Your Everyday Superpower

So many things are happening in the world recently. I’ve spent the last two months being very self-involved, focusing on school and little else. I popped my head up for air a few days ago to check on the state of the world. I am now feeling angry, sad, tentatively hopeful, and frustrated all at once. I wasn’t going to write this post in such a hurried manner, but something happened last night which needs to be talked about. I’m sure most of you are aware of it already; if not I’d start here. This event was a wonderful demonstration of the unchecked, undemocratic power privilege that exists in our current state of affairs. And it happened in our backyard. It is frightening, unjust, and should be very personal to every single member of the McGill community. Whether you agree with the protesters or not, the methods employed to remove peaceful demonstrators from public property should be a wakeup call.

This is not a new issue. For decades, the cry of “Police brutality!” has been faintly echoing in our streets, our courtrooms, our airports, and at our protests. It is faint because it is often played down by news reports or people who believe that the cruel means justify the end when the end is to defeat the terrorists or the criminals. Lately the end has been to silence the people who don’t agree, to scare the people who won’t submit, and to intimidate the people who are asking tough questions. And let me get one thing straight. If someone is behaving violently or aggressively, I do not have a problem with police officers using force to stop them. I do believe that there is a line over which point someone’s behavior will elicit the use of a reasonable amount of force. The problem is that this line or gray area is either ignored or extremely subjective, and it has been crossed irrationally and groundlessly again and again. It keeps happening. You see the high-profile cases on the news and for every one of those you can see a thousand more on youtube if you are so inclined. I will admit that I am not knowledgeable about internal disciplinary or preventative policies of Canadian or US police forces, but from my standpoint it seems that either no measures have been put into place to control these reckless abuses of power, or that the measures aren’t effective.

What I do know is this: give someone a little bit of power, a weapon, and (effectively) carte blanche to do with it as they deem necessary, and things are going to get out of control. Please don’t misunderstand my intentions here. There are a lot of good cops out there who risk their lives every day to protect us. There are also a lot of good cops out there who are just following orders. But the issue that really worries me is that there are also a lot of bad cops out there who are nothing more than grown-up bullies. I hate writing that sentence. I really do. When I was growing up, TV shows and stories and movies were always about good guys vs. bad guys. The good guys were always the superheroes, the leaders, and the cops. The bad guys were always those who had agendas to control and intimidate. Nothing has prepared me to be in a situation where the leaders are the ones using manipulative tactics and the cops are the ones intimidating and attacking people. I may have strayed a bit off-topic here, because I am no longer talking only about what happened on campus last night. I am talking about the protests and movements which are currently happening all over the world. The McGill incident is just what sparked me into finally putting some of my thoughts on this into written word.

I feel that I should wrap this up. I am angry, frustrated, and confused and this melting pot of emotions does not a coherent writer make. My point is this: Come up for air. Take a moment to find out what is happening, both at home and around the globe. Take in some reports from mainstream news sites if you like, but please consider looking up some issues on youtube as well. We are at an unprecedented point in human history where we each have the power to report our own stories. We each have the ability to raise our voices louder than ever and be heard. Almost everyone now has access to the equipment required to broadcast themselves across the entire world in a manner which is accessible to millions of other people. Just take a minute to think of how amazingly powerful that makes each and every one of us. Admittedly, a lot of people are just using this power to post videos of their cats online. But some people are using this power to connect, to communicate, and to effect change. So sort through the kittehs and find some real reports and real interviews and real footage. Find out what is really happening. And then let’s fix this. Let’s be the superheroes, not the bystanders. Start with the forcible ejection of young people from a place they have invested in, a place they trust to guide them, a place they have earned, a place they are trying to defend for future generations. Let’s make sure that everyone knows what happened and that it’s not ok, it’s not going to be glossed over, and that something will be done about it.

One thought on “Your Everyday Superpower

  1. It’s definitely a thorny issue. There are a million facets to the problem of ‘crowd control’, but two of them are really interesting to me right now: the first is crowd psychology, and when and what triggers a peaceful protest to evolve into something more.

    The second is police psychology. In the wake of the recent civil unrest you mentioned, some interesting studies have been done. There is a lot of work on the psychological stresses officers face, and even on the role of physical exhaustion in contributing to the rash overreactions and poor decisions typical of retaliatory police brutality.

    While I’m not at all advocating their behavior in this instance, a little understanding goes a long way. There are people just like the rest of us under that riot gear. They’re entering a potentially volatile situation vastly outnumbered, and they’re afraid too.

    More people need to realize, as you have, that there are a lot of good cops out there. But I think modern psychology goes a long way to explain some of the outrageous bully-like behavior too.

    Abandoning the ‘us-vs.-them’ mentality that riot-police situations entrench is the first step in finding constructive ways to protest that can stay peaceful on both sides. Crowd clubbing and spraying clearly violates what most of us want our university (and society) to ever be, and things should never need to come to that.


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