By Nathan Barton
It appears that New York City is again building up to an open rebellion against the tyranny and nanny act that is the government of the city.
Could it be that this time, they might mean it?
A week or so ago, this was posted by CBS: “The New York Police Department (NYPD) said Tuesday that one person is being questioned in connection with a viral video of police officers being doused with water while responding to calls. The videos caused widespread outrage in the city and online. One video, taken in Harlem over the weekend, shows two officers being doused with water and pelted with empty buckets while making an arrest. …”
NYPD Chief Terrence Monahan responded to the incident on Twitter. ‘The videos of cops being doused with water and having objects hurled at them as they made an arrest in #Harlem is reprehensible,’ Monahan wrote. ‘NYC’s cops & communities have made remarkable progress — together — but EVERY New Yorker MUST show respect for our cops.’”
Beyond the obvious retort (“Does the NYPD deserve any respect?”), we note that NYC is actually pretty free of what are called “riots” or “rebellions” – at least when compared to cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, or Chicago. Indeed, many of the incidents called riots in NYC don’t even make it into the newspapers (outside of the City), much less the history books. And many which do make it into history are pretty trivial: a few people injured, a few vehicles or stores damaged. At least as compared to other cities and their riots and rebellions.
Not that there haven’t been more serious incidents. The draft riots during the War Between The States in New York make into most history books. The “riot” between two competing police forces in 1857 (honest! – read about it here) also was pretty serious. As were the Irish (Orange) riots in 1870. And of course, in “modern” history books the Stonewall Riots of 1969 are prominent. The last “major” riot (the Occupy protests are very minor) was the Crown Heights Riot in 1991 in response to the death of a child and injury of another, leading to two more killings and several hundred injuries, mostly police.
But compared to business as usual in places like Paris, and especially Los Angeles (1964, 1968, etc.) and Chicago (1886, 1919, 1964, and 1968 especially), this is pretty minor. Why?
Perhaps it is because New Yorkers are more cowed, with the incredible power and abuse of the NYPD (and its predecessors) to put fear into people. Maybe it is because of that incredible power and abuse – matters are nipped in the bud. Others speculate that it is because NYC is such a huge mixture of race and ethnicity that everyone is a minority and it is hard to get enough people together to agree on something to rebel against. Others have pointed to the influence of the Mafia (and its competitors) which both do their own penny-packet violence AND recognize that too much violence is bad for business. Or perhaps it is because people realize that life in NYC is so precarious that any significant disruption could result in really severe consequences. As demonstrated to some degree by Bloody Tuesday (the 9-11 Attacks).
But perhaps the most reasonable explanation is that for the most part, New Yorkers have hope. Right or wrong. They think that they can and will do better in the future than they are doing now. Rioting and rebellion is often a direct result of fatalism on the part of the rioters, the rebels. Do they figure that they have little left to lose, so why not? Or do they just want to take everything down with them?
And of course, riots are built on rampant, out-of-control emotions. Fear, hatred, anger are commonly associated with the big riots. Especially those which are branded as “racial” in nature. This sort of emotionalism isn’t totally unfamiliar to New York, but does seem to be a growing problem. Perhaps in the past if was often mitigated by business interests – even if those business interests included organized crime. But today, the melting pot is on a burner right below boiling temp, or so it seems.
What lessons can we learn from New York City? Let me throw out a few:
- Things change, but often the “personality” of a city and its government(s) change less and much more slowly than social groupings, population characteristics, economic and technology matters do.
- Large, LARGE numbers of people living and working in very dense concentrations are unique and are used as an excuse for more government control and mandates, whether they are needed, and whether or not they work.
- Even denizens of massive, powerful cities can now and then go off like a rocket, but a city’s “personality” often mitigates that.
- Liberty costs more in places like New York, and is more easily stolen.
- You may be able to live in liberty there, but I don’t know if it wouldn’t be so hard that you can do much better someplace else.
I would love to get feedback from any lovers of liberty who live in NYC and those who are more familiar with the city than I am.