1. the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings
Rioting – pshaw – that’s old stuff and yet people are getting so exercised about it that you’d think this is the first time in history that assholes had torn apart cities and towns to satisfy their own selfish whims.
Yes, we could regard rioting in such a dismissive manner. When I lived in England in 1981 there were vicious and frightening riots in the Toxteth area of Liverpool, and horrific ones in Brixton, London. These riots were blamed on such esoterica as the ‘reactionary’ viciousness of Mrs. Thatcher, poverty and (always) racism. There is likely validity to all such excuses.
Paris has, of course, always been riot-central in Europe. “Aux barricades citoyens!” was first cried out in the 1848 revolution in the French capital, as paving stones were ripped up and les citoyens took to the streets to thwart injustice.
They didn’t succeed then, and they haven’t succeeded since. And therein lies the farce in such ghastly little bits of destructive ‘street theatre.’ That is, that the repressive overlords always win, one way or another. So, rioters in St. Petersburg in 1917 chucked out a Tsar, and then they turfed an inept moderately democratic provisional government, and replaced it all with a regime that was going to make tsarist days seem benevolent.
The fatal flaw in any manner of rioting is that it is ill-directed and primarily wounds ordinary people. That is exactly what happened in London (and other UK cities) recently, and it is exactly what happened in Vancouver a while back with the (as yet unpunished and will probably remain unpunished thanks to our inept legal system) so-called Stanley Cup Riot.
All the overprivileged young assholes (sorry, but ‘assholes’ is about the most benevolent descriptor I could manage here) accomplished was to terrorize the innocent; honest merchants cowering in their stores and eateries while punks ravaged what they had worked to develop.
What motivates these pricks and prickettes (for there’s goils in the mix, too)? I have no idea. But what character flaw to they demonstrate to a one? That is easy: A complete and pathological lack of empathy!
They cannot ‘get’ that people live and work in these neighborhoods. Did the yobs in London truly think that the PM, the Lord Mayor or all the titled and overindulged jerks of the realm were inconvenienced by their actions in the way that residents, shop owners and cops were? If they actually thought that, then schools are failing the young even more egregiously than one thinks they might be. As for the motivations of the drunken hockey revelers in Vancouver, I have absolutely no idea of what influenced them other than surfeits of alcohol, paucity of brain cells, and spoiled-rottenness.
But, it is lack of empathy that brings about such things. Privileged pups that have never faced real adversity themselves but are quite happy to wreak it on others in the name of – oh, I don’t know. Really I don’t.
It’s the same impulse that leads to wanton vandalism, obnoxious graffiti taggings and, yep, even littering. It’s all flagrant disregard for the happiness of one’s fellows.
So, yes, we can throw the bastards in jail, and I have no problem with that. But at the end of the day that doesn’t address the fundamental illness that causes these people to “let slip the dogs of war and cry havoc.”
That illness is the loss of empathy in our society.
I don’t know what to do about that. Do you?