The Stanley Cup riot shows that Vancouver isn't the glitzy fun city for everyone.
That fantastic picture of a young couple making out in the street in the midst of rioting notwithstanding, last night’s “Stanley Cup riot” was more about anger than love or disappointment.
I highlight the term Stanley Cup riot, because I don’t believe it was about the Stanley Cup at all. The Game 7 final, which Vancouver lost as we all know, was merely an excuse for a lot of disaffected young men to vent an anger that’s been smouldering for some time.
It put the lie to Vancouver’s carefully crafted image of Fun City, Green and Caring City, Sophistication City, City of the Future and whatever other sweet term is in vogue at the moment.
The truth is, underneath the glitz there is a mountain of anger in this burgh.
This Vancouver region is increasingly becoming a place divided between Haves and the Have-nots. It was the latter who roamed the streets last night, burning, looting, and generally creating as much mayhem as they could.
Every day, we hear of some fantastic increase in real estate prices, of how someone has become rich by simply getting in early and waiting, of how a new development will change the city for the better by bulldozing an area of cheap housing or retail to build some monument to our desire to be seen as “world class.”
Or we hear soothing, caring talk of millions being poured into helping the lowest of the low be housed, recover from addictions, or get many helping hands to get their lives in order.
Meanwhile, the young, both educated and uneducated and mostly men, don’t get this help. A growing underclass, they’re pushed into the extremes, forced to take crappy jobs, and will never be able to share in the gold mine that’s supposed to be Vancouver.
They have to live in some crumbling area or suburb, where they live for a while before it’s redeveloped and glitzed up and they move on. Maybe they’re stuck at home with their parents, or in some basement apartment while trying to eke out a living in a service occupation that barely pays the rent.
They don't have a lot of hope, and all they see around them is more glitz, more wealth, more this, more that. They look at themselves and think: Why don’t I have any of that? I have a right to it as well.
So they fume, and they party, and they drink or take drugs to avoid thinking about the black hole that’s their future. Ambitions? Goals? Plans? Give me a break. Who has time or energy for that?
To me, it was no surprise that rioters moved on from the hockey venue area to the glitzy retail district downtown, and started smashing and looting.
I've seen riots in places like Detroit, and this followed the same pattern. Boozed up, these nowhere men decide they're going to get theirs – even if theirs is a few pieces of clothing, or entertainment technology that will anesthetize their envy for a while longer.
These weren’t “hooligans” or “anarchists,” as the pundits liked to call them. They were young men who are going nowhere fast. They believe their lives suck and aren’t going to get any better.
No amount of self-serving city PR is going to solve that.