Learning, the act of gaining knowledge, is a craft unto itself. It starts with questions - the what ifs, how abouts, whys, . . . leading from the unknown to the known, through inquiry, experimentation, travel, and of course pure accident.

This is about how it happens in my life.

Wisdom of Crowds, Corrupted

Hosting the Olympics in 2010 appears to have had a lasting effect on the beautiful city of Vancouver.  Throughout the NHL playoffs during home games the crowd belted out O Canada with such fervour, as though all that practice last year left them wanting more.  The crowds in the streets showed again and again that enthusiasm for the team mattered more than the local liquor store closing early.
Until Wednesday June 15, 2011.  That night, the wisdom of the crowd was corrupted.
There is little doubt in my mind that the riots in Vancouver after Game 7 would have happened regardless of the outcome of the game itself.  At the same time there is no doubt that the majority of people in the streets that night were appalled by what happened around them, only wanting to be safe.  Of the remaining minority, some of them showed up with intent, while the remainder are now wondering why they behaved so badly asking, "what got into me?"  

At some point in the evening wisdom gave way to noise and chaos, a la Shannon and Weaver's Information Theory.  Large crowds with even the best of intentions present great cover for any one up to some mischief. Think of the Black Bloc or radical cheerleading for example. 

The similarities between Toronto during that stupid summit in 2010 and game 7 in Vancouver are interesting: businesses closed, streets blocked to traffic, designated areas for congregating. Mind you the differences are all the more so, with bad behaviour correctly predicted resulting in a huge police presence, perimeter fence, and many businesses closed out of fear in Toronto.  It seems Vancouver was operating on a more hopeful model, one that turned out to be unfortunately incorrect.

What strikes me as more instructive is what happened the day after.  I don't recall news items about Torontonians coming out to help clean up post-protest.  I looked for and found very little official commentary from the protest community condemning the hooliganism taking place in their midst. Granted, much of the media was legitimately focused on police and policy abuses as well as the protesters.

Still: the response in Vancouver is one of a community rejecting such behaviour, while grappling with the recognition that it came from that same community.

If there is anything to be learned at all from history it is that there is always some one grasping for more, who will take or make any advantage to get it. It is found across all ideologies, professions, religions, nationalities and cultures throughout time, with perhaps the exception of Buddhism.

Vancouver Police may have missed the mark the other night; however, the approach taken in Toronto was as useless as the current approach to airline passenger screening when it comes to security. 
The Wednesday before the Summit last year I bought an Estes model rocket kit from a store at the corner of King and Bay streets in downtown Toronto, one block north of the much vaunted Security Fence. 
I was literally walking around in an area with probably more police officers than regular folks with a rocket launcher in my bag.
How's that for security? And before you scoff, consider this:
with some scissors, a knife, glue, tape, batteries and a mere 60 minutes you can build a rocket with an ejection module that will fly 1200 feet high and, depending on the wind, travel equally far.
As long as you can prove you are 13 years old you can purchase one of these kits and they are quite inexpensive.  These rockets are loads of fun to build and fly, and would be a great gift for Fathers Day.

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