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malte sebastian
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I've watched this video several times and thought about it even more. There's a lot to say including some interesting thoughts in this Atlantic piece

Why I Feel Bad for the Pepper-Spraying Policeman, Lt. John Pike - Alexis Madrigal - National - The Atlantic

But I want to focus on another thought I've had but only voiced briefly in a standup show last night.

The authorities in all these #OWS crackdowns are assuming a steadily passive reaction from the protestors. Despite the constitutional right to peaceably assemble, governments and post 9/11 militarized police (LRAD!?) are responding with violence against their own people.

The thing about violent uprisings is that you rarely see a steady escalation. These Occupy Wall Street gatherings have been extremely civil and peaceful by and large. And I don't think you're gonna see some slowly increasing amount of violence on the part of the protestors. That's not how revolutions generally pop off. I'm pretty sure that, in general, something just snaps. A student gets shot. A man sets himself on fire. A cop punches an old lady. Then BAM: full scale violent conflict.

So there's that.

But I want to come back to the other risk in the presumption of passivity. There's a frighteningly relaxed attitude to this "Peace Officer" in the video below and among many authorities. It's a condescending attitude based in the idea that these "kids" won't do anything about it. I could be reading too much into the situation, but I think authorities have bought into the narrative that this is a generation raised on iPods and Facebook and MTV reality shows and when push come to shove, they won't fight back.

I would just humbly remind folks that all those factors are true about this generation, but the response may not be. You see, this generation was also raised on collaborative multiplayer combat sims: World of Warcraft, Modern Warfare, 007, Resident Evil, etc. We've literally spent hours building teams and fragging people and aliens and zombies and not batting an eye. Millions of Americans have clocked hundreds or thousands of hours in war simulations. We have all gotten pretty comfortable with coordinated violence.

While it's not "real" war or "real" violence, our brains think differently. We get an adrenaline rush. Our heart rates increase. We sweat. The perception is quite similar, and I just think it's worth some extra thought on the part of the authorities.

I am absolutely not advocating violence, but I can't help but think that you might want to be careful provoking people who have been subconsciously trained on war games.

Followup: it's worth reading this entire interview between +Boing Boing's +Xeni Jardin and one of the pepper-sprayed UC Davis students.

And bonus thanks to Chris Welton below (G+ won't let me tag) for this amazingly powerful video which forces me to add another layer of thought.

VIDEO: UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walks to her car (higher quality)


The power of the #occupy movement has always been most potent in its process rather than its (relatively undefined) goals. We can beg for a bit of power from corrupt institutions and corrupt processes or we can build the world on principles we believe in and set an example. In the video above, the UC Davis students set the most powerful example. Rather than responding to violence with violence, they responded with extreme PEACE thus increasing their moral authority by several orders of magnitude. Law enforcement also have moral authority, but chose to rely on the authority of force to convey their message. The students have chosen the more restrained, wise and powerful path.

That approach, applied to all problems and challenges, is the one with more impact.

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