Young men protesting, rioting, looting and punching people

Recent weeks and months have seen a remarkable escalation of emotions spread around the world. I won’t go into why, what it means and what may happen next, at least not here.

What this recent period has made me realize is that the propensity of young men to “express” themselves through violence is a human universal, only this time around it has found a somewhat new, very thin, veneer under which to mask itself as being “different this time” than in other instances (such as French students protesting hikes in student fees).

First of all, this is about violence, about physical confrontation including vandalism and damage of property. While women protest plenty, it took a man at women’s march in Edmonton to actually throw a punch (at a woman). For men, physical confrontation is not only a key part of their “expressing themselves”, it seems to be innate.

Senseless violence of football hooligans in Europe has been around forever. Young men in Belgrade schedule to fight each others because they root for Partizan or Red Star and young men in Croatia do the same, only club names are different. And this goes on as much or worse in Latin America or Africa. And in Canada, the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver in 2012 were not even against any other team - young men were simply mad that their team lost and “expressed themselves” by trashing the city.

Young men have a “solution looking for a problem”. The “solution” is pointless and at its core, agenda-free, violence and just about any “problem” will do.

When it comes to who these young men are, they are mostly in their 20s and 30s with some younger and very few older than that. While there is no study that I am aware of as to their social status, race or other demographics, I would be willing to guess (and bet) that most are of lower social status, unmarried and without children. (Or to put it more bluntly, I very much doubt that the typical “anarchist” throwing a brick through a Starbucks window is working on his Master’s thesis, has two children at home that he provides for and listens to Mozart while moving in “poetically kinetic block box” through the streets. On this last point, angry, violent music seems to be a vital component of the emotional gestalt that accompanies the behavior).

What has been different lately is that the “cause” in the name of which violence claims to be justified has moved closer to heightened emotions of society’s mainstream so on November 9th, young people protested under signs of "Love Trumps Hate" and #notmypresident. I doubt that there was much forethought in latching on to that “cause” by young men who want to be violent but they instinctively latched on to it once they realized that under that banner, there is a lot more that one can get away with. 

And then the coup de grace came when some neo-nazis emerged and certain things (including supporters of the American President) were labelled as “fascists”. Because those things are so abhorrent, the “logic of steel” is that anything including violence is justified when applied against something that heinous and “dangerous”. A beautiful symbiotic “relationship” emerged where marginalized and disgruntled young men seeking attention declared themselves “neo-nazis” or white supremacists and other similarly marginalized young men stood up to fight against that. 

One of the things that prompted that realization for me was that a young man I know told me that “some of his friends recently came out of the closet as neo-nazis”. That made me wonder - how does that happen - somebody you have known for a while, went to a concert with and hung out with all of sudden declares that they are a neo-nazi now. I have 800 “friends” on Facebook, 1,200 contacts on LinkedIn and over 4,000 Contacts. For the 10% of those that I know best, I am very sure none of them will tomorrow show up wearing a brown shirt and shout “Heil” anything. 

Each side does some elementary “education” on what the concepts of fascism and nazism are and armed with those goes on to fight the good fight. They learn along the way to co-opt other things that nobody can possibly object to such as opposing oppression of minorities, which has to be resisted militantly or “speaking truth to power” - that is a particularly difficult one to oppose in any way as it is such a universal (though unexamined) “value”. “If you disagree with me, you are speaking from your privilege.” Your actual beliefs and values, your personal history and behavior over the course of your life do not matter - you are a white male therefore you are privileged through your race and gender. Much social media rancor ensues, some store windows are smashed and police responds “disproportionately” by pepper spraying them and throwing stun grenades which is a clear indication in their own minds that society at large is simply not aware of the mortal danger that the things they violently oppose represent.

Yelling “oppression” is the easiest club to join. The bar is very low and it takes no qualifications to accuse others of oppression through their mere existence. 

Thankfully, as with most things concerning disgruntled young men, none of it lasts for very long; anarchism is very hard to organize (!) and it eventually dies down and they go back to listening to angry music and playing violent video games.  Until the next “obvious outrage” emerges that can make them look for that black skull face bandana that they can courageously hide their face behind while they set a limo belonging to a hard working immigrant on fire because what is more obvious than black stretch limos as symbols of power which needs to hear the truth of a torch being spoken to it.  


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