Author Topic: Cain, it's a riot.  (Read 1144 times)

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Cain, it's a riot.
« on: December 02, 2009, 02:52:46 am »
I don't know that I've ever mentioned it to anyone here, but it's one of my favorite stories.  It's the kind of thing where you have to tell it if you've experienced it and when you do you become Shakespeare, your words are carried from your mouth without any control of your own and they form a picture of the night putting to shame the most clear of photographs.  I used to work student security at UMass Amherst; the part time job shaped my entire undergraduate career there from how I viewed my peers to how I spent time with my friends.  My gig was a supervisor, I would go from building to building across the campus and talk to the people who were signing in guests and make sure it was all going well.  UMass Amherst is big, if you didn't know, huge actually.  It would take ten of us divided across the place to get to each building three times if we were lucky over a nine hour shift, so we were assigned areas.  My area that night, December of 2006, was in Southwest, the party area of the college and on alert for the evening for one simple event happening hundreds of miles away.

Our football team was playing in the NCAA Division 1A finals.  One lucky thing about being in a shithole like Southwest on a game night was there being no need for a radio or a television.  From the yells echoing across the cracked concrete from drab twenty seven story high rise dorms you knew if we scored, if they scored, if the refs made a bad call.  And I listened to it because it spelled how I would spend the remaining seven hours.  If we won, the students would party and jubilantly riot.  If we lost, the students would party and angrily riot.  It was unspoken and palpable from the moment the game was scheduled.

The game drew to a close and I was told to stop making rounds, to just stay put in the central tower, the epicenter of the horror show that part of campus represented.  A few drunken students trickled out the doors, dressed in t-shirts and shorts against the winter cold.  The trickles conjoined to a stream to a river to an ocean of angry movement and expectant violence.  Shortly thereafter the crowd was ordered to disperse by the UMass police department, these guys essentially state police and not your standard college cops.  They predictably failed to exit.  That's when the smoke came.

I don't know if it was a smoke screen or what, but when people breathed it in they gasped and they choked, they covered their faces with their t-shirts and their eyes were reddened and they rushed for the nearest place away from the smoke they could find.  It was my building.  Dozens of the smart ones flooded through the doors and they brought the thick grey smoke with them, they rushed past the desk and there was nothing our little security desk could do to stop the tide of bodies.  I was yelling at the top of my lungs, which is loud, but with any prolonged burst of my voice like that it would quickly give way from either strain or struggling to breath through the smoke.  Whatever I would need to do the rest of the night would need to be done through a hoarse whisper.

Eventually the doors closed and hundres of people still stood outside, yelling and throwing things at the police.  The lobby of the building was encased by enormous windows and spectators who just wanted to see what happened next were standing and staring at the event.  I couldn't blame them, it was a uniquely terrifying sight to see a line of police, complete with helmets and riot gear, advance on a crowd of raging drunks.  I wondered if they all hoped for both sides to annihilate each other quite like I did.  But people were digging up chunks of that ugly cement, looking like a petrified granola bar covering the whole area, they were throwing it.  I kicked the reluctant onlookers out of their spots and sent them to the upper floors, the box seats.  Five minutes later the first window was shattered.

It was a big chunk of that cement tossed through thick glass above our heads.  It rained down and clinked upon the floor to be crushed under the hiking boots I wore every day at that job for comfort against all the walking we normally would do.  I pocketed a small bit of the concrete that I still keep as a souvenier in my car.  More rocks and more glass would follow.  You see, we had uniforms, dorky gaudy things like putty colored jackets and maroon security hats.  My belt was filled with cell phones and flashlights and radios and keys and for all the lack of weaponry about my person everyone insisted on believing I carried handcuffs or pepper spray.  That thin stupid jacket was a bulls eye that night because it wasn't the first time they thought of me as a fascist; me, whose job it was to merely lock the doors and keep the building monitors company at two o'clock in the morning on a Saturday.

None of them ever got me, their eyes too lazily unfocused on the menacing figures of mounted or marching police.  There were more of them now, not just UMPD but Massachusetts State Police.  They brought their pepperballs and I was amazed at the ability of the weapons to really send people fleeing.  The riot had faded and most involved escaped to the safety of friends' rooms after causing over $100,000 in damage, broken glass and smashed book cases, torn up pavement.  I ended my night like any other and went back to the security office that we shared with UMPD to exchange tales with the other guys in my area.  We went to a 24 hour Dunkin Donuts and talked for a while before returning to Southwest at five in the morning.

