Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Riots in Rostock

A major news story yesterday came from the German city of Rostock, where a huge riot by persons opposing the G8 summit taking place there resulted in injuries to nearly 150 police officers (25 of them serious) and the arrest of 52 demonstrators. In case you are counting, that's about a 3-to-1 ratio of police injured to rioters arrested.

What are people thinking?

Certainly, not everyone supports the goals and methods of the G8 nations (Britain, France, Japan, Italy, Russia, Canada and the United States) as they try to address issues of mutual or global concern such as health, law enforcement, labor, economic and social development, energy, environment, foreign affairs, justice and interior, terrorism and trade. But it seems to me that wanton violence and destruction of property is a very poor way of convincing the G8 representatives - or anyone with a functioning brain - that one's views have merit and deserve to be heard more than those of the people who actually are in a position to address the issues.

The demonstrators, of course, blamed all the violence on the police. One demonstrator was quoted on CNN as saying, "As long as the police were in the background it was OK, but as soon as one took a step closer, it went out of control." As I read the news reporting, however, it appears that the police actually moved against the protestors only after cars were burned and paving stones pulled from the streets and hurled at the police.

I have written in this blog many times about problems of effective communication and mutual respect. Many of the protesters are surely motivated by concern for the world's poor and the effects of the policies of the nations economically and militarily strong enough to impose those policies (and it's good to remember that it's not just the much-maligned United States that is in this category). Other demonstrators, however, appear to be simply spoiling for a fight. And neither side - the peaceful protestors or the violent demonstrators - seems to have any credible alternative to offer.

And there's the real issue as I see it: demonstrations are fine, and people in free societies have a right (and, indeed, an obligation) to make their voices heard. But as the old New England adage says, if you're going to break the silence, make sure you can improve on it. Don't just loudly protest that you don't like what's going on - make a better suggestion. And that better suggestion needs to be more than just a pie-in-the-sky wish if it is to be taken seriously by those in a position to make it happen.

That's today's thought: demonstrate all you want, but offer a better alternative.

And leave your mindless violence at home.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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