I used to complain (still do) about how the school system takes creative children and through rules and processes and systems, finds a way to beat the creativity out of them very early in their school careers.
But something similar happens to us as adults as well. Organizations and systems and public norms find a way to take amazing human interactions and dumb them down – in the name of organization or safety or process.
It happened here in Winnipeg this month. Amid the backdrop of a very popular Winnipeg Jets playoff run, citizens decided they wanted to be part of the action. Tens of thousands came into downtown to be adjacent to the Arena as the games took place. They partied, they celebrated and in typical Winnipeg-fashion, they did it without incident.
It was a phenomenon that people in other NHL cities marvelled at as they watched the celebrations on TV. And everybody won – True North got their pound of flesh from vendors, the city got 20,000 more people downtown spending money, and the people found a place to express themselves.
It was in part an unorganized success. And it had the potential to grow as the team progressed in the playoffs.
But it wouldn’t be right to allow what had become a “movement” to go on unchecked and un-managed – would it? Cue the City and the Police and True North – who decided it was time to “organize” this movement (read here – establish rules, parameters and boundaries). They in essence, removed the spontaneity and made it a controlled event.
Tickets were created and made available. Systems were put in place to distribute the tickets, personnel were chosen to check these tickets, and limits were placed on attendance. What had once been a collection of people in love with their city and their team had now become a controlled event.
And as is always the case, the inevitable happened. Control leads to people finding ways to bypass control. Systems were created to circumvent the rules. Free tickets went on sale online and most importantly, people didn’t come.
And in the end, the public (who created this movement) were mad at this control – this imposition of rules at a spontaneous activity. To this day, the city police and True North are still publicly blaming the other for the need to require tickets – because they know the public damage their need to “control” the situation has caused.
Spontaneity is good. When it moves a city to action it is something wonderful to witness.
I remain ever confused at why bureaucrats and greedy business people always feel the need to control (and eventually ruin) these rare scenarios. Perhaps it all started when we controlled how kids think at school?