Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Riot Control
I'm not sure what to make of the UNH riots. On one hand I can understand that people are going to get caught up in the spontaneity of events, but I also think that these events are starting to lose their spontaneity. You can almost set your watch to the next outbreak of riot. It will happen at the next a)Spring Fling, b)Homecoming, c)UNH hockey NCAA appearance. I think the students know this too, and the cops of course which I think creates this feedback loop of expectations. The students know they are going to riot and the cops know there will be a riot so they step up the show of force which steps up the show of student force, etc, etc. Its funny but I think we're going to see the establishment of another Rite of Passage and it will be that all young people before the age of 22 must be involved in some sort of riot. Think about it. The politically inclined will go off and riot against the US, or the World Bank, or the IMF, or some other cause de jure (Free Mumia!) while the not so politically inclined will go and riot over a sports defeat/sports victory. Oddly, the infamous Detroit "Hell Nights" that occur on Halloween seem to have been embraced by student culture and many colleges (including UNH) are now dealing with this particular occasion as an excuse to riot as well. Perhaps the most bizarre reason for student rioting occurred at Indiana when students went berserk to protest the firing of legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight.

What is it with this need to riot? One reason it seems to me is the desire by the young to inject some sense of danger into their otherwise safe lives. Think about the messages that revolve around the campus environment and that seek to govern student actions. Be safe. Engage in Safe Sex. Practice Safe Speech (that's not offensive to others). Take a Safe Rides shuttle if you are wasted, alone, or tired from walking. Listen to your stereo at a safe volume. Etc Etc. Is it any wonder that students commit themselves to unsafe behaviors in the face of ever increasing pleas to stay safe?

My solution to eliminate the big blow ups of danger is to stop the efforts that seek to minimize the little blow ups of danger. Kids who experience the powerful coupling of action & consequence firsthand will have learned a valuable lesson and maybe end up all the wiser in the process. And by no means should this just occur with college age kids. It needs to begin with adolescents. Let kids go and skin their knees and talk trash and get beat up and maybe do some chores and not get every single want satisfied. The more kids fall down and pull themselves back up the more they see that action has consequence: positive and/or negative. The more kids have experience with acting stupid and dealing with the aftermath the wiser they get in the long run. Its dangerous but its human experience. It seems we are driven to sterilize youthful upbringing to a great extent, and then freak out when youth goes against that programming. Why have 'Girls Gone Wild' on Spring Break? Or why do guys act like jackasses to imitate Jackass for example? I don't know but maybe if kids are allowed to be a little wild growing up and deal with those consequences as they come then maybe Going Wild in college will seem all so passe and maybe even a little old and unnecessary.


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