The last two years have seen two events where the actions of citizens have drawn worldwide attention. At the end of May two years ago the killing of George Floyd ignited protests in Minneapolis which lasted for three days. Before the National Guard was engaged to end the violence, three miles of businesses were vandalized and burned, and spotty destruction occurred elsewhere in the metro area. Everyday people who typically abide by the rules were looting and pillaging while others stepped to the side, let it happen, and even cheered it on.
What led people to normalize violent behavior in a city which has enjoyed a low crime rate?
More recently the west has been energized by the Ukrainian people’s passionate self-defense in their David and Goliath story. When the Russian military advanced on their territory experts assumed the government would fold and the people submit to a new rule. Yet the heroism of the people continues still today as they have successfully stalled the super power from further territorial gains.
In both cases, the citizens were underestimated. In one scenario the norm to preserve order and support the enforcement of rules or laws was subverted. In the other, a people found reserves of courage, commitment, and where with all to engage in military operations. Despite worldwide attention, I have seen little analysis as to how the capacity to fail to act or to act was stockpiled.
More has been written about the history of the conflict in Ukraine. Since 2014 when Russia invaded and successfully secured Crimea, the Ukrainians have had eight years to regroup. But since none of the foreign policy experts expected the strength of their patriotism, there must have been more happening on the ground to store away a united ambition to fight.
Similarly, in the years leading up to a teenage girl filming the death of a man under the knee of a police officer, it’s hard not to wonder what dynamics were put into play to allow law-abiding people to support and empathize with the subsequent action of thugs burning and looting businesses. Although the aspirations couldn’t be more different between patriotic fighting and protestors gone wild, the lack of outward signs of the build-up of such reserves is similar.
So how is it done? It seems like important information to know.