Monthly Archives: August 2011

Saying Goodbye To A Role Model: Attending Jack Layton’s Funeral

CN Tower lit for Jack Layton, via The Star

Clapping.  Persistent and steady, it surrounded me on all sides as my teary eyes surveyed the tiers of Roy Thomson Hall.  People swayed in rhythm, some singing along loudly.  As I smiled at my brother and rested my head on his shoulder briefly, my heart lifted.

It was exactly what Jack Layton would have wanted:  politicians, friends, family and the everyday citizens, getting together.

The news of Jack Layton’s passing came to me in a sleepy haze, as my fiance called me to ask why I hadn’t told him yet about Jack.  My heart fell as I asked, “What news?” knowing damn well what it was, and yet refusing to speak of it.  I’m not foolish; I watched my beloved Poppy die of cancer a few years ago, and read between the lines of Layton’s final press conference.  I knew it was coming, but adamantly believed Jack’s vow to return to work in September, believed in his ability to beat the odds stacked against him.

That was his greatest gift to me:  the ability to persist in believing in a better Canada, no matter what punches I was expected to roll with in the bleak political climate marring city, province and country.

I never met Jack.  It’s a regret I will carry in the back of my mind now.  I never missed a debate, and voted for him every time.  I canvassed for my local MP, Matthew Kellway, and rejoiced in his victory.  I expected that I would meet him eventually, given the proximity of his home and riding.  All the same, I took the news as if losing an uncle, or teacher.  I made my way to the impromptu vigil at City Hall that same day, watching as the chalk climbed along the wall, adding my own small message.  I left condolences in the book, signed the memorial board.  I shed tears as his beautiful letter was read aloud, my own city councillor weeping too.  I hugged strangers, shared stories of being moved by Jack, echoed the urgent need of us to “Keep Jack’s message alive.”

This was the power Jack Layton possessed:  to unite us, not divide and subjugate us.  He was the shining example of what being Canadian means to me.

Jack championed many causes that are important to me.  He gave us The White Ribbon Campaign, working to unite men against violence touching women’s lives.  He joyfully embraced the LGBTQ community, participating in Pride events and advocating for their rights.  He took on the silence surrounding homelessness, demanded better support for those coping with AIDS, and sought better social system support for our elderly.  He wanted students to be able to afford their educations, wanted better standards of living for the lower classes struggling to survive, and more action to preserve the environment.  As a bisexual woman who lived in poverty as a child and now struggles to repay her student loan debt in any semblance of timely fashion, I felt understood by Jack.  I felt included and heard. As an aspiring social worker, I hold these values as well.

Attending the funeral – not just watching on TV, but being inside Roy Thomson Hall – felt necessary.  In a sense, it seemed to be that meeting I had always longed to have.  I wanted to say goodbye to Jack, surrounded by those of similar mind and heart.  My little brother – the one I taught politics to around the kitchen table a decade ago – came with me Friday night as we descended upon Roy Thomson Hall, steeling ourselves against sleep deprivation.

As he put it, “We’ll do it for Mr. Layton!”

We arrived at 10:30pm, to a line about 50 people deep.  As the night progressed, it grew, and a new little community was fostered.  Brother and I made fast friends with three others in line, playing games and chattering throughout a sleepless night, while many others curled up in blankets, sleeping bags, tents and chairs to rest.  Clubbing men and women repeatedly stopped to ask what we were waiting for.  One man insulted us all, shouting, “What the hell is wrong with you?  Do you not have homes?  Why are so many in Canada living homeless like this?”  When I informed him we were waiting for a beloved politician’s funeral, he sobered up and apologized, saying, “This is my first week here.  I do not know of this man.”  I felt sad that he would never know Jack.

Media snapped photos.  A friendly security officer chatted on his rounds, offering Oasis juice to anyone thirsty in line.  Street sweeper vehicles came by so many times, polishing the look for the streaming video coverage to come.  There were jaunts to Tim Horton’s at King and John, pizza ordered to the line, many digging into backpacks of rations.  My brother and I clinked cans of Orange Crush.  The sun began to rise, and the reporters arrived.  Interviews began; I did three.  I hear the CP24 one looked alright.

The wristband, which I fell asleep with.

