Thursday, March 29, 2007

Uncivil Behavior on the Internet or Crowds are not always wise, sometimes they become a mob

Betsy’s postings on the Second Life video tied in with an article on “Bad behavior in the blogosphere,” 3/29/2007.

None of this surprises me.

These incidents bring back the stories I heard from women entering the construction trades. A woman working as a carpenter told me that one afternoon, she left the port-a-potty and was greeted by the sight of all the men on the site lined along the pathway with their flies open and their penises out. She had to walk down that gauntlet to get back to her site. She got no support from the EEOC or the union when she filed a complaint. The current cyber episodes have been condemned by many. The police took the death threats seriously. These improvements are due to the past efforts of women to participate in public life.

The anger in these cyber attacks has something in it different than the anger of blue collar men losing their authority. The assaulting language and images remind me of the brutal behavior of former convicts. In these current attacks, I sense more how damaged our society has become by the growth of prisons. Our society has become deformed in ways we cannot imagine because of imprisonment. The vengefulness to incarcerate has been met by the anger of prisoners.

Over the past forty years, cities have changed into angry and despairing places with a large population of released convicts. The economy has moved to the suburbs; the computer revolution is a product of industrial parks in pleasant suburbs. Leaving a problem does not mean avoiding its effects. The hostility of those cyber attacks is a symptom.

I am going to close with a quote from Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties” by Robert Stone. He describes something I have sensed, but could not identify.

p. 67-68
A strange social development was taking place on skid row, something that might have escaped our notice at a different time. The Bowery was undergoing a kind of race war that it would have been absurdly euphemistic to call integration. Black down-and-outers, whose absence few neighborhood whites had noticed before, began appearing at corners and in the doorways of the chicken-wired hotels. In earlier times, the derelict quarters of major cities were segregated. The Bowery occupants were overwhelmingly elderly white men, who ranged in degree of poverty from the scrofulous, dying bundles of rags in the gutter to men in dry-cleaned thirdhand suits and clean shirts who drew some sort of pittance once or twice a month. This small sum they would providently turn over to the owners of the bargain restaurants where they ate or to the hotel keepers at their rooming house. The meal tickets and room chits kept them lodged and fed even if they fell off the wagon. Most, though not all, were alcoholics. There were virtually no women among them.
Who kept up or enforced the racial barriers? Maybe hard cases who ran the beaneries and hotels. Maybe the police, forcing black paupers up to the skid rows in Harlem. But at certain point around 1960 changes were perceivable. Things being what they were and are, black men faced impoverishment more frequently and at a younger age than most whites. For the same reasons, larger numbers of poor black men had served longer terms in prison. The black newcomers were often younger and less physically ruined than the white derelicts, more used to more serious fighting than at least many of the whites and, perhaps, more involved with drugs. They were also angry; there were men who had been brutalized and whipped, or served on chain gangs and in turp camps.
What began to happen was the social system recently established in prisons took over the Bowery. On the most productive panhandling corners, and in the homeless shelters, the older white men began to disappear. In a way, it was simply a question of the young, in a desperate situation, displacing the old. It went, I think, unnoticed and unmentioned by the city at large. Older men of all races fled the Bowery and looked for relative safety. But there was no protection for anyone. The Darwinian quality one glimpsed was as shocking as anything I ever saw.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

The more I think about your posting, the more distressed I am. We have sowed the wind and are currently reaping the whirlwind. For decades, we elected officials who promised to be tough on crime -- and here is our outcome. wow.