to consider ourselves civilized. We walk around and talk as if we’ve evolved past our most primitive instincts, and yet it is clear we have not. You can put shoes and lipstick on a lion, but it does not make her any less vicious. It is in a lion’s nature to be violent and fight for survival. Humans also have the capacity to be violent and at some point it did help us survive as a species. However, we have also developed this incredible gift called intellect. This gift allows us to save food for the winter, to work together and share resources and, arguably, it allows us to love. We have this incredible ability to project into another person’s experience, to imagine their struggle as our own, to empathize and want to help them—these are uniquely human qualities. In my opinion, they are what make us human. When we suppress this nature, when we indulge in fear and anger, I'm not sure I know what we are. We certainly aren’t embracing our humanity, but I'm not sure I'd say we’re animals either. An animals’ intent is pure, they are simply doing what they need to do to survive. We, on the other hand, have the luxury of living with the fruits of intellect: technology, science and entertainment. We no longer need to live in fear of being eaten by a lion in the middle of the night. We no longer need to kill a boar with our bare hands. In fact, most modern citizens couldn't bring themselves to do such an act. So if we have this beautiful capacity for compassion, what does it mean when we don’t use it? Or beyond that, when we destroy it? It would be arrogant for me to blame the rioters. I can’t say I don’t feel angry, but mostly I feel a deep sadness. To imagine seeing the world in my own image and wanting to destroy it so desperately and passionately must be a painful existence. To live a life with that much repressed anger and aggression is almost beyond my comprehension, but still I try to understand. It’s not a simple problem; certainly not one with any easy solutions. But in order to understand it, we must not isolate the so-called perpetrators. There are the people enacting the violence outwardly and then there is a society that supports repression and socially acceptable violence. Our media is infested with violence, and I don’t mean reports on murders. I mean gossip, dishonorable discourse and objectification. On some level, I am embarrassed at how shocked I am. Why should I be? The signs of our deluded sense of civilization are everywhere. We are constantly being told we’re not good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, rich enough, whatever enough—we are essentially fed fear. Then we are taught to be tough, to control our emotions, to be polite, follow the rules, but at what cost? Sure, we have a false sense of predictability, but as we now see that only holds so much weight. If we’re taught never to question and understand ourselves, how can we know what to do when we feel deep feelings of loss, isolation and despair? It may seem trivial (and on some level it is) to get worked up over a hockey game, but to many it’s so much more than that—it’s a sense of community, of belonging, identity and power. When you mix the fear of losing those things with effects of alcohol, you get a recipe for primitive angst. Not to mention, a sprinkle of unexpressed and misunderstood male hormones.
I have stopped weeping now. The act of writing has helped to some extent, though the more I contemplate it, the more I realize how complex an issue it really is. It is easy to find reasons or explanations and it feels good to believe it could be that simple, but it’s not. To truly understand why violence and destruction exists, we need to close our textbooks, abandon our theories, and look inside. It exists in all of us, in different ways, in different forms, and to deny it is to stifle our only chance at evolving through it. Judging those with less emotional maturity, less emotional resources, and less intellectual vision is not the answer. Uncovering those parts of ourselves and learning to love is.
As for my friend in Vancouver, her car got trashed and torched. Her computer, wallet and the clothes inside were burned to a crisp. She and others have been collecting photos of the culprits doing the act, including one of a girl flashing the peace sign in front of the burning vehicle. I feel sad for my friend and her loss, but I know she’ll be okay. I know she will learn from it and work to build her emotional fortitude because of it. I’m not so sure what will happen to the people in the photos though. I can only hope they will also learn from this experience, that the weight of their acts will awaken their conscience. I also hope the weight of these acts will awaken consciousness in all of us. We are not as civilized as we think, and we need to grow up, otherwise we’ll end up destroying ourselves.