More striking than the outfitted police was the desolate ruination of what was supposed to house upcoming minds of society.  Windows were shattered on every reachable surface, still smoking piles of rubbish and casings of smoke grenades, a loaf of Wonderbread crushed and toilet paper strewn about, a book case thrown through the door of the cafe.  None of us spoke making our way across the center of the mess, unlike the minutes before as we told our stories or the days after when they were the talk of the university.

I'm telling you this Cain because this is the stuff that once affected change.  It was the behavior once driven by powerful views and conviction, knowledge that things can't continue along the same path and catalyzed by one too many acts of oppression.  But not any longer.  Now it's fools upset about a football game, their cause a trivial sports defeat.  I like to tell myself that the rage was about so many other things, not the championships, but our criminally rising fees and our increasingly diminished control over the university, that the game just gave us a way to manifest it all.  I just don't think I can tell myself those kinds of lies anymore though.
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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2009, 03:16:27 am »
Yes. YES, THIS is what I should have told her, EoC, my friend when she asked me what was wrong with America, staring out over the dark streaks of mud laden fratboys and sorority girls building homecoming floats out on the torn up green. She said it was just a symptom, the whole mess, a symptom of something else.

But now I know what to tell her. It's not a one word answer, like "humans" (because surely Ben and Patrick and Curly were humans too), its not laziness, no, this answer is more visual and viceral, and your story hit it home to me, EoC.

Look at all that energy, and how fucking powerful it was. A bunch of drunken, angry, horny fratboys with no weapons practically destroyed a campus...over what? Football! Over fucking FOOTBALL. All the rage and energy and power and it was all FALSE SLACK, it meant NOTHING. That is America. All the powerful energy is there, it's always been there, but its being funneled into, piped through and pumped up to run the biggest fucking tank/steamshovel/wreckingball/machine you've ever fucking seen. All that revolutionary energy is getting turned into religion and football and television and The Next Newest AwesomeTM and Beautiful PeopleTM. The whole thing keeps going on this diverted energy, because the free market demands it.

This /is/ the matrix, we're all batteries for false slack that runs The MachineTM. And that, my dear friend, is what is wrong with America.
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Re:
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2009, 03:19:17 am »
I remember when that happened...
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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2009, 03:27:20 am »

I really liked this piece.

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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2009, 04:34:44 pm »
Yes. YES, THIS is what I should have told her, EoC, my friend when she asked me what was wrong with America, staring out over the dark streaks of mud laden fratboys and sorority girls building homecoming floats out on the torn up green. She said it was just a symptom, the whole mess, a symptom of something else.

But now I know what to tell her. It's not a one word answer, like "humans" (because surely Ben and Patrick and Curly were humans too), its not laziness, no, this answer is more visual and viceral, and your story hit it home to me, EoC.


Same monkeys, different environment.  Take your Caddisflies, Kai, and put them on Baffin Island.  Or the jungles of Brazil.  They might need some little bug pills, though.
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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2009, 05:37:40 pm »
I remember when they did this, I remember it like hugo Weaving's disaproving stare. 
When what a group of well payed atheletes did with balls caused more uproar than being packed more and more people to a dorm room, the well televised wars of the time, or the PATRIOT act. 
When setting fire to dumpsters and the grass on the quad was the only thing to do.

When I realized I'd happily get into my armor and smite those of my generation for being so pointlessly, dissapointingly destructive.
When I realized I could not understand, and never would want to understand the majority of my generation, or a good chunk of humanity.
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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2009, 06:38:18 pm »
I remember when they did this, I remember it like hugo Weaving's disaproving stare. 
When what a group of well payed atheletes did with balls caused more uproar than being packed more and more people to a dorm room, the well televised wars of the time, or the PATRIOT act. 
When setting fire to dumpsters and the grass on the quad was the only thing to do.

When I realized I'd happily get into my armor and smite those of my generation for being so pointlessly, dissapointingly destructive.
When I realized I could not understand, and never would want to understand the majority of my generation, or a good chunk of humanity.

These students have all the right values.  Go nuts over your gladatorial games, and they'll slap your hand (the wilder ones may be collateral damage, but you can't make an omelet without killing some kids), but go nuts over your society or your government or your bankers and they'll kill you dead.

