Watching livestreamed riots last night, fire and mayhem in fuzzy rectangles, I thought of Don Henley's 1985 hit: "Molotov cocktail, the local drink / And all she wants to do is dance, dance."
I miss a dance floor. I miss the bodies, the sweat, big speakers blowing the bass through my body. The mass movement. I miss being one droplet in a surge, subsuming myself in the wave.
I also thought of Sublime: "You were sitting home, watching your TV / While I was participatin' in some anarchy."
I could go to Oscar Grant Plaza tonight, but I won't. My fiancé would worry, and I'm in a stringently cautious social "pod". Even in the Before Times I wouldn't have gone, although the urge is perennial. Rowdy protests are beguilingly intense.
"With red lights flashing, time to retire / And then we turned that liquor store into a structure fire." Wait, I thought it was a Target? Heck, all of the above.
'Cause everybody in the hood has had it up to here
It's getting hotter, and hotter and harder, each and every year
Some kids went in a store with their mother
I saw her when she came out, she was getting some Pampers
They said it was for the black man
They said it was for the Mexican, and not for the white man
But if you look at the street, it wasn't about Rodney King
And this fucked up situation, and these fucked up police
It's about coming up and staying on top
And screaming, "187 on a motherfuckin' cop"
It's not in the paper, it's on the wall
Smoke from all around
187 is murder in the California Penal Code.
It's a bridge too far. A straw breaking the camel's back. The center cannot hold.
Some contend that a mob is too incoherent to send that message — Up With This We Will Not Put. I think it's the opposite. Mobs are too incoherent to send any other message. Rioting is communal frustration made deluge. A riot says, "Appease us or else." That's all; crude but clear.
People want to blame agents provocateur (a real phenomenon, to be clear) or antifa or what-have-you. They want to debate the strategic valence of rioting, and point fingers at suspected orchestrators. I understand the impulse, and it's true that opportunists are rampant whenever Eris blows through town... with Nemesis in tow, more often than not.
Pillaging is an ancestral human behavior. Despite the self-domestication that comprises "society," I don't think we'll ever relinquish our capacity for direct — and yes, wanton — destruction. It's too effective. The vexing asymmetry of effort versus creation is what renders smash-and-grab civil unrest so potent.
"There is a reason for every war and a war for every reason," a man once wrote, reflecting on the atrocities familiar to him. "I was terrified. I was ashamed, and I couldn't wait for it to happen again."