I’m starting to think that every single bloody problem I have with Tumblr (the shrieky ‘all people who are X must die horribly!’ posts, the out-of-control anger of parts of the userbase, to the point where it does splash-damage to unintended targets, the inclination to constantly find other vulnerable people that one can use as a punching bag, the anonymous targeted harassment campaigns, the horrific dehumanization of one’s targets, the use of sexually violent imagery as part of harassment campaigns on the part of self-described progressives) has its source in this one truth about myself:
I do not subscribe to praxis driven by vengeance. Ever.
This is something that’s been making me read this place as unbearably hostile and unsafe for quite a while now. And I shouldn’t be surprised, I come from a line of people traumatized (some outright murdered) by that political environment known as ‘totalitarianism’, I grew up watching people I loved bearing the scars that came from having been the targets of politically and socially-motivated vengeance.
When I was seventeen, I worked part-time with a non-profit that took care of at-risk elderly people. One of these was Mrs C. a woman in her eighties, completely blind from cataracts, barely able to walk anymore, with the fingers of both hands bent terribly out of shape. She craved support and companionship like a man in pain craves release and talked constantly about her family, all of them departed. It turned out that the bones in her hands had been shattered when, in 1948, she and her family were driven out of their house by the newly-installed regime in Bucharest. The people responsible for this relished in their cruelty, not letting them take even books from the library and ripping up family photos in front of the family itself. My little old lady, back then a young woman, tried to save a photo of her mother by kneeling and scooping the shreds from the floor. That’s when a soldier simply stomped on her hands several times, breaking all the bones in her fingers, in the process. They never healed properly because she never did get medical attention in time and later on it would have involved breaking them again, something she wouldn’t go through.
I felt nothing but love and compassion for this kind woman, who always waited for me with something sweet she’d managed to make and who told me I was infinitely better than the bullies at school I’d complain about. And I know, by username, people on this site who wouldn’t be capable of doing anything other than sneering at the suffering she and her family went through because ‘they were bourgeois getting what they deserved.’
Another example, Just a few moments ago, I saw a fundamentally sensible post. ‘Critique bigoted people for their bigoted actions, not their appearance, because an innocent person with the same physical features will only be hurt by your words.’ Understandable and compassionate advice. The notes were filled to the brim of people shouting that the OP an others concurring just wanted to ‘give racists and homophobes a free pass.’
There comes a point when activism can turn into nothing but a vicious cycle of wishing for revenge for one’s suffering and then enacting said revenge when one has the power to do so. Across multiple fronts, this place has long blown past that line.
And, frankly, I am no longer willing to be a part of a platform that has reached this point. It’s anathema to everything I am and everything I believe in.