Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Witch hunts

Here in the so-called cradle of democracy, it seems to be witch-hunt season. It's put-the-boot-in time for anyone who's seen as weak, vulnerable, undeserving or degenerate.

Egged on by the government and the media, anyone with a grievance against some contentious group of people is being given free rein to savage them mercilessly.

So day after day we see vicious articles and speeches about welfare claimants, the disabled, the poor, people with "too many" children, transsexuals, homosexuals, the obese, the jobless, single mothers, immigrants - the list goes on and on.

Those under attack do what they can to defend themselves and put the record straight, but often they are too isolated or intimidated to make any headway against torrents of venom too overwhelming to stop.

Those conducting the witch-hunts never pause to think if what they're saying is unjustifiably cruel or irrational or nasty. They seldom think of the psychological damage they are doing to their victims. They don't care if they ruin people's lives or drive them to suicide. They're convinced of the rightness of their opinions, the soundness of their arguments, and contrary ideas count for nothing.

We're turning into a quasi-fascist society in which the majority view prevails and anyone challenging that view is firmly crushed and discredited. Freedom of speech and self-defence become a privilege of the rich and powerful, who use them to squash those at the bottom of the heap. Compassion and empathy are fading away, pushed aside by malice and spite and hatred.

Who is going to defend the defenceless? Who is going to turn the tide? I see no sign of a return to common decency any time soon.

19 comments:

Bijoux said...

Do you see it getting worse or is this just a continuation of the past 2000 years?

Nick said...

Bijoux: Yes, it does seem to be getting worse. Disabled people and welfare claimants for example have noticed a big rise in hostility towards them, now that the government is trying to cut benefits across the board and make out that claimants are feckless scroungers.

e said...

I'd say you've nailed this one firmly on the head, Nick.

Grannymar said...

Compassion and empathy are certainly out of fashion these days in this 'Me Me Me' world.

Nick said...

e: If only those so keen on witch hunts would realise their appalling inhumanity.

Grannymar: You don't seem them very often, utter insensitivity is more common.

Leah said...

Interesting post, Nick. I actually see the problem as more one of the ubiquity of social media; i.e., we have more, and more public, venues in which to spew venom. Where in earlier times we had only our voices at our disposal, and could reach only those within literal range, then we had pring media like broadsheets and op-eds, now we have fb, twitter, blogging, etc etc. People have always been mean; now they have an extraordinary ability to immediately & widely disseminate that meanness.

Nick said...

Leah: Agreed, the ubiquity of social media certainly adds to the problem by providing more outlets, as you say. Not only more outlets but often completely unmonitored outlets. At the same time politicians and other public figures are providing acceptable targets for those with venom to unleash.

Wisewebwoman said...

From the top down, Nick. Our provincial government just cut the funding for the domestic violence office. Our province has the highest rate of domestic violence in Canada.

The days of honour and compassion are over. And many citizens model themselves on the attitudes of the government.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: So many governments are getting utterly ruthless towards the most needy people in society. They make out there is no alternative - and they get away with it.

speccy said...

Great post Nick

Nick said...

Speccy: And this is just the start. Heaven knows what it'll be like a few more years down the line.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Maybe. But has there been a time when humans weren't merciless towards the "other"? The term witch hunts, in fact, was from a time of relentless savagery toward eccentric people who did not fit the expectations of their society.

Nick said...

Agent: Well, yes, we've always been suspicious of anyone or anything markedly different, but I do think it's reaching a kind of fever-pitch at the moment, promoted as I say by politicians and columnists.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

We are seeing almost the opposite here, which can be as bad. Nobody dare point a finger at anyone, no matter what they do, for fear of being accused of being intolerant or non-PC. Families with young children are not even allowed to complain about paedophiles being 'resettled' in their street - they aren't even legal supposed to KNOW there are paedophiles nearby, to protect the paedophiles from vigilantes.

The biggest problem, as I understand it, is that paedophiles, for this purpose, are put into a database including all sex offenders. A 'sex offender' might be simply a young guy who had consensual sex with an underage girl who lied about her age, and clearly this is a far lesser offence than paedophilia and they don't deserve to be hounded out of neighbourhoods. On the other hand, if I were a young mother these days and I was told a paedophile was living in the street, I'd want to know exactly who and where.

Protecting the identity of criminals can rebound on the forces of law and order. For instance, in this case, people can cold shoulder, ostracize and/or bully people they think are the paedophile and this can be misguided at best, and lead to innocent people committing suicide at worst.

Bottom line is that we all need a good, sensible balance to make society work well. Either extreme can be bad.

Nick said...

Jay: I thought England was much the same, judging by what I see and read in the British media. You're right though, the situation with sex offenders is tricky. I would also want to know if there was a paedophile in my street, but I also wouldn't be so bothered about the young guy and the underage girl. And yes, vigilantes add to the problem because they can hound innocent people - like the famous incident of the vigilantes who confused a paediatrician with a paedophile. There aren't any easy answers.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Oh, I think we do have both problems. But in a way, it's the 'opposite' that concerns me most. It seems that it's changing the whole structure of society, and not necessarily in a good way.

Nick said...

Jay: Yes, I agree that the fear of being seen as intolerant or non-PC can sometimes mean problems are not faced up to. But it seems to me there are plenty of people very ready to be intolerant and not give a damn what other people think.

Liz said...

I am reminded of that famous 'verse', They came for the Jews but I wasn't Jewish ...' something like that. Till there's nobody left to help me.

Nick said...

Liz: I know it very well.

First they came for the communists
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
(And so on for the socialists, the trade unionists, the Jews and the Catholics)

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Exactly.