Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Hooligan Temptation

Creation is hard work, destruction is easy

Gangs of Russian, English (and other) hooligans are fighting it out in the streets at the Euro Cup of Soccer in France taking place right now, Hooliganism has become an adjunct of soccer, it seems, and its participants rehearse for battle, set out with mischief-making in mind, and equip themselves to practice their deviltry, the soccer game being little more than an opening for a greater goal—the perpetration of as much mayhem as possible.
      But hooliganism wasn’t invented by soccer fans. Free Dictionary includes a couple of definitions of the word, what it’s come to mean: reckless or malicious behavior that causes discomfort or annoyance in others; the termination of something by causing so much damage to it that it cannot be repaired or no longer exists. I would probably add, “the organized creation of straw men in order to experience the longed for, orgasmic high that comes from the act of attacking and burning them down publicly.”
      I think we all recognize the biology of hooliganism intuitively. It’s not only the good deed, the making of something wonderful that can bring about the physical and emotional euphoria our minds and bodies crave. Euphoria can be had—given the appropriate circumstances—from the destruction of the good deeds and wonderful inventions that others or we have created. Typically, we attempt to escape this fact by assigning blame or praise—as the case may be—to God and the Holy Spirit or to the devil who “made me do it.”
      I’m sorry, folks, but it’s all built into us by the very creative process that made us. Fight or Flight are defensive mechanisms for our protection, the adrenaline that fuels them lives on even when danger has to be invented—the straw man. It’s why we have games like hockey and football, where danger and battle are replicated in an attempt to achieve biological euphoria, even if only vicariously. But direct participation is limited and in the need to be a part of it, fandom emerges, and it doesn’t take much beyond Psychology 101 to predict that hooliganism will break out among those for whom the vicarious experience no longer totally satisfies.
      But even if soccer hooliganism can be controlled by policing and public indignation, there exists a hooliganism that’s far more sinister, that threatens—particularly in peaceful times—to erupt and grow to uncontrollable proportions. It can be characterized as it was in a bumper sticker during the Vietnam protests as “Have patience, you say? To hell with that. I’ve got a gun and I’m gonna kill something!” (My paraphrase; that would make a far-too-long bumper sticker.) The NAZI vendetta against Jews, Gypsies and gays was hooliganism developed to its logical and predictable conclusion; the diatribes and threats against the Notley government in Alberta is the thin edge of hooliganism showing itself; the rise of Donald Trump as a legitimate (politically) candidate for president of the USA is a result of neglecting, nurturing and then legitimizing hooliganism. The method of Trump hooliganism is “ the termination of something by causing so much damage to it that it cannot be repaired or no longer exists. The support Trump is getting from the National Rifle Association is completely fitting; the very act of purchasing and owning an automatic weapon is the entertainment of the possibility of hooliganism.
      ISIS, to my mind, epitomizes well the concept of hooliganism. There comes a point where achieving euphoria through acts of mayhem becomes habitual. There comes a time when—as Shakespeare’s Macbeth puts it—“I am in blood stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er.” When you’ve beheaded ten innocent men and women for a video, pushed 20 homosexual men off the roof of a tall building, burned a pilot in a cage and videotaped it, what likelihood is there that you will say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was wrong. I’ll make it up to you and mend my ways.” Returning would be as tedious (read, impossible) as going all the way.
      ISIS is a criminal gang; we need to think about it as massive, organized crime rather than as a war of ideals. The Mafia, ISIS, Abu Sayyaf are not, in the end, ideologically or religiously driven. They’re Hooligans who’ve stepped in blood so far that the way back has become impossible. In for a penny; in for a pound.
      But here’s my ultimate concern: when followers of Christ and other prophets of peace, love and non-violence begin to compromise their own principles, begin to ignore, condone, excuse or applaud the hooligans, begin to take their euphoria from words and deeds of belligerence and de-struction, the way back is dangerously close to becoming impossible. When Christians start “packing,” I fear for tomorrow’s children. I fear for all minorities. I fear for women. I fear for the witness of the church, the witness of peace-loving Muslims and Jews, the witness of gentle-minded Hindus and Buddhists.
      Have we stepped in so far that returning would be as tedious as going all the way? 
     I sincerely hope not.

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