Wristbands came just before eight.  We wondered why purple, not orange.  Members of our new group came and went from the line, running home to change or out for breakfast.  Throngs of people began milling about the square, many asking how long we’d waited and staring wide-eyed at our answer. The Steelworkers’ Union gifted us with orange roses, that we clutched tightly.

It was mostly beautiful and peaceful.  There was a line jumper who shoved and threatened people to propel herself in front of us in the ticket queue, despite arriving just before 7 in the morning, then beaming at reporters complimenting her attire.  There were people snapping photos and tweeting inside the hall as if it were a rock concert.  These things seemed so baffling in the face of Layton’s spirit and message, but I decided in the end that Jack would want these people there, in hopes they would grow and love.

Much came across as unusual to those watching at home, from the comments I read wearily last night, but to those of us inside, everything felt pitch-perfect.  This was not a funeral; it was a celebration.  The programs and tickets said so.

The service felt balanced in all ways, which I appreciated immediately.  The man, personal and political, was equally on display, through music and speech – and rightfully so, given it was a celebration of his entire life and his accomplishments.  The three eulogies exemplify this:  Stephen Lewis (English; political); Karl Belanger (French; straddling the line) and Mike & Sarah Layton (personal).  Of four singing performances, two were more mournful or evocative of sorrow, two were meant to lift our hearts, and one was in French.  All blessings were printed in English and French in the program.  Religious readings were Aboriginal (my favourite), Christian, and Muslim in origin.  Rev. Hawkes did a powerful job in his sermon, and while he did “get churchy”, as he quipped to laughter, it never felt like anything more than the loving words of a friend, remembering a man who was larger than life and down to earth all at once.

More than merely a chance to grieve and say farewell, it was a reflection on the journey Layton took, and the path he’d intended us to travel – with him at our side.  The service said, “It’s okay; you know where to go from here.”  And we do.  It could be felt in the singing, swaying, clapping masses in the balcony during Rise Up and Get Together.  It was felt as the thunderous applause greeted each speech.  It was outlined in chalk at City Hall (again) and the sidewalks along Roy Thomson Hall.

The torch has been passed, Rev. Hawkes said.  The masses happily accepted it.

The energy within the walls of the home to many a Christmas event attended by Jack and Olivia was palpable, pulsing in the skin.  There was union, as people wept almost simultaneously at the same moments, clapped at the same times.  For those at home, it was hard to see that every thundering applause was a standing ovation, many beginning in the balcony and joined afterward by those in VIP areas.  We stood as video screens displayed the casket’s departure from City Hall, and remained that way until it joined us on stage. And as his casket departed, I sensed that his spirit lingered, smiling and singing along.  Jack loved to sing; I sang for him, as many did.

I left feeling hopeful, happy in spite of my tears, clinging a can of Orange Crush which was in abundant supply at refreshment stations as we departed. My body was weary, but I didn’t mind it.  I considered it his due, given how tirelessly he worked for all of us for decades.

In the back pages of the program, there is lined space to write, allotted for us to make a promise, something we will do to change the world and make it better.  I’ve given it much thought, and have yet to come up with anything eloquent.  I know I plan to increase my involvement in local politics, to make even more time to benefit others and work with my community.  I plan to work in support of ending violence against women, and fighting the bad turns our political landscape has taken.

Perhaps “Be like Jack” would suffice.

The Service, As Outlined In The Program
(All language notations mine)

Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings; G.F. Handel, Pifa from Messiah – Members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Into The Mystic (Van Morrison); Magnificat – Richard Underhill with David Restivo, Kevin Barrett, Artie Roth, Larnell Lewis, Colleen Allen

Processional – The Choir of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto

O Canada (French) – Joy Klopp

Aboriginal Blessing – Shawn Atleo

Welcome – Reverend Brent Hawkes
Bienvenue – Anne McGrath

First Reading:  Philippians 2 (French) – Nycole Turmel
Second Reading: Isaiah 57-58 (Mix) – Myer Siemiatycki
Qu’ran 2:153 (English) – Tasleem Riaz

Croire (Marcel Lefebvre; Paul Baillargeon) – Performed by Martin Deschamps with Bernard Quessy

Video:  “Together, we’ll change the world”

