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Fuck Clojure? No, fuck Rich Hickey. #UsToo

You ready for this? This is Clojure’s #metoo moment.

I was a Clojure programmer for more than half a decade. I’m an alum of Cognitect and spent nearly a year working closely with Rich on a variety of internal/external projects. I’ve since left the industry and work as an activist and multimedia consultant–that’s about all I’ll say or it’s going to be reaaaal obvious who I am, and I’d prefer to protect my anonymity.

Now I want to be extremely clear before I start: Rich Hickey never physically or sexually abused me in any way, nor can I say I can recall that ever happening.

What I do want to share are stories of the mental abuses I’ve spent years recovering from and how I feel Rich’s toxic, “white-towerism” will doom Clojure to the annals of computing history.

This IS by and large a “personal” attack, I’ll be very upfront about that. Justice is a complicated topic—I merely “professionally disliked” Rich in the early days, nothing to go off the rails about though–yet after “Open Source is Not About You” it was my read Rich would rather quite a few many community members “buzz off” with their empathy and emotions.

Simple vs Easy

I know you know this one, so I’ll let you read between the lines with some higher-order sarcasm: Working with Rich is neither simple, nor easy. The conference talk was fun and enlightening, living it day-to-day… not so much. To be called out by a KGB-esque language police in everyday conversation is both demoralizing and inhuman. Over the years I even developed a tic that required me to know the precise meaning of words before I spoke. My confidence was shattered for years. Even writing this I feel myself agonizing over every word and element of punctuation.

I have a hunch Rich’s pronouncement that “as a user of something open source you are not thereby entitled to anything at all” actually extended to the people working on those projects at Cognitect. This cult of personality saw many of us “motivated” to work long hours supporting Clojure in “our” 20% time and at home. Sure, we had autonomy, but I don’t believe we ever had agency.

I was warned early on by coworkers on their way out the door to watch out for myself. The company had a bad reputation for destroying marriages. If I hadn’t been indentured to Cognitect–savings depleted, underpaid and afraid–I would have left faster than you can say “TBD.”

The number of times I saw Rich chew out and belittle employs for not being some paragon of excellence is disgusting. I know we’re all a little different in this tiny niche community–many of us are neuro-atypical–but one of the most important lessons I learned in my own growth & recovery is that this doesn’t absolve us of responsibility for our words & actions.

I only speak for myself, but to the rest of you that put up with Rich’s emotionally immature BS, I’m sorry that happened to you.


#metoo #ustoo #freeclojure

PS. If you get this far and still decide you want to try and debate this whole thing, well, good luck with that… Here be the Land of Emotions, your wiley tricks won’t work here.


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@brightblade42 brightblade42 commented Sep 26, 2020

(caveat. I don't know anything about Rich Hickey beyond talks I've seen).
I actually don't dispute that you potentially were pushed around by a tech tyrant who was belittling and emotionally immature BUT to use #metoo to elevate your perceived victimization is rather gross and diminishes your argument. To me, it reveals your own emotional immaturity. It tells me that you think you deserve to place yourself under the same banner as those who are being sexually abused so that you can make, as you say, a "personal attack". You should delete this and try again.


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