Deltopia 2014 will probably be remembered as an Isla Vista riot, but before the riot the UCSB Unicycle Tribe did a group ride through the area on Saturday afternoon! And, yes, I am a member of the Tribe. Click here for more photos of the ride.
Before the unicycle ride, I rode my bicycle over to Isla Vista to scout out what was happening. I have to say I had a bad feeling about it. On the surface I saw a lot of nice young people dressed in bikinis and swim trunks having a good time.
But there was little for them to do except wander the streets. More worrisome to me: I started asking people at random if they were local and fewer than half in my unscientific poll said they were. Long Beach, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Los Angeles were some of the answers. Some even refused to say where they were from. None offered any idea why they had come so far for Deltopia.
This was at 1 p.m. Saturday and quite a few already were literally falling-down drunk. When I rode my bicycle heading back home along Storke Road, a big guy who was in a group walking on the sidewalk leaped into the street and kicked at me for no reason at all. This was already outside of Isla Vista. My reflexes are good and there was no impact, but it was unsettling, to say the least.
When we did our unicycle ride we had no such bad encounters. A lot of people made supportive comments. A disturbing number were so out of it they did not even notice a group of unicycle riders passing by them.
I was at this event back when it was still Floatopia. I already had a bad feeling then and had some bad encounters. I felt bad then, because it seemed like a creative idea to float around on a variety of inflatable devices, and I did not understand why so many people had to be nasty for no reason at all.
Here are the main factors in my humble opinion:
» Alcohol. Unlike a certain drug famous for making people mellow, alcohol seems to bring out the worst in many people.
» A lot of people from out of town who see it as a chance to get away with behavior they could not do at home.
» Not enough of a positive plan. Halloween at least is about dressing up in creative costumes. Deltopia is not really about anything.
A final thought: There are real problems in the world to be upset about. Climate change. Economic inequality. Lack of job opportunities for millions, including recent university graduates.
Young people have a right to be upset about these things. And they have a responsibility to rally for positive solutions to these problems, as we all do.
I find it particularly disheartening that with real problems to get upset about, so many people created a raging, angry situation that seemed to have no point to it at all.
The riot at Deltopia will bring a series of community meetings. I hope that the community takes the opportunity to offer positive alternatives for students to have fun in creative ways. Ways that not only aren’t destructive. But creative, fun events that might even make the world a bit better.