Eulogy (English) – Stephen Lewis

Eulogy (French)– Karl Belanger

Eulogy (English)
– Mike and Sarah Layton

Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) – Performed by Steven Page with Kevin Fox and Kevin Hearne

Homily (English) – Rev Brent Hawkes

Rise Up (Parachute Club) – Performed by Lorraine Segato with Colleen Allen, David Gray, Steve Webster, Alana Bridgewater, Tom Jestadt

Benediction (English) – Rev Brent Hawkes

Get Together (Chet Powers) – Performed by Julie Michels with the Choir of the Metropolitian Community Church of Toronto

Hymn To Freedom (Oscar Peterson) – Chris Dawes, organist

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I Was A Teenage Hoarder

The past few days, I’ve been watching Hoarders on Netflix, a show I’ve never seen before as I don’t bother to have cable.  I’ve been horrified, saddened and thrilled at successes, but there’s another emotion I feel by episode’s end:  empathy.  I could have been one of these troubled individuals, in an alternate version of my life.  I still could be, I suppose.

Hello, I’m Amber, and I’m a bit of a packrat still, but once upon a time, I stood on the precipice of being an out and out hoarder.

Growing up, I remember having a lot of possessions as a young child.  My parents had a fair bit of money, and they loved to spend it.  When I was seven or so, we bought what I call a ‘mini-mansion’, a place big enough that my parents’ friends and their child lived quite happily in the finished basement, joining us for dinners, while I roamed upstairs between my bedroom and my toy room.

Yes, I actually had a separate room just for my toys.  It was meant as a cleanliness strategy – keep all the kiddie clutter to one messy room and the sleeping area neat – but it really seems pretentious now.  I guess they just didn’t know what else to do with that other bedroom.

Our fortunes changed after my dad’s major accident.  Unable to work for well over a year, my mother needed at home to nurse him, and the worker’s insurance board taking their sweet bureaucratic time to settle his disability claim (it was a job injury), we lost our house, our cars, and our dignity, as we became effectively homeless.  My dad filed for bankruptcy, and after couch surfing with relatives, we eventually lived in a shithole of a motel.  I spent a birthday and Christmas there.  It was the year I learned there was no Santa, the very hard way:  I spent Christmas Eve into Christmas morning, after overhearing my dad thank my uncle for buying my ‘Santa’ gifts, waking my father every hour, as his sleep disorder caused him to fall into the refrigerator.  I assembled my massive My Little Pony mansion set, and played until morning light.

I relate all of this because my packrat ways began when we again had a home, modest but pleasant means, and I began doing all of the things teenagers do, like concerts and movie nights.  It started simple enough:  I had a lot of stuffed animals, and as I accumulated more through gifts, I couldn’t bear to part with any of them.  I slept with 40 toys on my bed at one point (a single!), rotating the order so that each could have a spot close to me in turn.  This persisted into my late teens, when I moved out to university (I took about 14 with me). I firmly believe my experience of losing “my things” at a young age left me anxious about parting with belongings as a consequence.

I collected birthday cards, letters from friends passed in class.  I didn’t want to forget their words.  Being a writer, words were of high value to me.  I saved movie tickets, writing the names of those who’d gone with me on the reverse, so as not to forget the day.  As I began taking vacations with family, I saved memorabillia of the trips – amusement park maps, trinkets, even the poncho my grandparents bought me at MGM Studios when it began to pour midday.  Concert tickets became treasures as well, which wouldn’t surprise anyone who had seen my parents’ multiple albums of saved stubs; it was those stubs, and our musical household, that led to my own obsession with live performances.

Magazine clippings began to be saved, filed by TV show or subjects.  I was a devoted fan to the X-Files, and have years of clippings and interviews.  One pleasant surprise several years ago was discovering that, in saving an article about Scott Wolf in the 90s (I loved Party of Five), I had saved a Tori Amos article on the reverse.  Newspapers commemorating World Series wins.  Newspapers about the death of Princess Diana.  I made a collage at one point of female singers, hanging it on my bedroom door.  My walls were covered in clipped photos and posters; that hasn’t changed even today, although it’s much more moderated and higher quality items get the real estate.

