Last week the normally rather sleepy village of Haren (somewhere up north in our low countries) enjoyed a real birthday party, attended by more than a few guests invited by Facebook: “OK, you may not know me, still come along please, I’d like to meet some new friends!” And so it went on, leading to youthful hordes flocking in and yes: partying. Soon enough the police joined in, the singing and dancing commenced, unidentified objects flew through the air, some people went to a supermarket to obtain alcoholic beverages and other scarce goods without further payment – it was a birthday party after all, so drinks and so on were for free – and yes in the end everyone went home again, leaving behind a few people who were arrested (no police officers among them), some wounded, a burned-out car or two, a shop in some disarray, and: a deeply traumatized population.
Thus the locals were invited to meetings behind closed doors during which they could freely cry under supervision of trauma-psychologists, and at which the local mayor no doubt delivered a really moving speech full of commemoration and consolation fitting for the end of this local Third World War. A former mayor of a real city is now to “evaluate” this Armageddon of the North. So much for Facebook, which is probably overvalued on stock markets but is obviously still able to change the course of history in the remotest corners of the world.
This whole sequence of events is of course a ridiculously radical transformation of human values. As if some superficially wounded fellow human beings and minor material damage were the results of a temporary state of nature in which life is nothing more than nasty, brutish and short. In some respects life may be less than agreeable in such rural areas, but certainly not so as a consequence of Facebook-induced public disorder.
In fact it is one more exponent of petty bourgeois populism, which values nothing other than its own interests vested in petty material goods, freedom from anything which might distract from the quiet life, and of course resentment against whatever perceived realities endangering their dreary daily lives. Anything threatening this world view is perceived as evil itself, justifying public outcry and professional assistance in processing the terrible suffering. As if nothing else happens in the world and as if trauma psychologists have nothing better to do than aggravating the situation by interpreting such superficialities as dire personal and social dramas.
So much for the sobbing: what about the perpetrators? Are they not to pay for the harm they have done, by being duly punished and/or by the imposition of damages? No doubt such damages must be enormous, given so much immaterial harm also caused. But then do these tortfeasors really deserve this? Insurances do not cover damage of this nature, therefore more than a few partygoers would end up broke and without any prospect of betterment. Would that really be proportional?
But another media hype may come to their rescue: showbiz man Moszkowicz still is a defense lawyer according to official records, though he may be ousted for professional misconduct within a month. So Mr. Moszkowicz, why not console your conscience by doing a last – or first – good thing, for these poor perpetrators? Otherwise there’ll be no more singing and dancing for them for a while …