Random violence has no place in political movements

Graphic by Stephanie Truong

Nowadays, it seems people regard their personal opinions as something worthy enough to take to the streets and use as an excuse to destroy whatever, or whoever is in their path. Whatever your cause, whatever your beliefs, it must surely be worth inverting a few cars and smashing a few store windows.

Lately, it seems that rioting to get what you want is the newest fad; one of the most disturbing trends that trumps even Twilight moms in terms of its sheer abhorrence.  The riots over student fees in Montreal, over the loss of the Stanley Cup in Vancouver, and over a myriad of various vague economic and social causes in the United Kingdom, are some of the most obvious examples of this.  Some of these riots are more ideologically fuelled than others and often they tend to devolve into free-for-all looting even when there was an ideological purpose in the first place.

If this was an oppressive dictatorship and there were government targets being attacked, it would be a different story.

I, in no way, intend to insult those in oppressive regimes who have risen up with force — which is, of course, a completely different scenario — nor do I intend to insult peaceful protesters with a cause, like those in the Occupy movement.

That is not to say that the Occupy movement is completely innocent of descending into rioting or efforts to deliberately cripple the local economy. But for the most part, the peaceful protesting that dominated the Occupy movement is something that I would not object to.

That being said, I maintain that in a democratic first-world society there is no legitimate cause to destroy random property. No matter how big, how important, how seemingly pressing the issue. To be honest, the uproar over Quebec students’ fees,  to already a small fraction of those in the rest of the country, seems like a spoiled and self-entitled cause if there ever was one. However, the importance of the cause or lack thereof, is irrelevant.

Even if it were a just cause, I would still object based on the methods being used like random, senseless violence against targets that are often completely unrelated to the cause at hand. If it is an unimportant cause then it’s just destruction for nothing, and if it’s an important cause, then it only serves to demean and degrade the cause by casting it in a bad light. Fact is, if you want something, destroying things isn’t the way to get it. I can think of a million things I want. It’d be great if the Canadian human rights commission and their censorship committee were disbarred. It’d be great if marijuana was legalized. It’d be great if our government did more to expedite the proliferation clean energy vehicles.

It’d be great if oil companies didn’t have such a powerful hand in dictating energy policy. It’d be great if the freeway and subway network of greater Toronto was expanded and improved. It’d be great if taxes on the super-rich were raised to help pay off the debt. It’d be great if discriminatory hiring policies against white males for Canadian government workers were repealed. None of these causes, however, are worth destroying innocent people and their property over. If I am ever seen in the streets smashing windows over these causes, not only would I be a massive hypocrite, but I’d also be deserving of whatever legal penalties could come my way.

James Popkie  is a fifth-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University


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