When I went to university, a lot of my things were left at home in boxes and totes; I was okay with this, because I knew that I COULD get to these things at any time.  They weren’t truly gone.  When I finally reclaimed them when moving to my father’s place in my twenties, I was furious to find my old My Little Pony toys given to a random neighbour after my sister tired of them.  I snatched back favourite childhood books and my calligraphy set from my sister; my mother had invaded my boxes at a whim and allowed things to be plucked from within.  I carried my treasures to first one, then two, then a third apartment, never once going through them with any success.  Everything just felt…. important.  A part of my history.

I had a hell of a year in 2006:  my fiance left me for a bridesmaid, I had health and financial woes, and I embarked on a phase of searching myself and looking for lessons.  I also had to downsize my apartment in the imminent future.  I was volunteering at a facility offering free groups to eating disordered and recovered individuals at the time, and thought it might be fun to take a group, so I might better describe the program to our drop-ins.  Clutter Clearing With Feng Shui caught my eye. “I have to downsize soon.  This might help,” I reasoned.

Well!  It was one hell of a turbulent 8 weeks… and it did help.

One of the key concepts we focused on was the notion that for us cluttered people, our belongings had an abnormal meaning to us.  Whether it was the sense of ‘meaning’ to do something with 12 sewing machines, not having the strength to go through and get rid of a deceased mother’s items or, in my case, fearing losing a part of myself with the chucked item, we all had the incorrect assumption that stuff had more value than it actually was worth.  By dissecting the emotions underlying our clutter, we could process it and let it go.  And process we did – during most classes, I was the calm and eloquent member, but on one night, I became so angry with myself that when asked to write a list of things I needed to let go of emotionally then throw it in the trash, I stormed over, shredded it to tiny pieces, then slammed back into my chair, mute with frustration.

Another funny truth, proving Feng Shui has more sense than you might think:  we tend to hide our most emotionally charged items in the bedroom closet.  Skeletons.  I realized that the boxes I was most afraid of going through for the move were, you guessed it, on the top shelf of my bedroom closet.

During that move, I went through three enormous totes, garbage bags and boxes.  As taught, I made three piles:  keep it, donate it, trash it.  If you’ve watched Hoarders, some of the organizers use similar tactics.  I asked myself if I really needed 70 stuffed animals and if I was really ever going to get that net and hang it along the ceiling for them.  I donated 45 of them for needy children, keeping the ones with the most sentimental value.  I threw out a LOT of clippings.  Random junk from vacations hit the dust, as I elected to keep only one or two treasures here and there. Board games I hadn’t played in years went into the pile.  For those who have never been clutter collectors, you cannot fathom just how complex the emotions and thoughts can be.  “It’s just a pen!” the baffled family shrieks at the hoarder; “It’s a memento of my wedding night stay at the Hilton,” Hoarder replies, torn and confused.  My one troubled closet took eight hours to go through and sort.  Clutter is hell.

In the end, I donated two garbage bags of clothes, toys and other items, and chucked another two bags in the trash.  And I felt amazing.

Don’t get me wrong: my apartment, aside from tabletop clutter in the dining room, was pretty tidy and clean.  I had never gotten to the point where moving around was an Olympic challenge.  But I could have, had I not weeded down the proper amount of items before that move and learned the skills before it was too late.  My new bachelor apartment would have become a typical Hoarders room, without a doubt.  I threw out tables, small furniture, a TV, CD racks, all on moving day, with a ‘fuck it’ attitude.

Watching this show has reminded me, though, that I do have way too many boxes around the apartment, stuffed high into closets.  Fiance is no better, and although I’ve made him do one round of weeding, his need to keep ancient cell phones in a drawer and refusal to sort his mail and important papers leads to chaos on his desk.  We’re messy, but we keep it in check.  Still, there’s always room for improvement.

I have a scrapbook that’s stalled at 2001 and has been for years.  I have a good 80 VHS tapes I have yet to transfer to DVD.  There are random gift bags of concert tickets that ought to be neatly filed in a book instead.  Baseball cards from my teens, that I ‘mean to sell’.  Photos I ‘mean to hang up’.  And I still haven’t put up that net of stuffed animals.

Clutter is seductive, and I must forever be on guard.