And you'll be the next "lone nut"  or "homegrown radical organization" used to scare the sheep on our special report at nine.

"What can we do to help you stop screaming?"

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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2009, 10:42:18 am »
It aint rocket science and it aint nothing new. When you're a drunk teenager violence is fun. Perspective makes it harder to appreciate just how brilliant it is to be wading into a tangled mass of your fellow man, drunk enough to feel no pain but not too much that you can't coordinate your body enough to stamp on someones head enough times to hear that glorious popping sound.

I've never been in a riot but I remember some of my best barfights like it was yesterday. I don't remember how they started but that really wasn't important it was the chaos that mattered, the destruction, the blood, the soft thud of boots and knuckles pounding heads and faces. Some of us grow out of it, some don't.
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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2009, 11:14:37 pm »
Yes. YES, THIS is what I should have told her, EoC, my friend when she asked me what was wrong with America, staring out over the dark streaks of mud laden fratboys and sorority girls building homecoming floats out on the torn up green. She said it was just a symptom, the whole mess, a symptom of something else.

But now I know what to tell her. It's not a one word answer, like "humans" (because surely Ben and Patrick and Curly were humans too), its not laziness, no, this answer is more visual and viceral, and your story hit it home to me, EoC.


Same monkeys, different environment.  Take your Caddisflies, Kai, and put them on Baffin Island.  Or the jungles of Brazil.  They might need some little bug pills, though.

Yes yes yes! This system called AmericaTM is a bad environment for humans.
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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2009, 03:34:54 pm »
Maybe the problem is that this is no longer the time for parades and carnivals of rage and anger, EoC.  While I cannot condone their actions, perhaps those out there, venting their anger at the football game, realised, albeit deep down, a truth we would rather not admit: that the show and the pomp of the riot is no substitute for the ice-cold execution of strategy.  That the riot exists simply as a moment out of time, where all things are permissible and nothing is forbidden, and where the libidinal drives can be freely expressed, before the drudgery and routine acts of discipline and organization can reassert themselves, once again ruling our thoughts and conditioning our bodies.

Iíve been there before, you know.  Not so much in the thick of it, I am not one for large groups of people.  Seeing lots of people in one place always makes me nervous.  No, Iíve been in the background, helping plan such things, putting lots of people in one place.  Only a couple of times, but you can learn a lot from it.  You need surprise, you see.  We flitted around town like grey shadows, from one meeting to the next, keeping it quiet, keeping it all under wraps.

Our clandestine meetings and coded messages leant it all the air of a bad spy novel, like Berlin when it was split in two.  Behind the walls and the cameras were The Enemy, it was where They could be found, creating ever increasing mountains of paper, seemingly for the sake of it and without the need for any other reason.  But we held the coffee houses, and the streets, not to mention the bars.  There we flowed freely, but not without purpose.  Favours were called in, secrets traded and promises made.

Clausewitz was our inspiration, you know?  Power concentrated at a point, the centre of gravity for the enemy force.  Like clockwork, our people went in.  Chants timed down to the second, placards waved with the precision of a surgeon, or some other discipline that requires concentration and finesse.  The message was clear: our discipline was good enough, and we were quiet enough, that if we had ill intent, things might have gone very differently.

Yet.

Yet still, we did not achieve what we wanted.  We aimed high, like all good negotiators.  We were pragmatic, reasonable people at the end of the day, we knew that our wishes would be whittled down to well below what we really wanted.  Even so, what we got was, disappointing.  It was a spectacle, you see.  A show of force, but without real force.  We only hit what we thought what was the centre of gravity, not what really was, and so, we could be dismissed.  Not entirely, just as we had put on a show for them, they would put on a show for us, to show they were pragmatic and reasonable people too.  But we had already expended energy, and time, and effort, and favours.  And we were known.  Doing it again would be more difficult.  People would be disheartened by the need for yet another effort, instead of a quick and painless victory.

Too many protests are like that now.  Once upon a time, protests did work.  Iím not sure why, maybe it was respect for the wishes of the people, or the fear of so many coordinated bodies in one place, the visceral and not entirely unfounded fear of The Mob.  But now?  They know if They only appear to take your concerns seriously, then nothing at all needs to be done.  What will happen if They donít, after all?  Spreading a few rumours about the numbers present, to make it look less representative, hiding a few police provocateurs among the crowd, rile up a few of the hotheads...suddenly, its the crowd thatís the bad guy.  The unreasonable, irrational Mob, that cannot be contained or debated with.

