In a Galway pub on 11 September, 2001 , the punters in the seats near the telly got up to let the Americans sit down. I’d been excused from work after the attacks and so it was from a high stool that I watched the world change. As George Bush waxed imbecilic and Tony Blair gave a well enunciated battle cry, I made what I knew was a useless prayer.
Dear God, don’t let us go to war. Dear God, please tell these assholes that killing’s not the answer. Dear God, don’t let them blast out the ghetto to get the drug dealer. Whether or not God listened isn’t the issue. What I hoped wouldn’t happen, had already started.
I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of war. I see both sides and am a proponent for accepting reality. As long as there are people who will take what isn’t theirs or will toss kittens into walls for sport, we need a military. What I’m thinking of is how we haven’t progressed much from the days of the coliseum. A certain proportion of our population still enjoys watching others get ripped to bits. Those of us who don’t, are told to take the moral high ground lest we be ridiculed as wooses.
The MEP for Northwest England criticises a gay couple for wanting the same rights as straights, then purportedly suggests that activists ‘confront Muslims instead of picking on meek & forgiving Christians.’ And he still has his job. Two university students in Dublin sustain a savage knife attack for stopping a woman from getting her head stomped into the pavement and are advised by the gardaí not to press charges because their attackers will retaliate on the victim’s families. After eighteen months of harassment by his ex-wife, a man quits his job of 12 years, moves across the country and is still forced by the court to pay expenses the ex unilaterally racks up in the name of his children. A woman is murdered by her ex-husband and the court awards custody of her children to his parents who keep them away from their dead mother’s relatives.
We have religion and we have legislation but both are ineffectual in changing the gladiator mentality. And so we respond in a currency of hate because no one thinks that giving members of the Westboro Baptist Church a hug is going to change things. We raise voices and sometimes fists in outcry against MPs using taxpayers’ money to build duck houses and ride in chauffeured cars. We hack into Twitter accounts, carry placards, hurl epithets, teach our children the standard exchange rate for bigotry, racism, sectarianism.
Hate begets hate. A newly qualified teacher recently told me she was taught, when faced with a rowdy class, not to go for the ring leaders, but to seek out the weakest member of the pack, get them under control and work her way up the status chain until she got big dog. While that’s probably an effective way to get things under control, that straggler in the pack is learning that the way to survive is to align with the strongest bully in the environment, rather than being taught that anti-social behaviour sucks.
A blog by Amanda Palmer is making the Facebook rounds and causing a blogging sensation. (Go read it and her follow-up ‘plot thickening’ blog entries!)
She asked victims of internet bullying to tell her their stories and she’d write a subsequent entry with practical solutions to help them survive. That’s a helluva commitment from a complete stranger to the universe at large and I’m not sure how many of us could sustain that.
BUT . . .
One hand reached out is more effective and more REAL than all the legislation, riot gear and fists in the air can be. Do something practical. Do it for one person outside your normal sphere. The stressed parents down the street. That dough-faced kid who doesn’t make eye contact. The woman wearing sun glasses who keeps walking into doors. Commit to only what you can sustain. Do it for real, not for show. Do it for the long haul.
I’m a realist. We need legislation, military strength, bad ass teachers and maybe even churches. Yet every time you ask how someone is but don’t listen to the answer; every time someone inconveniently seeks your help and you say you don’t want to be involved; every time you hear about injustice and all you do is raise your voice but not lift a hand, you’re complicit. I’m complicit. Nothing changes.
Do it. Do it now.