Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Most People Are Missing About the Events in Ferguson

“Rioting-the unbeatable high
Adrenalin shoots your nerves to the sky
Everyone knows this town is gonna blow
And it's all gonna blow right now:.

Now you can smash all the windows that you want
All you really need are some friends and a rock
Throwing a brick never felt so damn good
Smash more glass
Scream with a laugh
And wallow with the crowds
Watch them kicking peoples' ass

But you get to the place
Where the real slave-drivers live
It's walled off by the riot squad
Aiming guns right at your head
So you turn right around
And play right into their hands
And set your own neighborhood
Burning to the ground instead"   - “Riot”, Dead Kennedys

The mainstream media has gone full retard yet again, this time focusing their attentions on the shooting and subsequent civil unrest in Ferguson, MO. Since things have settled down there somewhat, I think it’s worth talking about now that people are likely to be less emotional about it.

Many things bug me about this situation, but not so much the things that the news is mostly talking about. They’re almost completely fixated on the shooting, protests, and rioting without digging any deeper. So let’s ignore the shooting that sparked the protests and the riots for the time being. Yes the idea of a potentially suspicious police shooting bugs me, but none of us outside the active participants (and perhaps the Ferguson PD and local and state officials) know yet what really happened. The media and the government want you to focus mostly on the event itself, so you get distracted and waste energy watching the whole thing and arguing with other people who also don’t really know what happened (but who still insist that they do). As I said a while back, there’s no point getting really worked up about things beyond your circle of control.

One thing that really bugs me is that there’s little, if any, mention of the economic and environmental factors that provided the fuel for the unrest. Poverty, slowly eroding standards of living, high unemployment, steadily decreasing prospects for meaningful employment in the future, and a local government (of which law enforcement officers are a part) which tends to be indifferent at best and hostile at worst. Say that this same shooting had happened in an economically thriving, or at least stable, environment. Would we see this level of violence from the people in that community? Not bloody likely. What we have is people pushed to the margins, seeing no hope for the future, and feeling frustrated at being left out of the promised “American Dream”. Over time this leads to apathy and resentment, and left long enough it festers into something rather unpleasant. For many people it leads into developing a victim mentality as a defense mechanism, where feeling that events are beyond one's control makes it easier to not accept responsibility for one's life. For a smaller percentage of the population, the victim mentality might lead to anger at their situation and a sort of “screw ‘em, the rules are against me so I might as well take what I can when I can” kind of mental justification. And then there is that even smaller percentage of people that include predators and sociopaths, those who’d steal and commit violence any time the opportunity presents itself. And when it does the others, those who aren’t necessarily predators or sociopaths but ARE angry and resentful, will tend to participate in the rioting upon seeing others doing the same. In other words, when observing others taking part in the rioting and violence they start viewing the activity as more socially acceptable. Herd behavior at its worst. 

Even so, the majority of that community is not stealing or damaging property or trying to start trouble with the police, they are either protesting peacefully and/or trying to continue to live their lives. It’s a rather small percentage of that community (with perhaps some outside agitators) that’s behind the violence and damage. And that’s rather scary when you think about it, that the stability of our communities and societies can be so easily disrupted by a relatively small percentage of the population. So my concern here is that we have more and more cities and communities with these economic and environmental factors in common with Ferguson, each of which is a potential bonfire that only needs some random triggering spark to ignite it. It doesn’t matter what the triggering event is; only that it occurs.

So how established is this trend and is there any realistic expectation it will reverse soon? Well given the unsustainable debt situation and looming energy crunch, I suspect the economic/environmental factors to actually get worse rather than improve. A lot of people want to blame Obama, or Congress, or the Democrats, or the Republicans, but really the situation is beyond them. It’s a systemic problem at work; their recent actions and political BS may be aggravating an already bad situation, but aren’t the root cause of the mess.

So if the bad economic/environmental factors are here to stay for a while, where does that leave us to potentially decrease the odds of further riots, civil unrest, and mass violence? In my mind, it means the only thing left is to focus on improving peoples’ reactions to hardship. As I said in the last post, our reactions are just as or more critical to the end outcome as the hardship itself. And to improve our reactions to adversity, more of us need to change our thinking, take responsibility in our lives, and remove ourselves from the broken system as much as is feasible. The less people we have thinking like victims, the more people we will have who will act as a counterbalance to the predators and opportunistic sociopaths seeking to make trouble. But if the majority continue to stay asleep and be easily led, the only answer to the violence and riots will be to let the growing police state handle it their way. The way that involves violence and killing, oppressive new laws, loss of all privacy due to mass domestic surveillance, restrictions on firearms ownership, mandatory curfews, and perhaps in the worst places, martial law. 

And for those in fear of their homes, businesses, and personal safety, please don’t look to the government for help, because their “help” will include the measures above. Ultimately it’s up to you AND your community at large to protect yourselves and your property. Sure there are still some good police officers out there, but by the very nature of their job they can usually only respond to criminal activity after the fact, not be in place to prevent it. A few dozen neighbors and business owners all relaxing on their porches or rooftops with tasty beverages in one hand and shotguns in the other, however, is a peaceful deterrent that few police forces can match.

Or alternately, you can wuss out and move to Canada....

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