Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Why Riot?

I’m still away from home – down in inland southern California where it’s about 110 degrees (you may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not). Right now, I’m hiding from the heat, indoors with the air-conditioning going strong.

It’s a good time to think about when and why people seem to put themselves in a less-than-comfortable situation such as a protest or even a riot. Recently, riots have erupted all around the world – London, the middle-east, France, and right here in the USA (although not TOO out of hand for the most part). Let’s, for now, overlook the criminal behavior that oftentimes erupts from these events so that we can concentrate on the reasons the events happen in the first place. I certainly don’t intend to do some sort of exhaustive, academic treatise on the subject, but just to explore a couple of thoughts.

I’ve written about this a bit before, but let’s take it a little further. People protest when they feel that “the system” isn’t working for them. They riot when they feel helpless – as if the only thing they can do is to lash out – often against whatever target is handy – even if it’s wildly inappropriate or even counterproductive. These often savage actions arise when a crowd has decided, some individually and some only because they go along, that there is nothing else to do.

In the past, many of these uprisings have led to bloody revolutions – or at least attempts at such. In the past, insulated, uncaring governments (monarchies, dictatorships, oligarchies, etc.) have concentrated power and wealth more and more until the lower classes saw such a dismal future that they felt they had to act. What else was there to do? Vote?!?

So now we, at least in the so-called western world, have the power to vote. But what has changed? Well, some important things, to be sure. But our democracy has been around long enough to have been finessed, schmoozed, and finally taken over by the most powerful. This is true not only of the U.S., but many European democracies as well.

Many feel themselves back in the same-old situation – oppression by the powerful. And they have voted, but the options in the elections are basically red corporate dominance… or blue corporate dominance.

So what’s left? Futile acts of mob violence, directed (or misdirected) at almost random, meaningless targets. I’m not defending this, nor in any way supporting it, but this is what happens.

Again I find myself wanting to call for unified, LEGAL action. We the oppressed cannot simply strike out blindly. Instead, we have to identify the lies that have got us here – such as, “With lower taxes, corporations will create jobs,” and then get this information out to the people. Then we must, as a people (in whatever country you reside) REJECT any politician who forwards these lies.

It’s time for economic as well as social myths to be shattered. This won’t bring an end to violence, but it will surely diminish. We don’t have to be helpless.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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One thought on “Why Riot?

  1. Great post Tom.

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