Vancouver riot was not innocence lost

A column by Graham Hookey

Dare I wade into the topic of parenting and the post-hockey game Vancouver riot?

Are emotions still too raw to be able to step back a moment and view this with a little more rational thought?

Is there a lesson to be learned for parents or kids from these events?

Yes, perhaps, and yes.

What a mess, seriously. The whole thing is a damning indictment of the direction young people are going, but in my opinion, not for the reasons most will assert.

Most will contend that young people are poorly behaved, disrespectful of authority and disrespectful of the property of others.  Why else would a crowd of hockey fans turn on the city they love and destroy public property, loot stores and attack police and their vehicles?

Let me approach the youth culture from a different angle. What bothered me the most in watching the videos were the number of people who were standing around cheering and videotaping or clicking cell phone pictures. The event was really just a stage on which young people could perform, posing for photos in front of mayhem or inciting others to go to such levels of mayhem for the sheer entertainment of recording it. There might have been 20 or 30 hard core anarchists who got it rolling, a few hundred caught-up-in-the-moment youth who made stupid choices, but there were thousands of people who passively stood by filming, or actively encouraged excess for the sake of the shots they would capture.

Too many young people today are completely engaged in the momentary entertainment of a visual world, often to the exclusion of any intelligence or common sense at all.

I suspect the hard core anarchists may never be caught. They know the street cameras run 24 hours-a-day and they know everyone has a recording device in their pocket. They arrived downtown with their faces hidden, they began activities with their faces covered and they disappeared quickly once the fame seekers took over the setting and tried to out-stupid each other to the delight of the voyeurs egging them on.

The anarchists are an intelligent and angry group who plan activities like this as though they were military maneuvers, well aware that when they get the ball rolling, less intelligent or more impulsive members of the species will create the negative attention they seek to thrust upon the police and city administration.

If, instead of filming the events, the crowd had turned on those who were starting each sequence of events, perhaps we’d have the more serious criminals in hand.

Instead, by being passive observers, the crowd let these criminals vanish into the night while foolish people, many who thought they were being cool, found themselves acting like sheep, or perhaps more accurately, led like lambs to the slaughter.

In the end, the courts will likely view the foolish acts of most as single moments of poor judgment.

And there will be a hue and cry that will go up about justice not being done by letting them off too lightly.

This is where I worry the most about our youth.  Most of them are good kids and the few who are really bad are small in number. Most youth are decently respectful of authority, although as an educator I certainly felt the bar of respectful behaviour was dropping for youth and their parents in the past 10 years. Most kids are respectful of the property of others and only a few are angry enough or jealous enough to damage or steal what belongs to others.

What bothers me about today’s youth culture is that it promotes intellectually passivity. They are constantly playing video games that promote no relationship between real action and real consequences; they watch inane content on-line or in films for huge portions of their free time; they create foolish video in the hopes of finding fame in the shortest route possible; they herd to websites and social media based on the trends established by others. They are thinking less and following more despite the fact their parents think they are so smart because of the speed they can use devices.

What happened in Vancouver should come as no surprise and I feel pretty confident that will not be an isolated incident, either there or in other large urban areas.

The flashmob dances we all enjoyed on YouTube have been giving way to flashmob violence lately – spontaneous groups of youth who use social media to gather at some place, wreak havoc and disperse in a matter of minutes.

Remember the term ‘wilding,’ as I suspect you’ll be seeing it more often in the news in the future.

The events in Vancouver should not be viewed as an instance of innocence lost as much as an example of stupidity found.

If we continue to allow our children to grow in a world of shallow thinking, where reality and fantasy begin to merge and where being a celebrity or recording an outrageous digital photo or sound byte is a measure of personal success, then we’ll find the ability of our kids to make the right choices before they act will become less and less likely.

Graham Hookey is an educational and parenting writer. Email him at