Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

05 March, 2007

In further signs of me getting older (updated)


It wasn't that long ago that I was "taking part" in mob violence (if by "taking part" you mean being present when the police meted out collective punishment while overreacting to a small, small minority of criminals/provocateurs), and I've typically been sympathetic to victims of police violence. In most cases, the riots are appended to demonstrations around demonstrably righteous causes.

I'm having a hard time being sympathetic to the rioting counter-culturalists of Copenhagen, lashing out at the eviction of squatters from the Ungdomshuset Youth Center - even if, as is the case, the law enforcement reaction is disproportionately violent. Maybe it's because they pretty much eschewed the moral claims of non-violent resistance with this video:

Maybe it's because they turned down a seemingly reasonable compromise offer (from the aforelinked Guardian piece):
What makes the whole thing even more ridiculous is that the squatters were offered an old school nearby as a replacement for Ungdomshuset. This offer was refused by the youths on grounds that it is the symbolic value of the original house that matters.

I flitted around the edges of the now-moribund local anarchist scene long enough to know that it was a combustible mix of serious community organizers, pie-in-the-sky ideologues, and anti-social criminals. In what I've personally observed, this manic, radical energy was brought to bear (with varying degrees of efficacy) on real problems - the inequalities inherent in neoliberal global trade regimes and forest defense, the two most locally pertinent.

With efforts being made by local governments to allow Ungdomshuset to continue its existence, albeit in a different location (and I have no idea how sincere those offers were), the claim that rioters are aiming to protect "tolerance" of the Danish counter-culture ring hollow (although I don't doubt that gentrification is also a driving motivation for the government). There's something to be said for providing a space for the counter-culture, especially one as institutionalized as in Denmark. It would appear to this relatively uninformed observer that such a space was provided. Is European anarchism now so hollow that they'll provoke a conflict with law enforcement over a symbol? Given the very real wars in the Middle East, the continuing degradation of the environment, and global economic inequalities that plague our common existence, this outburst seems incredibly narcissistic and utterly disconnected from the world's most desperate problems. Or maybe I'm just old.

[updated on March 5, 2007 at 6:32 PM]:The comments here provide an on-the-ground account and seem to confirm my gut instinct.

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