16 November 2017

Of History and Sexual Abuse

It is now manifest that sexual abuse is rampant in certain industries (to wit, the entertainment conglomerate, the news media, and politics.)  People should demand to know why such abuses were allowed to go on for years with impunity, and where there is sufficient evidence, responsible parties should be held to account criminally -- and morally in instances where the statute of limitation bars prosecution.

But there is another area for concern.  History is replete with examples of hysterical mass accusations.  During the Salem witch trials in colonial Massachusetts, community members were indeed incentivized to confess their involvement in witchcraft and to accuse others.  At first, it was the easy target -- Tituba, a black slave from Barbados.  Then, it was some neighbors with whom the accusers had a grudge.  Next, half of the community was accusing the other half of witchery lest they get accused first.  Finally, fear, chaos, and gross miscarriage of justice.  Many of those too principled to confess or falsely accuse were hanged.  

Some three hundred years later, the same dynamics replayed themselves in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China.  Husbands accused wives of being counter-revolutionary, the Marxist equivalent of witchcraft.  Students accused teachers, and workers accused their factory foremen.  Too many heartaches, bodily injuries, and deaths to count or permitted to count -- even to this day. 

I am not suggesting that the current rounds of sexual abuse allegations are anywhere near these historical precedents.  But then again, we have only just begun.  Let's be careful and mindful of history.  That's all I am saying.  While history rarely repeats itself,  it often rhymes...