btw, this is written from the perspective of a USAtian college kid.
tl;dr: revolution is good. so are Molotov cocktails.
Though we may be removed from our forefathers in this country by nearly 300 years, the revolutionaries and intellectuals responsible for the founding of our country provide inspiration for anyone living in the United States or even in the world; a shining example of the People triumphing over authority. Time has diluted the messages of these men, but the world we live in provides many modern examples for those willing to look for them. In Greece during the December of 2008 a 15-year old student, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, was shot and killed by two policemen, prompting protests and riots in Athens and other cities in Greece and Europe (boston.com 1). Violence tends to be viewed as ineffective in the modern world when other possibilities, such as compromise or reasoned (and ponderous) debate exist, but occasionally it can be a quick way to make a point of a magnitude that cannot often be matched by the simple expression of an idea through words. Not to advocate the use of force, but a picture (or an action) that can inspire such a significant range of emotion is worth thinking about, no matter what the content.
Perhaps the most impressive image to come out of the riots in 2008 shows four people: a protestor in the foreground on the left, dressed in a leather jacket, wearing a beanie and gloves, and holding a flaming Molotov cocktail in his right hand. Another protestor in the middle ground appears to have just thrown a similar device, and is dressed comparably to the first protestor: in all black. Both protestors face away from the camera towards two riot police officers who are farther away in the background. One of the officers is engulfed in flames from the Molotov cocktail just thrown by the protestor in the middle ground, and another officer on the right side of the picture looks on, likely about
to help his flaming compatriot. A part of a series of pictures, the image will undoubtedly garner a divided response. The picture supports the cause of the protestors: it shows a riot officer on fire, but there is the impression that the photographer is simply recording important events in his/her time. The most striking part of this photo other than the action displayed is the environment in which it takes place: an average street, one of which variations exist in many cities. There are some trees and other plants on the left, with buildings dominating the distant background. This picture is rife with symbols to elicit more of a response, but that advantage can also be a bane as it serves to divide rather than unify it's audience.
The photograph argues two seemingly contradictory points, which is likely why it is such an emotional appeal (and so likely to divide people in their opinions of it). This visual text uses pathos and symbolism to make it's argument. The Molotov cocktail has represented revolution, rebellion, and the fight for freedom against oppression (or at least the struggle of the underdog against impossible odds) since it's christening nearly 100 years ago, and the men dressed in black and throwing incendiary devices at police officers – symbols of authority rarely resolve more clearly than in the police force – inspire either thoughts of revolution, injustice, and anger or simply fear, especially considering the political environment in which we live where those who are viewed as freedom fighters in other countries are portrayed in the United States as terrorists. It is easy to give into fear, and the argument of the picture is marginalized by the obsession with fear in our culture.
The argument is most effective when the viewer is of the expected audience: younger people, with education or without, who feel dissatisfaction with their government, and those who feel mistreated by the authorities. Though the photo can be shocking, the context of the picture is very important to remember: these men aren't sadistic criminals trying to inflict pain, they are merely citizens attempting to take revenge and make their voices heard for what they perceive to be an abuse of power by the police. The photo leaves it up to the viewer to decide whether the actions of these anonymous men is something to be respected, feared, or even hated. Such a polarizing photo will
certainly have those who are offended by it: those who believe violence is never justified, those who question the motives of the rioters, those who feel the police are just doing their jobs, and those who would jump at the chance to term the masked men as terrorists.