Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

Jun 16, 2011

Vancouver in Broo-ins.

by Devan Scott

Camera in hand, I could have turned back. I chose not to.

In my attempts to convey what, exactly, happened in Vancouver on that Wednesday night, I’m tempted to use the old Macbeth quote: “It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. It was, to be sure, most definitely idiotic; a loud, destructive riot about nothing worth rioting over in particular.

It, however, signified a great deal.

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A few idiots”; “Bandwagon fans”; “They weren’t really Canucks fans”: the most favoured defenses of the city’s self-immolation. Putting aside the obvious fallacies of such an assertion, I find myself at a fundamental disagreement with it; this unrest was, from my vantage point, all but inevitable.

Vancouver is an exceptional place. Numerous surveys rank it as one of the greatest cities on earth. The land is beautiful, the climate is moderate, and, for the most part, we’re filthy rich. And nothing ever happens.

“Aye, there’s the rub”, as some would say. Something very basic is lost in a state of such extreme comfort: reality. Around the world, events are taking place. Egypt, Lybia, Bahrain, Syria, Tunisia, and numerous other nations are undergoing social and political upheavals; over here, nothing. Norm Macdonald expressed it with more eloquence than I ever could hope to: “In Canada, politics are like this: one guy goes ‘I support the building of the bridge’ and then the other guy goes ‘I don’t much care for the bridge.’”

And so, a void is created in our lives. In exchange for an existence not defined by constant suffering and need, we’ve trapped ourselves in what could be accurately characterized as a gilded cage. This self-imposed repression lends itself to all sorts of phenomena that we’re all too aware of; chief among these is celebrity culture, specifically the constant grappling for fame and power inherent in it.

A similar phenomenon fuelled the downtown riots. Even if it wasn’t openly expressed, those who were downtown during game seven most likely had a good idea of what would occur if our city’s team were to lose; many came down to simply be a part of whatever was to transpire, one way or the other. Over one hundred thousand people showed up; such is the pull of the promise of history.

When the final horn blew, numerous people, most of whom lived what are generally considered to be perfectly normal western lives, began to act in profoundly irrational ways. Vancouver’s discontented heart, its underlying Id, was, for once, visible for all to see. Chaos followed.

And many watched. It’s hard not to, when history’s being made. It was a perfect expression of both our society’s aforementioned repressed desires and its voyeuristic tendencies.

And for my part, I cannot go guiltless. I provided an audience to the spectacle. Naturally, I told myself that I was there to document an important event, a cultural touchstone for Vancouver. Whether or not that is true is irrelevant; I stuck around because I, like virtually everyone else still there, could sense a happening. And for a happening-starved society, it was as complete a release as one could ask for. Like a particularly spectacular train wreck, nobody could look away; least of all me.

So let us not ignore the issue by passing off the blame, whether it be to anarchists, out-of-town hooligans, bandwagon “fans”, or bored drunkards. Let this be an opportunity for us, as a city, to confront our discontents and our inner struggles, our pride and our repressed needs.

Or we could just blame the Canucks.


Emma P said...

This may be one of those rare times when I agree with you completely, especially with the whole idea of the "happening". People became carried away because it was a *something* that was *happening* that occurs only very rarely here. Whether it was a good thing or a bad thing doesn't matter as much as the fact that it was a thing and it was happening, if that phrase makes any kind of sense at all.

It was horrifying to watch, even from a distance though more so I would think up close (great video by the way); but then even as we condemn the actions we are still in a way complicit in them as spectators...

Anyway, I'll stop here before I start rambling nonsense, but I just wanted to say that this was a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post, and I agree with a lot of what you said.

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