Salem, in Kenya.

One of the early black marks of colonists in the US are the Salem with trials.  A few adolescent girls accused powerful and upstanding members of the community of witchcraft.  Instead of reacting with sense, the community reacted with fear and envy, basically tearing the tightly-woven community apart.  Why did it happen?  Why, in some cases, can small communities deal with petty rivalries and power in the hands of a few, but in others demand retribution for every imagined crime?  Why do some situations allow for this dysfunction, and others root it out, tree and branch?  If such a small community can tear itself apart, what hope is there for any nation attempting to function as a united whole?

When people live together in close proximity, those people need certain outlets for the accumulated stress of living.  The criminal justice system, the civil courts, the right to assemble and speak and protest, unions, campaigns, boycotts, and lobbying are all modern outlets that we use to vent our grievances against our fellow man and living with him in a society.  Other societies have other means, including ritual, religion, tradition, exorcism, shamanic practices, and even witchcraft.  These different means are not necessarily better or worse than our own.  Sometimes, they fail – murderers we cannot catch, the criminally insane, an angry mob that kills suspected witches because of envy, greed, and malice rather than evidence.  But I do not think such failures render the system invalid.

For the most part, it seems that members of the community in Western Kenya recognize a crime has been committed.  They recognize that these accused and killed ‘witches’ were most likely nothing of the sort.  They realize that there are vendettas being carried out in the name of witch hunts.  But they are not willing to give up on the system as faulty quite yet.  One of the families of a victim continues to play by the rules in abandoning the home of the accused witch though they know she had done nothing wrong.  It remains a bad luck sort of place, and they are willing to let that go to maintain order in the community.  A nearby shaman also has encouraged others to speak to him of suspected witches, so that they can be dealt with appropriately.  Hopefully there will be a societal push to deal with some of the underlying vendetta, striking to the core of struggles over increasing poverty, a lack of land, and the general struggle to survive.  If not, this community may tear itself apart as well.

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Late Night video games

Last night for me was a night of distinct putzing.  True, I did clean up the bathroom a little, which needed major work, and a I got a load of laundry done.  But I really feel like I did less.  Why?  Video games.  Specifically, Bioshock, which has evidently won lots of video game awards.  If you’re like me and don’t really follow computer games and don’t really care about what you’re missing, here’s a nice article on why you might want to care.  Maybe.

Granted that Bioshock is a good melding of genre types, with enough shooting for hard-core first person shooters, but enough other stuff for people like me who haven’t really been into similar games since Kings Quest and the first-generation Carmen Sandiego games, I still find it oddly attractive outside its video game role.   Why?  Perhaps because I don’t really play it.  Mike does.

When I was a kid playing KQ with my sisters, there was always a fight about who got to be in the driver’s seat.   If you were playing together, of course you all wanted to be there when various plot points unfolded, but it was always more exciting to solve the puzzles and discover things yourself, rather than watching someone else do so.  With Mike and Bioshock, this isn’t really the case.  I suck at first person shooters, and I don’t care to experiment with the different fun ways to kill things very much.  Is it amusing when you accidentally throw a corpse at an enemy?  Yeah, probably, but not that amusing.

The real fun comes from  getting to boss Mike around without actually being mad at him.  Comments such as “You haven’t gone down that hall to your left yet.  No, no your other left.  Go back!” or “There’s an Eve hypo on top of that rock.” or “B! B!  You need more health.  Nope, you’re dead.” are perceived as helpful, rather than pissy.  I get to yell with drama, rather than anger, which is always fun.

For that, I will stay up till midnight even though I was sick and meant to get to bed early.