I do not follow hockey, but I have many friends in both Boston and Vancouver and they have been keeping me apprised as to the progress of the recent Cup Final games between the two teams – The Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks.
I must confess, I was less interested in the outcome of the final game in Vancouver than what followed. Canadian fans took to the streets to vent their anger at having lost to Boston. Many people were injured by the rioters, one critically. Police vehicles were overturned, rocks thrown at police, cars burned, stores broken into and looted. It apparently did not matter to the losing team that they were in fact destroying their own city - they were angry and someone had to pay.
Team sports on the sporting field
When I was a kid in the 50’s, sports were a pretty benign pastime. As a boy, football was the roughest sport. (In the UK, soccer has long been regarded as a sport for gentlemen, played by ruffians and Rugby has been regarded as a sport for ruffians, played by gentlemen. And there is a great deal of truth in this, at least in the UK. American football enjoys a position somewhere in the middle.)
Occasionally, there were injuries. But they were minor and, for the most part, unintentional.
I believe that this is still largely the case in school sports but, over the years, things have changed at the professional level. Sports fans may well say that this is largely because there is more at stake. Players and team owners who lose a game, lose considerable income. Heightened concern by those whose incomes depend upon the game is understandable; however, what of the fans? Unless they are actually betting on a game, they have nothing to lose, save personal pride. Yet the involvement in the game that we see today amongst fans is beyond zeal. In fact it is in some cases quite disturbing.
Team sports in the street
To be fair, I can still go down to my local Cricket pitch and watch a match and not feel in the least bit threatened, but big-city, professional competitions are another matter.
In America, fans paint their faces and bodies a la Braveheart, shake their fists and angrily yell at the opposing team and its fans. The UK is no better, having become famous for soccer hooligans who frequently tear down the fencing to get at the opposing team’s fans. Fights are common and enraged fans storm the field on occasion.
Throughout the world, sporting events have become a mid-ground activity between normal socializing and warfare. This is hard to imagine in a world that presently has more than its share of real warfare to worry about, yet, the fact is, the frustration and violence is escalating. Vancouver is only the latest example of this trend.
Team sports in the political arena
Interestingly, the world of politics is following a parallel trend. The “fans” in this case – the voters – no longer focus on the finer points of party principles. Instead, they tend to follow their chosen party so blindly that they refuse to even acknowledge when their own “team” blatantly violates its stated principles.
Further, in place of the sober, objective reporting that we could count on in years past, the media has increasingly favoured programmes that focus on heated arguments between – not only the candidates – but also the reporters themselves. It is not uncommon to see three or four reporters all yelling at once – assuring that no one point of view will be fully heard and considered. As senseless (and useless) as this reporting is, this type of programming now enjoys the highest ratings.
Where is this headed?
The logical conclusion of the above is that society in general – throughout the First World – is becoming increasingly reactionary, increasingly irresponsible and (most distressing) increasingly tribal in its behaviour. But why be concerned? After all, it’s just a game, true?
Strictly speaking, yes, but it is indicative of a pervasive social trend. Reactionary, irresponsible, tribal behaviour is a very real concern at a time when the First World is experiencing what I term as The Great Unraveling – the collapse of the monetary and political stability of the ruling countries (and societies) of the world.
The social deterioration is occurring at a rather dangerous time for the free world.
We have been predicting for many years that, as The Great Unraveling takes shape, one of the bi-products will be increased violence, particularly in population centres. This will be inevitable as the problems will be greatest wherever the population is concentrated. Cities invariably have more people on the dole, more people who are unemployed, more people who live hand to mouth and, most importantly, an existing acceptance of a higher level of crime.
As a British West Indian living in the quiet Caribbean, it could be argued that my view on this development is hampered by a lack of direct understanding of the nature of street violence in general, and, city rioting in particular. Fair comment. So, let’s go back a bit.
I attended college in the US – in Boston, in the 1960’s. During that time, Martin Luther King was murdered. At the time I was shocked by this event, but I didn’t hesitate to go out on the street afterward. This was a mistake. The event had triggered spontaneous riots in several areas of the city. They began much like the recent riot in Vancouver, but quickly escalated. I was lucky to have evaded harm; however, I had close friends who nearly lost their lives. Many other people whom I didn’t know were killed. Now, bear in mind that these acts of violence were random. The individuals who were injured or killed were not sought out specifically. These people just happened to be there when angry rioters were looking for someone to vent their rage upon.
Possibly a year later, I was walking one evening on peaceful Boston Common, adjacent to the State House. I noticed heavy lighting on the steps of the Capital building and heard the sound of speechmaking coming from speakers. Then I remembered – Alabama Governor and noted Separationist George Wallace was in town, campaigning for President. I wasn’t interested and kept walking. Whilst crossing a stone bridge above a brook, I saw a gang of thugs coming toward me. I tried to look away and to appear as small and insignificant as possible, but they set upon me, beating me severely with 2’ long steel pipes. One of the thugs said, “Let’s drown him in the creek.” Apparently the rest were content with beating me, so I escaped drowning.
Readers will likely think to themselves, “My, isn’t that a shame. If things were to get that bad here, I just might take the family away for a short vacation.”
If there is any message I can impart by relating the above, it is that the warning time for such an event as a riot can be extremely short – riots are, by their very nature, spontaneous. First, a general state of anger or frustration exists. Then, one person creates a spark, intentionally or otherwise, and a rapid chain reaction takes place. As onlookers get caught up in the events, the level of violence escalates. Within an hour, a full-scale riot can exist.
As the readers of this publication will know, the world is heating up economically and politically. If International Man has a central premise, it is that while we cannot always control our immediate environment, it may be possible to investigate other locations in the world where the social, economic and political climates are more liveable. In effect, we can create a “back door.”
The Way Forward
As The Great Unraveling progresses, the number of people who have lost their jobs and homes will increase. If we make the effort to project forward what the knock-on effects of this trend will be, we will conclude that those people will at some point discover that they are unable to provide themselves with simple things like warmth (in the colder climes), fuel for vehicles and, finally, food.
I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of this last item.
History is filled with examples of cultures that would endure most anything and still behave responsibly. However, from the 18th century French who could no longer afford bread (leading Marie Antoinette to respond, “Let them eat cake,”) to the Tunisian who immolated himself as a protest to his inability to obtain basic food (triggering the revolts in the Middle East), nothing will cause greater, more unpredictable, nor more violent behaviour in a people than a lack of food.
Additionally, food shortage is unique as a trigger to violence because, unlike other commodities, a shortage of food cannot be “toughed out” for a month or two like, say, a gasoline shortage. Its effects are immediate. In such a situation, we cannot simply reason with those who are without food and ask them to be patient for a week or so. When (not if) hyperinflation cripples the food supply industry to the point that shippers, suppliers and retailers can no longer pay their bills, riots will undoubtedly take place.
When this happens, we will be powerless to control what happens. At best, we can make ourselves scarce. And here we return to the most important reason for any of us to internationalise ourselves during this period.
When a riot occurs, it is too late to begin to research an escape plan. Once rioting begins, there is only time to pack a bag and head for whatever back-door destination has already been prepared. For some, this may simply be a quiet place out in the country. For many, it will be another country entirely. Either way, the time to research, select, and establish a back-door location is now.