Individual vs. Collective Violence


Last night in Madrid, police and young Madrileños clashed in the Madrid neighborhood of Malasaña. A few years ago, the city prohibited what is known as botellón, or the public consumption of alcohol. The practice of botellón is very common amongst teenagers who prefer to gather in parks and plazas to drink alcohol instead of paying for their drinks in bars. In any event, May 1st and May 2nd are holidays in Madrid and the main plaza in Malasaña is called the Plaza Dos de Mayo (in honor of Madrid’s resistence to Napoleon) and in recent years has a been favorite botellón spot. Thus to celebrate the holiday and to resist what they must perceive as as an assault on their inalienable right to public drinking, the youngters defied the law and the police attempted to stop them. All in all, some 100 people (about 50% of them police) were injured.

This is not the first time the police and youth have battled it out over the right to botellón. What I find interesting is that individually, people in Europe (especially in Spain) are generally not violent, but in groups they are. This was also seen last night in similar, yet unrelated, protests in Berlin. Europeans are also violent when supporting their soccer teams. On the other hand, in the US people do not tend to protest violently or in support of their professional teams. Individuals are dangerous, not the masses. Add to that guns and dark streets and the fact that crowds are always more predictable than individuals, and the US becomes a scary place. Meanwhile, Madrid is incredibly safe, even when walking alone late at night. There are no guns. But, put a bunch of people together and a seemingly absurd political cause, and you have a small riot on hand. We often see images of police brutality at a traffic stop in the States, but never the police clashing with a crowd. The opposite occurs in Europe.

In the US there is individual violence. In Europe there is collective violence.



Filed under Essays, Living la vida española

8 responses to “Individual vs. Collective Violence

  1. Is it “violence” when see other animals that react as solitary or pack hunters?

    What creature on the face of the globe does not engage in warfare?

  2. TheCommentKiller


    not to disagree, b/c i think you raise an interesting point. But check out the recent article about violence used against demonstrators in L.A.:

  3. eric

    Yes, I saw that on the news today and was surprise because it appeared to be directly in opposition to what I had written about yesterday. Nevertheless, last night was even worse than the previous evening in Malasaña (we walked through there one night).

    What is particularly interesting, though, is that the kids in Madrid were provoking the police and were agressive. I am not sure if it was the same in LA. There is also a big difference between protesting your immigration rights and your rights to get drunk and disturb the neighbors until 4am.

  4. TheCommentKiller

    my understanding is that the protesters in the U.S. were completely peaceful. It would actually be nice to see some more aggressive protests in the U.S. (but i would be happy w/ protests in general). Nowadays many protests in the U.S. even have corporate sponsors.

  5. eric

    Protests are only valuable when followed up by reasonable and focused political pressure. Normally they are just a mob who then disperses and doesn’t do anything else. That’s why most protests are useless in the long run. If people participated more often in the many avenues available for doing so in political life (through lobbies, trade unions, notice and comment rule-making, sending letters, through voting, etc), people’s interests would be more effectively represented.

  6. Para más detalles sin te interesan otros puntos de vista, diría que más acertados:

  7. eric

    Gracias, Sonia.

  8. eric

    Tanto los chavales como la policia se pasaron dos pueblos. Lo que digo es que no entiendo como pasan estas cosas.

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