So why not riot over a football game?  You may well have more say in one than you do in most other parts of your life.  You can at least seize control of that, live in the moment through that and really feel like youíre some place else, doing something different.

We donít understand this current world that we inhabit.  We are taught a rule set when we are children, only to find out it no longer applies, that things do not work that way and we do not control as much as we like to think.  And so like confused, constricted children everywhere, when confronted with the truth of our situation, we lash out unexpectedly and irrationally, throwing a tantrum on the tarmac and in the streets, smashing because through our destruction we can still affirm our power over something.

There are real forces at work, but we mistake the surface, the appearance, for what really happens below.  If we understood better where the centre of gravity now exists, then we would be able to lay siege to more effectively.  But it is so much easier to believe that the world is an essentially decent place, running on easily understood rules and anyone who is left by the wayside probably deserved to be.  Even when virtually everyone has been left by the wayside.
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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2009, 04:32:39 pm »
Yes. YES, THIS is what I should have told her, EoC, my friend when she asked me what was wrong with America, staring out over the dark streaks of mud laden fratboys and sorority girls building homecoming floats out on the torn up green. She said it was just a symptom, the whole mess, a symptom of something else.

But now I know what to tell her. It's not a one word answer, like "humans" (because surely Ben and Patrick and Curly were humans too), its not laziness, no, this answer is more visual and viceral, and your story hit it home to me, EoC.


Same monkeys, different environment.  Take your Caddisflies, Kai, and put them on Baffin Island.  Or the jungles of Brazil.  They might need some little bug pills, though.

Yes yes yes! This system called AmericaTM is a bad environment for humans.

It isn't just America, Kai.  The whole species is sick.
"What can we do to help you stop screaming?"

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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2009, 04:35:18 pm »
Yes. YES, THIS is what I should have told her, EoC, my friend when she asked me what was wrong with America, staring out over the dark streaks of mud laden fratboys and sorority girls building homecoming floats out on the torn up green. She said it was just a symptom, the whole mess, a symptom of something else.

But now I know what to tell her. It's not a one word answer, like "humans" (because surely Ben and Patrick and Curly were humans too), its not laziness, no, this answer is more visual and viceral, and your story hit it home to me, EoC.


Same monkeys, different environment.  Take your Caddisflies, Kai, and put them on Baffin Island.  Or the jungles of Brazil.  They might need some little bug pills, though.

Yes yes yes! This system called AmericaTM is a bad environment for humans.

It isn't just America, Kai.  The whole species is sick.

Sorry to rain on your parade of optimism but pls not to confuse sickness with stoopid. Sickness implies it may be curable ...  :evil:
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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2009, 04:38:22 pm »
Yes. YES, THIS is what I should have told her, EoC, my friend when she asked me what was wrong with America, staring out over the dark streaks of mud laden fratboys and sorority girls building homecoming floats out on the torn up green. She said it was just a symptom, the whole mess, a symptom of something else.

But now I know what to tell her. It's not a one word answer, like "humans" (because surely Ben and Patrick and Curly were humans too), its not laziness, no, this answer is more visual and viceral, and your story hit it home to me, EoC.


Same monkeys, different environment.  Take your Caddisflies, Kai, and put them on Baffin Island.  Or the jungles of Brazil.  They might need some little bug pills, though.

Yes yes yes! This system called AmericaTM is a bad environment for humans.

It isn't just America, Kai.  The whole species is sick.

Sorry to rain on your parade of optimism but pls not to confuse sickness with stoopid. Sickness implies it may be curable ...  :evil:

Not always.
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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2009, 05:57:39 pm »
Yes. YES, THIS is what I should have told her, EoC, my friend when she asked me what was wrong with America, staring out over the dark streaks of mud laden fratboys and sorority girls building homecoming floats out on the torn up green. She said it was just a symptom, the whole mess, a symptom of something else.

But now I know what to tell her. It's not a one word answer, like "humans" (because surely Ben and Patrick and Curly were humans too), its not laziness, no, this answer is more visual and viceral, and your story hit it home to me, EoC.


Same monkeys, different environment.  Take your Caddisflies, Kai, and put them on Baffin Island.  Or the jungles of Brazil.  They might need some little bug pills, though.