There’s an exhibit this year at Nuit Blanche, my beloved all-night arts festival, where an artist is giving away all of their belongings, as a symbol of having lost everything recently in a fire.  Such dramatic losses are what drive home the things that are truly valuable versus that which we could do without, if we ever tried to.  I wonder how many of us clutter keepers will show up, moths to the flame, unable to resist just one more thing…

I wonder what I will collect.

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Things I Will Not Do As A Bride: Dictate Hairstyles

With my own nuptials just over a year away and planning back in full swing, I’ve been de-stressing by reading and watching other brides that make me look like a Stepford Bride.  For kicks, every week I’m going to post a new video or two epitomizing all that I vow to not become (friends/family: if I do, please kick my ass).

For our first entry… I can’t even with this bitch.  Apparently she’s been bitching about her hair during this season of Bridezillas (I have never watched this show) and now today, she’s furious that a bridesmaid (I believe) won’t wear her hair up, because only the Pretty Princess Bride can have her hair down.  Bridesmaid doesn’t see the big fuss and a tantrum ensues in the clip…

Um… whoa.  I really don’t care what my bridal party does, as long as they stick to the loose rules for our theme and y’know, bathe. I’m wearing my hair up; if they wanna wear it down or spiked or blue, whatever!

I wish we got this show…. Because DAMN!  Ego boost central!

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Protected: Weddings: The Epitome Of Consumerism

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London Riots: Anarchy, poverty, politics? Check all and then some.

Spent the last hours watching the reports flood in on the London Riots that are fast becoming the UK Riots, should things continue on.  As the first-gen Canadian child of a Brit, I have a special place in my heart for London and the UK.  My great-grandfather fought in WWI for Britain.  My voice slants into a British accent upon contact with my family, as if it were tucked away within my DNA, waiting to be triggered.

Watching London burn is heartbreaking.  It’s also terrifying, because as much as American and Canadian media want to diminish coverage, they should be paying close attention.  This is what’s coming very soon.  The foundations of human behaviour that breed riots will always be there, a stack of kindling looking for a spark.  It is the sociopolitical factors that are fuelling the fires within the citizens of the world, and the Conservative governments people have shortsightedly supported in North America and London will only worsen matters.

Collective behaviour theories: a brief discussion of how riots evolve

Collective behaviour theory seeks to understand precisely that: how we behave as groups – collectively – and why we do so.  Despite the numerous articles on the subject, no one theory seems to be accepted as the be-all, end-all answer to riots, panics, and lynch mob mentality.  I first examined collective behaviour as a course in my Crime & Deviance program, and it was by far one of the most fascinating and also frustrating topics I studied.

For those wanting a review of all of the key theories, you can start with this wiki-link that outlines most in brief, and this article, which goes into greater detail and covers more theories, including one of my personal preferred explanations, threshold theory.  As threshold theory serves as a strong basis for the riots in London, given the facts, I’ll focus on it.

Threshold theory argues that within each of us is a personal threshold that dictates if and when we will engage in a form of collective behaviour.  For some, the threshold is zero – meaning these people will engage in the action without anyone else starting things up.  These are the instigators of a group.  Some possess relatively low thresholds – for example, if two people begin to tip a car over and break windows, some may be duly motivated to join in and continue the behaviour. Some possibly have a 100% threshold – they will never act, unless the entire population is also acting.

Thresholds are theorized to be based upon a cost-risk analysis of sorts, making collective behaviour rational by this theory.  If someone is a criminal with history who cannot find a job and is starving, he will have no threshold to stealing food because the risk (arrest) does not sway him.  Someone who is wealthy and respected in the community will not steal food without a great deal of motivation, because she has a lot to lose and fear if caught.

But this isn’t the whole story, in my mind, because it fails to account for those who feel genuine shame after the group disperses, or who do suffer great costs for the behaviour later that could and should have been predicted.  This is where we dash in emergent-norm theory.  Put as simplistically as possible:  the group becomes a new entity, an almost society in which norms ’emerge’ that may be the opposite of usual personal norms.  It allows for ‘good’ people to be drawn in over time through pressure of the group; ‘disobedience’ becomes the ‘new normal’ and people inherently prefer to blend in or belong.

London Riots: theory applied

I’ve wrestled with explaining this on Twitter tonight, but basically, we have two unique groups within the rioters, who may be partially spurred by the same political and socioeconomic factors, but have a very different inherent set of norms and beliefs that come to the table.  We have instigators, and we have the general masses who have merged in and joined the looting and destruction, to varying degrees.

