I remember hating recess when I was a kid.
That was the time when there were the fewest teachers paying attention. If they did pay attention it was either to break up a physical fight or to force the kid playing by himself to “be social”. “Be social” is code for forcing a kid to participate in whatever conformist ball-kicking nonsense the other kids felt like doing. It meant being picked last, being cajoled and made fun of, being an outcast without being able to get away. Nothing too overt, of course, anything physical or loud would attract the teachers.
The message was clear though, “You are not welcome here.”
I managed to construct some safe places. The teachers tended to like me because I didn’t cause much trouble, so the classroom was safe. I also paired up with another outcast for recess. We’d go to the far corner of the field and play tetherball. The other kids didn’t like tetherball much, and the teachers wouldn’t be so quick to force two kids playing together to “be social”.
Then they started trying to destroy my safe places.
On some days there was a sudden “interest” in tetherball so that my friend and I couldn’t play. Not every day, of course, they didn’t really like tetherball, but enough to send a message. Later in elementary school the kids got more clever; they started sabotaging projects and creating enough anonymous mischief around me that the teachers started considering me a hassle.
I remember one day in particular. My friend and I were playing away from everyone else and the school fire alarm went off. We heard it and marched off dutifully to line up with the rest of the class. We had the farthest to walk, so we were the last to arrive.
We were immediately marched off to the principal’s office. Someone had pulled the fire alarm as a prank and several of the other kids had concocted a story that my friend and I had done it. We spent what seemed like hours being lectured about how serious it was to trigger a false alarm. They told us that our parents would get a $500 fine and that it would be better if we’d just confess. They said they “knew” it was us because so many of the other kids said they saw us.
I remember the feeling in my gut as the people I’d relied on to protect me turned against me, as my safe place went away, seemingly forever.
The school staff eventually dropped the subject. They never apologized or explained why. I don’t think my parents ever got a call, much less a fine. The message that day was clear too though, “You have no place. Anywhere.”
It’s been a long time since I felt the fear/dread/frustration/sadness that I felt that day, but I felt it today.
A group of people took some real and dire problems (income disparity), added some speculative and questionable ones (some poorly articulated thoughts on surveillance) and decided to pick a Googler somewhat at random and make him a scapegoat. A mob of people marched up to his house, rang his doorbell, blocked his driveway, and passed out fliers telling everyone in the neighborhood what an evil person he is.
It’s hard to articulate why this pushes my buttons in the same way.
There are plenty of well paid people in Berkeley. There are lots of expensive houses on that street and all over town. Lots of people who live in Berkeley work elsewhere. There’s only one reason this guy was targeted, only one thing that makes him stand out.
He’s a “techie”.
“Techie” seems to be the new slur to throw at people who like gadgets, people like me. They can’t use “nerd” or “geek” any more; we took those and made them our own ages ago and made the asshats who threw them at us choke on them.
An angry mob showed up at this guy’s house because he’s a geek.
He’s someone like me.
(I feel the need to point out that there are many other groups of people who deal with this sort of asshattery (and far worse) all the time. )