Yes yes yes! This system called AmericaTM is a bad environment for humans.

It isn't just America, Kai.  The whole species is sick.

Sorry to rain on your parade of optimism but pls not to confuse sickness with stoopid. Sickness implies it may be curable ...  :evil:

Not always.

Roger is right, it is a disease and one of our own making.  Stupidity is just a symptom. 

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Re: Cain, it's a riot.
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2009, 05:59:19 pm »
Maybe the problem is that this is no longer the time for parades and carnivals of rage and anger, EoC.  While I cannot condone their actions, perhaps those out there, venting their anger at the football game, realised, albeit deep down, a truth we would rather not admit: that the show and the pomp of the riot is no substitute for the ice-cold execution of strategy.  That the riot exists simply as a moment out of time, where all things are permissible and nothing is forbidden, and where the libidinal drives can be freely expressed, before the drudgery and routine acts of discipline and organization can reassert themselves, once again ruling our thoughts and conditioning our bodies.

Iíve been there before, you know.  Not so much in the thick of it, I am not one for large groups of people.  Seeing lots of people in one place always makes me nervous.  No, Iíve been in the background, helping plan such things, putting lots of people in one place.  Only a couple of times, but you can learn a lot from it.  You need surprise, you see.  We flitted around town like grey shadows, from one meeting to the next, keeping it quiet, keeping it all under wraps.

Our clandestine meetings and coded messages leant it all the air of a bad spy novel, like Berlin when it was split in two.  Behind the walls and the cameras were The Enemy, it was where They could be found, creating ever increasing mountains of paper, seemingly for the sake of it and without the need for any other reason.  But we held the coffee houses, and the streets, not to mention the bars.  There we flowed freely, but not without purpose.  Favours were called in, secrets traded and promises made.

Clausewitz was our inspiration, you know?  Power concentrated at a point, the centre of gravity for the enemy force.  Like clockwork, our people went in.  Chants timed down to the second, placards waved with the precision of a surgeon, or some other discipline that requires concentration and finesse.  The message was clear: our discipline was good enough, and we were quiet enough, that if we had ill intent, things might have gone very differently.

Yet.

Yet still, we did not achieve what we wanted.  We aimed high, like all good negotiators.  We were pragmatic, reasonable people at the end of the day, we knew that our wishes would be whittled down to well below what we really wanted.  Even so, what we got was, disappointing.  It was a spectacle, you see.  A show of force, but without real force.  We only hit what we thought what was the centre of gravity, not what really was, and so, we could be dismissed.  Not entirely, just as we had put on a show for them, they would put on a show for us, to show they were pragmatic and reasonable people too.  But we had already expended energy, and time, and effort, and favours.  And we were known.  Doing it again would be more difficult.  People would be disheartened by the need for yet another effort, instead of a quick and painless victory.

Too many protests are like that now.  Once upon a time, protests did work.  Iím not sure why, maybe it was respect for the wishes of the people, or the fear of so many coordinated bodies in one place, the visceral and not entirely unfounded fear of The Mob.  But now?  They know if They only appear to take your concerns seriously, then nothing at all needs to be done.  What will happen if They donít, after all?  Spreading a few rumours about the numbers present, to make it look less representative, hiding a few police provocateurs among the crowd, rile up a few of the hotheads...suddenly, its the crowd thatís the bad guy.  The unreasonable, irrational Mob, that cannot be contained or debated with.

So why not riot over a football game?  You may well have more say in one than you do in most other parts of your life.  You can at least seize control of that, live in the moment through that and really feel like youíre some place else, doing something different.

We donít understand this current world that we inhabit.  We are taught a rule set when we are children, only to find out it no longer applies, that things do not work that way and we do not control as much as we like to think.  And so like confused, constricted children everywhere, when confronted with the truth of our situation, we lash out unexpectedly and irrationally, throwing a tantrum on the tarmac and in the streets, smashing because through our destruction we can still affirm our power over something.

There are real forces at work, but we mistake the surface, the appearance, for what really happens below.  If we understood better where the centre of gravity now exists, then we would be able to lay siege to more effectively.  But it is so much easier to believe that the world is an essentially decent place, running on easily understood rules and anyone who is left by the wayside probably deserved to be.  Even when virtually everyone has been left by the wayside.

Fucking hell.
Lord Byron: "Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves."

Nigel saying the wisest words ever uttered: "It's just a suffix."

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