Interesting. This is from last night, here in Edmonton. (Yes, the rest of the world has soccer, Canada has hockey.)
On the weekend, a friend and I were sitting at Café Select a few blocks down from the throngs of drunken sports fans and the literal block-long walls of riot police and paramedics maintaining a semblance of order on Whyte Avenue. My friend was quick to point out how disgusting the behaviour is, and we discussed it briefly with our waiter. I agree with her, but something is missing from the equation.
She pointed out that is was the projection of unity, expressed by the lowest common denominator: unification through the association of athletes, something to tie together the collective voice of a community. Not scholastic, artistic, humanitarian, or any other pursuit, but that of the so-called "jock." Really, no different from Romans watching gladiators two millennia ago.
But yet I can appreciate the force and power of the collective here (Hobbes's Leviathan coming to mind, even though I've not read it).
I am of the opinion that internet communities that build up around the likes of Slashdot, Digg, Boing Boing, et cetera, represent a new form of community. This is nothing new online, and has been discussed elsewhere at length. Smaller, more refined efforts and voices, more specialised individuals coming together under one banner or another, then disbanding till the next time.
Even though I can appreciate the force and am even in awe of the community by this display at the coliseum here in Edmonton, and want to see it flourish into the future, my friend is right, I believe, in that the mass is dying and we're moving away from such groupthink. This would imply that, as individuals, we refine more of who we are and through communications technology, are allowed the convenience of organising ourselves faster and in regards to much more specific events or causes.
Instead of a raucous crowd of cheering nationalists, we have élite cells consisting of specialists — a club thundering down versus the precision of a razor.
This makes me wonder about the so-called Thousandfold Thought as I've been pondering over the past while, as written about by R. Scott Bakker. The analogy also works for society versus secret society.
Sorry, this post is a bit vague. I find the video is quite powerful and there are so many aspects of it that I am contemplating in the back of my head, when I should really be dealing with some other matters here. :-)
EDIT — While the above video evokes respectable feelings of pride and admiration, thanks to Teri for posting the following on MySpace. These illustrate the madness that accompanies these "community events" (of course, liquor is involved). I'm not critical of the enjoyment of the game, hockey is but a catalyst to bring about this insane fervour across the whole of the city. It's the mentality that's been cultured and pretty much expected:
Here we see two jocks crawling across wires hanging across Whyte Avenue. What you don't get to see, however, is that when they fall, the crowd disperses and they smack the pavement pretty good.
And here, two girls flash the crowd. Fun, until one of them gets burned with pyrotechnics, aimed and fired at her from a metre or two away.
I know worse happens in other cities and parts of the world, but in this post's comments Rev Max puts it well:
projecting unmet needs onto mass spectacle as a means to fill and inner emptiness, for the little man crowd member to become important (via group action) the contagion of group violence, political rallies with floodlights and torchlit processions cause people to swoon, some sort of latter day mass ritual substitute political shamanism
like mysticism in the other direction, not ennobling but degrading