Riots part 2

I give no permission for news media to quote from these blogs. If they do so (they are probably legally entitled) then I am on record disclaiming anything that is expressed outside of the context in which it was originally conceived-namely these blogs. It seems to me, even though I am new to it, that blog culture is essentially in competition with mainstream media, and uses as its basic premise the fact that blogs are free of the machinations of their counterparts (editors and the like who can, through the structure of their edits make things read the way they want them to). I will blog about the integrity of the utterance later to tease this out.

Part of the purpose of my last blog on the student riots was to assert that the issue is problematic and that the media tends to oversimplify, sensationalise (I say this as a pre-emptive strike, because before the week is out some of my words will be taken out of context) and then demonise. Even in framing an idea like "scarfie culture" for example, and "student riots" assumes that the culture has a set of characteristics that lend themselves to certain activities. I have recently moved back into the "student area" (Dalmore) and am surrounded by students. The recycling bins are as full on Monday morning as they are on other streets, but I have never lost any sleep because of student behaviour since moving there. I've seen students drinking beers and chatting on their front lawns and they appear no different to when I was student. Clearly there is something different about Dalmore that differentiates it from the flatlands below. The main difference of course is that it is undeveloped.

The terrain is as steep as a hen's face for the most part and is therefore less amenable to subdivision. Walking my dogs around the area reveals beautiful old houses, some two-storeyed, with high hedges and delicious privacy where many student flatters have enjoyed a chat over a few beers for many years. They also live interspersed with non-students as neighbours  (who would call the noise control if push came to shove, which ina monospecific environment is less ikely). At the very least, nothing riotous has occurred in Dalmore while I've been there and this seems to underscore the observation made last week about the density and monospecificity of the lowlands.

On an individual level I believe students are little different than they have ever been-or suffice to say I see myself at that age when I see my neighbours chatting, smoking and drinking on the grass outside their flat. I also don't think the students here are largely different from those at other universities and I've played orientation gigs at all of them over a long period (though not recently admittedly) and have seen riotous and destructive behaviour at other places and Toga parties to rival anything here, believe me. It is another story for another time but we once played an orientation gig at Lincoln-which to cut a long story short was the first and last. The general gist of that gig was people (mainly men because the demographic was, and probably still is, skewed in their favour), daring each other to do something grosser than their mates had just achieved. The said gig was a long time ago now and things might have changed but I'm guessing not. Young people goading each other to greater extremes, whether it be grossness, intoxication or petty violence, seems a phase in every generation. I remember it well enough.

People behave in crowds in a manner that they wouldn't individually. And lets face it, the terraces at a rugby game are a controlled riot, where people are free to hurl abuse, profanities and beer cans because sheer weight of numbers and the unlikelihood of being identified and collared by authorities allows this with impunity. This to me is the central issue, that in terms of concentration of numbers, parts of North Dunedin can quickly coalesce into a terrace-type environment. The problem is that unlike Carisbrook, Castle Street offers more freedom to operate-more "freedom of expression" shall we say. One of the first couch burnings I can remember was at a cricket one-day match at Carisbrook. This couldn't happen at a rugby test of course due to insufficient room. I think this tells us something about "letting off steam" (which everyone needs) and the virtues of containment.

What other factors are involved? Modern communication for one thing and this is not confined to Dunedin. There have been numerous stories of high school parties that have ended up with 600 people at them, because the address was leaked, texted and twittered, such that interlopers looking for a possible happening have descended uninvited and chaos has ensued (including at one some time back involving fatalities when a car ploughed into party goers). How many non- students looking for an opportunity to cause mayhem were involved the weekend before last? Details get in the way of a good story and are not worth considering.

I am concerned that a fatality is around the corner whether it be the aforementioned car ploughing into revellers or, due to the density of the housing, a fire of London scenario incinerating those passed out in their beds. But it will be the devil's own job to stop that happening when the basic environmental aspects are set. The history of alcohol related events, whether they be Castle Street or Hyde Street, have set a precedent for a long time. Those attracted by that legacy and eager to perpetuate it, doubtless will be drawn to take up residence there and the cycle will continue. Those of a more peaceful disposition might become my neighbours in Dalmore.
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