In the last few months, I have listened to the radio and heard about: monks in Burma being dragged away and beaten by the police for protesting the military control of the country; election unrest and long-simmering discontent leading to ethnic cleansing in Kenya; lawyers in Pakistan taking it to the streets over the corruption of the judiciary; and pro-independence Tibetans facing off with the Chinese authorities. This morning, I was lying in bed while the CBC covered the burning and looting that took place last night in Montreal after the Habs won the play-offs.
I am not an advocate of violence against people or property in general, but in looking at this list of events – one of these things does not belong. In all of the other situations, people took to the streets because they were oppressed. In Canada, cop cars get burnt because the home team WINS a game. It makes me sad and, frankly, embarrassed to be Canadian.
My first thought in analyzing this event was that this was an indication of western privilege – it seems like only a nation with the luxury of knowing that you can torch a police car and they won’t open fire into the crowd, and most likely won’t beat you, can riot over something as frivolous as a (won) sporting match. But as I was writing those words, I thought that there have surely been similar riots over soccer in developing countries . . . so I realize that this analysis might be open to challenge.
Setting aside a contention that only rich nations would have the luxury of rioting over hockey games, I think that last night’s activities are still telling that something is just a bit off in the society that we live in. Canadians don’t generally riot, and when compared with the Pakistani lawyers and Burmese monks, it’s a pretty sad event that’s made us rage against the machine. While we do have it pretty good, our nation is not without injustices, and yet it took a professional sporting match to inspire the kind of passion that was exhibited in Montreal last night. That’s sad.