Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Kisses

Riots seem to be in the news of late. In other countries it’s over politics and money, but in Canada it was triggered by a lost hockey game, when the Vancouver Canucks were defeated by the Boston Bruins. As I looked at the photographs of the riot I was struck not only by the usual smashed store front windows and burning cars, but by the seeming reckless abandon of a young couple kissing as they lay down in the street. The photo reminded me of another famous kissing photo, that of a young sailor and nurse, taken during a street march to celebrate the end of WW2.  Both photos suggest that the individuals are expressing a wave of passion as the energy of the street spills over into their personal embrace. The similarities end there. One is a photo of young couple showing the resurfacing of youthful jubilance after the darkness of war, while the other is a picture of intoxicated libido, enlivened by a temporary loss of restraint. 

Social control is a fact of life in a mass society
. Most of the time individuals do not tear up store fronts or make out in the middle of the street. We're kept in line by fear of punishment, fear of what others would think of us, and the daily carrot and stick routines that govern our lives. As a teacher, I see the reality of how this works in the classroom.  Most students start out the year behaving well. Initially they return to the same seat as the day before. They will ask to go to the bathroom.  Most worry about completing assignments and at least try to give the appearance of working. Slowly, as the group becomes more familiar, it takes on its own chemistry and the noise and energy of the room raises. Soon students are switching chairs, failing to hand work in, and some culprits start the routine of showing up late or skipping class. Usually, one or two strong-willed individuals try to bend the class toward their goal of having fun and putting them in the spotlight. As a teacher, your job is to try and keep the social reinforcements sufficient to keep the class moving. Failure to do so could result in a class becoming out of control.

Perhaps it’s because so much of life in today's mass society is managed and controlled that beneath the surface we all at times want to rebel and throw off restraint.  Like a food fight in the school cafeteria, to me what the Vancouver riots show is a crowd of people drawing the permission to break the rules from each other, not for any noble purpose but simply because they had a childish temper tantrum after their team lost.  Proverbs 29:18 says, “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.  But whoever obeys the law is joyful.”   Those two photographs tell the story. In the vintage photo we see a passionate couple who maintain their own self-control, in the current photo we see what looks like drunken teenagers at a party under the masked face of an authority figure.  Something has been lost between those two kisses.

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