(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

This is a riot? More like a call to action.

If by some chance you haven't heard about the "riot" that occurred last night, here's a video and news article.

Small warning: the video can get kind of intense. Watch with care.

I've seen a lot of Facebook posts by friends saying that they are ashamed that Western students would act this way, that rioting for the sake of rioting is a disgrace, or that inciting a riot because your party got broken up is little better than a temper tantrum of idiotic proportions, that this is an example of privileged kids (because let's not give them the dignity of calling them adults) harming our community.

And I agree with most of these.

The way people are acting in this video is completely irrational and disproportional to the instigating events, and for those of us who have been continually civically engaged, organizing and/or marching in protests or lobbying down in Olympia for actual causes, I can see how this is upsetting. Where is this anger when we're fighting for something bigger than ourselves? Where is this collective mentality to fight the power when the power is actually taking something away from us? What concerns me most about the events last night is how it will affect relations between BPD and legitimate protests. Will events like Take Back the Night, a march and rally against violence in the streets, be possible if the irresponsible actions shown disrupted relations between the university and the police?

But stepping off the soapbox for a moment, I think that what transpired last night is symptomatic of something larger. In the last few years with the rise and fall of the Occupy movement and Kony 2012 and the Arab Spring and everything that happened in Texas this summer and the results of the Zimmerman trial, we live in a time of protest, where protests and riots have become a media-covered norm in the background radiation of our lives.

Additionally, with rising cost of tuition across the country and across the state, the demographics at Western are changing as well. I've heard many a comment about "how much broier" my school has gotten as it has increasingly become one of the only viable schools available to students graduating from high school in a poor economy and face with the supposed necessity of a college degree. This makes Western increasingly white and privileged which would support a culture and mentality that encourages such "riots" without cause.

Most of us are dissatisfied with the status quo. We were promised change and while much has happened, it often feels like we've taken two steps forward and three steps back.

With each passing day the feeling that we are volatile and waiting for the right (or wrong) trigger to set us off increases ever so slightly. So while I disagree with what happened and think it's irresponsible, it's a harbinger of potential things to come.

Which leads me to my final point, a call to action among my peers. If the events last night upset you, if they make you ashamed to be a Viking, if they make you concerned about the Bellingham community we know and love, do something about it.

If it is in your ability to do so, harness this energy, this anger. Rather than railing against the apathy of your fellow students, push them to do better. Let them know about the opportunities to be involved, to serve our community and make it better. Organize legitimate protests and invite these cause-less rioters to march with you. Tell everyone you know to vote in the local elections. In short, keep doing all the awesome activist heArtwork we've been doing.

If you work for the Associated Students, hold events that address topics of oppression. If you run a club, make that club relevant to current events in whatever tiny ways seem applicable. Start an educational campaign to teach people ways to get involved. Ask your professors if they can make community service a requirement of a class.

I know it's frustrating. I know it's hard. And statistically, numbers aren't on our side. Outreach to populations that have no strong attachments can feel like pulling teeth, it's drawn out and painful, but in the end it's for their own good.

So keep doing what you're doing, keep leading by example, and maybe these so-called rioters will find something useful to do.

[edit] Here's another perspective from my friend Robert.