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If you see something, say something.

I feel like I'm rapid cycling through emotions right now. You just read anger. Now you will read remorse.

I apologize for vomiting as I am onto your screens.

The NY subways, ever since 9/11, have been regularly broadcasting messages on the train and on the platforms that seek to charge NY'ers to being a part of our overall safety. Just as in airports, much is made of suspicious packages. Every frequent subway rider has without a doubt heard to the point of memorization that common phrase... "If you see a suspicious package, don't keep it to yourself. Tell a police officer, or a NYC transit worker." On the MTA website, there is an entire page devoted to deputizing us into being safety wardens.

It's a good campaign, and illustrates something that we should take heed of. Danger is all around us, and we can't expect the authorities to know about it all. We do need to tell someone when we see danger, because untold danger simply becomes more dangerous.

The trick though is that in day to day life, there is someone to tell. You tell the authorities, and it is their job to investigate, confirm, and deal with said danger. It is what they are paid to do... what we as tax paying citizens charge them with. There is a structure in which these things are handled.

In the SM scene, we have no such thing. There are no authorities, there are no people in charge. Sure, there are event directors, and they can kick you out of their event if you prove to be a danger. But they have no power to stop you from going somewhere else... another event, another group, another city... to cause danger over there. No one has authority in the scene. In a land defined by the power exchanges we get turned on by, there is no true power structure. We are a band of deviants, doing what we want with very little other than societies law to stop us.

In a land devoid of law, I feel it is even more important for the individual to take responsibility for the safety of others. As fellow decent human beings, it is our job to watch the back of those who watch ours. The historical leather scene is famous for the idea of it being self-policing. We (supposedly) guarded our own, and kept dangerous individuals out.

Looks great on paper. Really hard to do in practice.

3, 4, however many years ago, I was strongly tempted to shout out when the shithead I wrote about earlier returned to NYC. I wanted to warn everyone that he was not to be trusted, that he was unsafe, and that he should be avoided. I didn't though, I could not. Because that would have been slander. That would have been me slinging shit at someone and thus I would have been ostracized.

I've written about this time, and time, and time again.

But what if I did?? What if I DID tell people how many years ago? Would we be going through what is happening now? Would people been hurt by him? Would he even still be around enough to come back again like he's trying to do now?

I did my best, I suppose. I told a few people who's confidence I had. I told a group leader about the snake in their midst. I did my little part. Clearly it wasn't enough.

If you see something, say something.

When the fuck are we going to start saying something?

Comments

jkuroda
Feb. 11th, 2012 07:56 am (UTC)
"When the fuck are we going to start saying something?"
Off the cuff thoughts from years of watching various interest/activity defined groups:

What are the consequences for people who behave poorly?

In the 80s and maybe even 90s (or so I'm told - maybe earlier but I have far less reference material before te 80s), the consequence was ostracization from tight knit groups where members were more interdependent for access, resources, and safety.

You screwed up, you could lose access to perhaps the most important resource - other people.

People were (or should have been) interested in policing and educating, one way or another, their neighbours effectively - failure to do so meant a reduction in numbers in a small tight knit group and could lead to unwanted attention from outside the group (The Police, and not the English Rockband - I'm talking about the "PoPo" as kids these days say). In earlier days, failure to monitor ones fellows was bad; if you brought new people into the proverbial club, you were strictly responsible and liable their behaviour until they were accepted as a member in their own right and even then, if they screwed up, everyone remembered that you brought them in.

If you screwed up, you screwed over your friends who brought you into the club.

That no longer seems to be so. There's no longer a general requirement of introduction via known parties before acceptance. If people screw up, there are few if any consequences - they can just go to another club, another party, another city. This is no longer the 1980s - we no longer live and die by our reputations and the good references given by people trusted by others. We no longer seem to worry (as much) about unwarranted law enforcement attention, at least in large metropolitan cities.

Now there is an inversion of the situation from the good/bad ole days.

Whereas once it was seemingly hard to even find the club, let alone get into it and gain acceptance and fairly easy to get kicked out, it now seems that the cost of entry is vanishingly small and the cost to ostracize someone massively high.

"That's mean." "That's going too far" "Oh, just give him/her/zie/pronoun another chance." "You're asking for too much." "We need to keep this jackhole close so we can keep eyes on him/her/zie/pronoun." "If we kick them out and they cause problems, it will be traced to us and make us look bad. We're responsible for them now." Fuck that, that's just a few steps away from victim blaming and the rationalization of dysfunction.

One of the touted benefits of mainstreaming of SM and Kink has been making it more accessible. This has been great for young adults, for instance, but it has also had the effect of making it easier for any jackass to join the proverbial club and in this new(er) age of open acceptance and what I will, admittedly perhaps perjoratively, call "SM Feel Good Kum Ba Yah" (with all possible apologies to Kofi Annan), it is apparently no longer considered acceptable to kick someone out for being a manipulative, emotionally abusive, jackhole.

"When?" you ask. When "we" (or enough to count as "we") put Responsibility and Accountability to each other above "being nice", "open acceptance", and what I see as "The fears of another era" haunting the now. Otherwise, we're all lying to each other and ourselves.

Unfortunately, this requires a certain amount of maturity -- emotional, intellectual, ethical, and so on -- on the part of all (or at least enough to influence the rest) involved.

In climbing (one of my favorite analogy examples) - if you are no good as a belay partner, people stop climbing with you and word gets around. It's not meant to be vicious, it's not meant to be petty. It's meant to keep other safe and to keep the sport of climbing safe and free from fucking yahoos. Get yourself killed? Fine, whatever - but don't get others killed. Consequences to being crappy at your role in climbing are commensurate with the risk to others you pose. It's perhaps the only life-safety-critical activity I know of that has essentially no external regulation - it's essentially all self-regulated.

Damnit, now I'm feeling good about being a high muckety muck elitist fuddy duddy. This can't be good.

I've rambled enough.