How to Leave Dying Social Media Platforms
Lazar: Tevye! Tevye, I’m on my way.
Tevye: Where are you going?
Lazar: Chicago, in America.
Tevye: Chicago, America? We are going to New York, America.
Lazar: We’ll be neighbors. My wife, Fruma Sarah, may she rest in peace, has a brother there.
Tevye: That’s nice.
Lazar: I hate him, but a relative is a relative.
Collective Action Inaction in Action
In the opening scenes of the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof, the narrator, Tevye, introduces us to his village of Anatevka, which is a pretty fraught place where people are unhappy and danger is on the horizon. Nearly three hours and (spoiler alert) innumerable indignities and terrors later, Tevye and his neighbors leave the village, all to go their separate ways.
From the first scene in Fiddler, it’s clear that this is a bad situation, but the next three hours show us why the Anatevkans can’t just pack up and leave: they are being held hostage…by each other.
They love each other. They need each other. And despite that, when it’s finally time to go, they can’t all agree on where to go next. Some go to Krakow, some to New York, some to Chicago (“we’ll be neighbors”). It’s a poignant scene because we know that their community is smashed forever.
Hypothetically, the Anatevkans could have spent the three hours of screen time in a people’s assembly, debating which town they will all move to, and they could have all decamped en masse to their new home. They don’t, for the obvious reason that this would be a pretty boring movie, but also because the task is an impossible one.
Lazar can go to Chicago because he has a (hated) brother-in-law there that will put him up. Tevye presumably has a good reason to go to New York, but it means leaving behind his beloved daughter Chava, whose new husband has his own reasons to relocate to Krakow.
As it happens, my own family history maps pretty well onto this — my grandfather was a Jewish war refugee from a disputed part of Poland/Belarus who fled with my…