In threshold theory, the instigators are people already prone to riots.  The groups noted as organizing on Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and social media? The ones who dropped flyers like this?

These are the zero threshold people.  They would riot as long as possible, no matter what the crowd did in response.  Their motivations at present moment:  to screw with the government, with societal structure and the law.  Anarchy is their flavour of Kool-Aid.  How they became anarchists with such low thresholds for the behaviour that they would not only organize, but lay in wait for opportune settings like the killing of Mark Duggan, one can wager many guesses.  I’m going to go with a sense of disenfranchisement, hopelessness about the future, lack of connection with the law and government and being harassed for the sheer crime of being young/of a minority background.

Surprised?  Why?  Blaming youth has been a prime strategy of moral panics for decades now; for a thorough examination, locate the book Blaming Children by Bernard Schissel.  Youth crime has overall been on the decline in Canada – crime in general has also been declining – but from the media and government, you would never know it.  They are scapegoat du jour, the ‘asshole punks’ who steal things and ‘are up to no good’ on the street corner.  In London, that has never been more apparent:  youth centres were cut to save money, and peaceful protests went ignored by government and media alike.  The city was ripe for the anarchy-minded, just waiting for that match to meet the kindling.

In an eerily prophetic article on July 29th in the Guardian, the warning signs are laid out:

Others worry that a perfect storm of unemployment, the withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance and a squeeze on programmes to help disadvantaged youths could bring more than just a rise in crime figures and result in a “lost generation”.
“The young people in Tottenham, they are not so much a community within a community, they are a community beyond the community, with their own rules, their own codes, their own hierarchy,” said Symeon Brown, 22, who helped run a campaign to prevent the cuts in Haringey. “How do you create a ghetto? By taking away the very services that people depend upon to live, to better themselves.”
Professor John Pitts, who has researched gang behaviour for more than 40 years, says the “annihilation” of youth services, coupled with academies likely to favour middle-class students over disadvantaged children, could further disconnect young people from society and result in more entrenched gangs.
“Services are not just being taken away from young people, they are being taken from poor young people,” he said.
“At a simple level that could mean an increase in antisocial behaviour and vandalism. In the longer term, if you withdraw state protection then there will be ever greater reliance on the groupings that emerge in that vacuum.”


But that’s not even the whole story.  Check out this article from the Guardian, outlining numerous other protests within the last year, and noting that since 1998 there have been over 300 deaths in police custody, with not a single officer charged for any of them of course, and the Mark Duggan incident becomes the clear straw breaking the proverbial camel’s back.

The protesting began peacefully outside a police station, demanding answers over Duggan’s death.  Insert a few instigators who are angry in general at the police, shake with impoverished people who have little to lose and emotions running high, and serve over fiery police cars and broken windows.

The riots would be over by now, if the instigators were apprehended or felt dissuaded enough to hide away, waiting for their next prime moment to strike.  The trouble is, with all of the anger, poverty and desperation felt by so many, the threshold lowers and people who may have never imagined looting are suddenly joining the masses.  The fact that some are looting diapers and basmati rice of all things speaks volumes.  Some are more enterprising and seeking items of value to sell later to survive.  Some are just acting because, as emergent-norm theory predicts, when thievery becomes normalized in a group, they figure, “Why not?” and start grabbing their own TV or sneakers.

Wait, you ask:  are you justifying these horrible actions?  No, absolutely not.  There are plenty of horrified Londoners who are sitting home, with no intentions whatsoever of looting.  There is always a choice to make in group behaviour, although it is admittedly harder in a throng of people all doing the opposite of what is normally done.  But we cannot excuse government, police and societal culpability.  Police stopping and searching people – youth in particular – of race and in certain areas breeds contempt and a lack of respect and insulted dignity.  Cutting programs aimed at engaging troubled youth or assisting impoverished youth in obtaining education that may hoist them out of their dreary cirumstances has a price, and London’s paying it.

