Beware the Mob

Since the Vancouver Cup riots on Wednesday I’ve heard a lot of denials.  The rioters weren’t Vancouverites.   The rioters weren’t hockey fans.  I don’t think that is true.  Not that I’m pointing the finger at people in Vancouver or hockey fans.  No it is something quite a bit scarier.

Mobs happen and they can happen anywhere.

I believe that people are essentially good.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a healthy respect for the mob.  The Romans knew this by the end of the Republic, but there seems to be a sense that people today are better.  Boy, it would be nice if that were true.  Sure, we are better educated and togas have mostly gone out of fashion, but our natures are pretty much identical.

Take a crowd.  Add in elevated emotions.  The arrogance and immortality of youth.  Sautee in alcohol.  Brew is a society where binge drinking during a party a minor acts of vandalism are not condoned, but not slapped down hard.  Then you just need a single instigator to escalate from stupidity to tragedy.

Then you’ve got a mob.  You’ve got the instigators.  You’ve got the next rungs down who are just following the lead of the instigators.  You’ve got the people enjoy watching.  And finally the ones who are just following along – pulled by the current.  The bright and sober get the heck out of there, but there are fewer than you think because once started the mob is contagious.

What kind of people are in the mob?  Mostly they are young and drunk, but only because it is the young and drunk who are out partying in the first place.  People who are disgusted with themselves on Thursday were within the mob on Wednesday.  Folks that would normally sit and watch the coverage like we did and wonder how that could happen anywhere.

Mobs happen.  And a giant mob of vandals is about the best kind you can expect.  The mobs ire can turn on people as easily as on cars.  It can sustain itself over days and weeks.  It can continue without alcohol.  It can spread to more than just the young.

It is comforting to think that the mob is somewhere else, but it surrounds us.  It isn’t just others.  It is us.

But before I end on such a down note.  We are also surrounded by the opposite.  By communities of the type that showed up on Thursday to clean up.   A mob is mindless.  A community contains thought and compassion.  Let’s encourage communities because they are are best defense against the mob…


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