Rioting in Stockholm

For the past week, I’ve been following fairly shocking news of rioting in Stockholm, and also various other areas in Sweden.   It’s shocking because Sweden has a particular reputation for being a peaceful, largely equal country.  In retrospect I don’t think the 2005 riots in Paris and the 2011 riots across England were hugely surprising, though I don’t know nearly enough about Sweden to comment here.

What saddens me is that the riots are reported to have occurred in areas where immigrants make a majority.  I know there will always be cultural difficulties and conflicts with first-generation immigrants, especially when they arrive on a large scale, but it’s tragic that it results in such violence.  This will just give credence to the policies of growing right-wing, anti-immigrant nationalist parties across the continent – the New Democracy party in Sweden, or UKIP in the UK, National Front in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, etc…

I personally cannot understand the psychology behind rioting.  The smashing of public or private property, of setting cars alight, of attacking police, is not something people would do on their own, yet there seems to be a sense of safety and anonymity in numbers during riots.  Yet, do riots really allow people to exercise a normally hidden desire for violence?  I find that hard to believe.  There is the theory of ‘mob mentality’, which argues that people can become caught up with the mood of the group and conform to its expectations, following this uncontrolled force like sheep.  I accept this to be true – it’s the same force which powers most aspects of human society – but I cannot personally understand it.  I’ve never been in a situation such as this, but would I suddenly get involved if a riot would break out?  I just cannot imagine it.  Of course, I’m also a generally privileged White male who’s had access to a decent education and healthcare for his whole life.  I have a stake in society, and see no reason to riot, within or without a mob.  So is inequality a major factor?  Both inequality and the mob mentality combined?  It’s an intriguing question.

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The End of an Era

Yesterday was my final ever timetabled day at high school.  13 years (75%) of my life, and it is now over.  Sure, I still have a month of revision and exams ahead before completely being chucked out, but… Wow.  I really can no longer claim to be a child any more.

It’s both fascinating and impossible to impartially reflect on these years.  I am incredibly grateful to have received an education and tried to never take it for granted, but there have been many times I’ve had reason to criticise the system.  It’s inescapable nature, either through design of peer pressure, to discourage individuality and push for uniformity; the unfair and unrepresentative use of exams as often the sole form of assessment; and the sheer stress it places on young people, are all aspects I would like to discuss in detail but don’t have the time or willpower to bring together the well-planned arguments this topic deserves [these exams are draining].  The point about peer pressure is definitely one I would like to speak about at a later date.

But of course, there are huge benefits to schooling – state schooling in particular – I’ve experienced.  The range of teachers and pupils to interact with, the friends I’ve made, the opportunities… It’s been a rollercoaster 13 years.

My Response to Patrick Garratt on Vine

I was reading this article on the Huffington Post just now about Twitter’s new microblogging service, ‘Vine’, in which users can upload 6 second clips of their lives with an Iphone and show it to the world.  Garratt makes some very interesting points, amusingly argued, and I both agree and disagree with him.

I agree in one respect that increased self-presentation isn’t healthy.  Giving people another tool to obsess over their own lives and, basically, to show off, is likely to be just as mundane as Garratt believes.  By chronicling your own life, detail by detail, you’re sure to miss the significant things which exist beyond it.  He’s right that there is no distinction between one ‘cup of tea posting’ and another, that there really is a cat saturation point, that there’s only so much we can take of inanities.

And yet, looking on the vine website itself, I can’t help being transfixed.  In that little box, the myriad of human diversity is on show.  Every six seconds there’s a different person, a different location, a different culture, a different lifestyle, different technology, a different philosophy and belief, and a different activity.  Vine is the latest step towards the complete connection of the human race; culture enriched by each step, and tolerance grown.  We now know more about each other than ever before, and that can only be a good thing.

I doubt I’ll get Vine myself, unless it takes off within my peer group and through social pressures I feel compelled to join in.  But it’s an interesting creation, even if it does risk high levels of what could be considered mundanity.