From Salem to Daycares
A part of history which has always piqued my, and many others' interest is the Salem witch trials of the late 1600's. Particularly the ease in which fingers were pointed and convictions were made with scant to no evidence. That is to say, how easy it was to be damned with nothing more than someone's word against yours. Today we would like to believe that this sort of massacre or tragedy could not, and would not happen again. That we have grown and changed and history is, after all, in the past. But I believe we share more with our historical counterparts than we would like to believe.
The Salem witch trials spanned over three years, in the small town of Salem in America. A puritan community who were swept up in a storm concocted by young girls, either through hatred, sickness or a wish for attention - make your pick. But however it was started, it certainly became enflamed as more and more villagers became swept up in the ever growing hysteria. Many scholars have scrutinized this part of history. Taking it apart from many angles, trying to understand why this happened in the first place. Answers range from a sickness among the girls, stress from a looming famine and growing war, to nothing more than devious plans to usurp a Mayor.
But perhaps the answer is far more simple than that. Instead of pointing the finger at one or two individuals for the tragedy, it could rather be pointed to the community as a whole.
Not the puritans per say, but just humans as an entirety. Instead of saying it was a person's fault, rather say it was humanity's. This sounds a little pretentious in its implication, but I would like to prove the point.
A brief scrutiny at the actions of Salem leaves little to be desired. Anyone can say there was a near desperation to find the witch, an terrifying ease in how they judged her, an almost delight to have her sentenced, and of course a cruel eagerness at which more were convicted. There was a sense of twisted righteousness within this community to find and hang the witch. To destroy the perceived danger within their society. Their situation, famine and war, certainly contributed to this hysteria, but without an underlining belief in the witch itself, this could not have occurred. I do not blame them for believing in witches, rather I blame them for allowing this belief to cloud judgement.
Of course, that is not to say that the community did not begin to push back. Letters and requests were written out and pasted to doors, petitions were signed to stop the trials. But by the request of a few it did not fade, only became more enflamed.
Should we then forgive the community? Seeing as so many factors played a role and they did attempt to stem the tide, were they not in some ways victims of the same crime, only in a different capacity?
I don't believe so. Because I can see what we are today.
Witch hunts today are not uncommon, even the phrase has become part of our modern-day vocabulary despite our vehement belief that true magical-dark-art witches do not exist. However, we use the term when a group of people sharpen their metaphorical pitchforks to verbally attack and dethrone a corrupt Governor or a local pedophile. It is seen mostly today on forums and twitter, where masses turn against a single person, attacking their good name and starting online campaigns to have them 'cancelled'. And we have no quant excuse of famine or war to fall back on.
I have seen people lose their jobs, their livilhoods. I have seen giants in their fields toppled by proverbial Lilliputians who tied their shoelaces and made them fall because they did not agree with a tweet he made two years ago. Slighted, triggered, shocked and bitter are all driving forces behind twitter witch-hunts, and what I believe drove the Salem tragedy.
But then again, many of you will cry, these are just online attacks, they are nothing too sinister, nothing like murdering someone or having them 'pressed' to death - where a person was killed by having rocks stacked on their backs until their lungs and heart exploded. We are better than this you will say! It isn't has as cruel! But this we must admit, is only true because the law prohibits us from doing so.
To prove my point I would like to look at another situation which also occurred in America.
In the late 1980's and early 1990s in America there was a event called the Day-care sex-abuse hysteria. It started when a small daycare in America came under scrutiny after a mother claimed her son told her that he'd been sexually abused by one of the teachers. The story spread and grew in the community, and soon many more children came forward with the same story. This in turn fueled a federal investigation and after many more children were interviewed it was further revealed that satanic rituals were also being held in the Daycares.
Shocked that their children were being exposed to such horrific imagery, mothers pulled their children out of the schools and demanded to have the people arrested. And they were. A young man of 32 and his grandmother of 84.
Justice was demanded, for the children and their parents. And after a long arduous investigation and hefty trial it turned out that none of it was true. A certain psychologist had asked the children 'leading questions' resulting in many of them admitting to being assaulted when they hadn't.
I often look at these two situations and think that if the Day-care hysteria had taken place in a time where we still burned witches, they would have been burned. We often pop death threats like bubble wrap when arguing on the internet, it's almost second nature for some. Many of these are of course in jest and must be taken with a grain of salt. Heated arguments tend to bring out the worst in people. But some, we must admit, are devious and do believe in their wish to decapitate you with a blunt knife.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram all of these are platforms showcasing the malicious side of human nature in a very black-and-white format. Their hunts and 'cancel-culture' a stark reflection on a community so long ago who decided to hang their friends and neighbors because they didn't like them, or they were jealous. Which is in essence what happens on social media. We cancel people, yell, scream and demean because we don't agree with what they say, and because we don't like them.
And in saying that I realise that perhaps our modern-day laws are not only there to protect us from criminals, but often to protect us from ourselves.