Then again, those looting and protesting are not hurting the government or the structures that have created such a chasm between the haves and have-nots.  Breaking into people’s homes and cars is disgusting and not remotely justifiable.  All these people have done is further divide a people that now, more than ever, should be collectively resisting the government’s failures.  For all of the genuine and understandable rage behind the actions of many over the last three days, they are accomplishing nothing for their cause.

Well, neither did peaceful protest, sadly.  In an amazing and insightful blog posting from Laurie Penny, she quotes a telling NBC report:

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere ‘’’

So what is the solution?  How do we prevent this?  How do we punish the guilty?  These are the questions ringing out on Twitter tonight.  I have no simple answers; there are none.  In almost two centuries, sociologists have yet to agree on a theory of collective behaviour itself.  But I do know this:  more of the same is coming.  And even if governments were to back up and desperately attempt to curb off the angst, it would be far too little too late to defuse the ticking time bombs.  Our instigators are well-organized and waiting to strike, and there will always be people with too little to lose to resist.  Such is the way of our capitalist system of purchased democracy.

Further Reading:

A very detailed and academic look at Threshold theory
An article about the Mark Duggan shooting, which spurred initial protests that evolved rapidly.
Google map showing locations of all verified riot activity
Amazing moment by moment coverage of the rioting Monday (flip back for past rioting)
An article detailing how the youth ‘had nothing to lose’ – bringing it back to threshold theory…

A powerful blog from a past resident of Croydon, that asks a key question: why aren’t we giving the looters and rioters a voice?

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Make Mine A Chernobyl Wedding! OMGHipsterLOLZ!

A long while back, I took singer Amanda Palmer to task in my music blog for her incredibly insensitive hipster racism/ableism, as I burned my fancard.  I posted several incredibly astute links on the subject that even educated me beyond my initial knee-jerk “what the cunting fuck, bitch?” indignation.  My inner academic was also on board with my heart, and spitting mad.

Well, here comes a new version of hipster idiocy:  a Hobo Wedding.

No, really:  this couple thought that the Great Depression and the lifestyle of hobos was so dreamy and romantic, they would theme their wedding around it.  And, because they sourced so many of their vintage items at Etsy (the site that consistently shits out faux-artsy crafters that April Winchell thankfully dissects for all our enjoyment at Regretsy), that site’s blog featured this wedding.  Because, y’know, with unemployment raging in the United States, poverty is just so charming and quaint!

First of all, I love how well-researched the bride claims this wedding was, considering that she believes in misguided fashion that the term hobo was a shortened version of ‘homeward bound’ (that meaning only applied in the 1800s, not during the 1930s era that she themed her wedding on; by then, hobo referred to ‘hoe boys’).  I also love that in all of this research, not once did it occur to her pretentious artist ass that she might offend people – guests, even! – with such a theme, and perhaps consider a close alternative.  Did she actually read of the brutality of the hobo lifestyle, or did she simply gaze upon Norman Rockwell-esque ‘clown hobos’ and swoon?

Perhaps most grating is her husband’s obnoxious Tweeting about the matter, completely unapologetic and downright disgusting at times.  Defending your wedding as frugal because the ‘average wedding’ costs $27K and theirs cost only $15K is sad enough, and shows a piss-poor understanding of mathematics (newsflash: that figure is so high because it includes $100K weddings as well as the more common $5K or less shindigs many brides discuss on The Knot).  But these comments?

Keep it classy, Faux-bo Groom.  Of course, coming from the husband of a woman who actually used the term hobo chic, I’d expect nothing less.

Look:  if you love the 1930s style, fine.  If you wanted a simple style of dress and a fun, relaxed wedding that felt more like a jamboree, all the power to you.  You could have called it a 1930s country wedding and not offended a ton of people who have actually lived in poverty or do so right now.  Are your outfits cute, if the theme was left unknown?  Well, yes; without any label, it’s obviously a down home vintage wedding, and perfectly decorated as such.  But to romanticize some of the most impoverished people of that time period is an insult to their pain.

Hipster classism.  What will they think of next?

Maybe I should rethink my own wedding.  Chernobyl style?  Special Olympics, with all of us in decorated wheelchairs and braces?  Japanese Tsunami chic?  Am I doing weddings wrong by having tact, taste and class?

The original blog for their wedding
Their privileged registry, complete with $200 self-cleaning litter box
Regretsy takes them to task for their idiocy

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