Tuesday, 21 February 2012

just don't say it

i'm thinking i should do a post about christchurch, given the one year anniversary of the earthquake. but while i really feel for the people there, i'm uncomfortable with media and politicians using this event in the way they are. there must be a way to do a commemoration so that it belongs to the people who suffered & other people don't profit from it. but then maybe the people there prefer the way it's being done. whatever the case, i'm thinking of them and wishing they get the actual support they need to improve their daily lives and their livelihood.

instead i'm going to focus on unpicking a phrase that is being much more commonly used by bigots to excuse their bigotry. the phrase is "i'm only saying what everyone thinks but is afraid to say".

the first problem with this idiotic attempt at justification is that the speaker actually has no proof that "everyone" thinks this way. it's not like they have conducted a scientific poll that gets responses from a cross-section of society that includes people who aren't white & middle class. it's not like they're presenting the results of such research to give any authority to the notion that they somehow have some special insight into what "everyone" thinks. and they use this phrase "everyone" especially at a time when they have received significant negative feedback, which proves that clearly everyone does not agree with what they have said.

second, if people are afraid to say it, perhaps they have good reason to be so. perhaps they are afraid because they know what they want to say is problematic, hurtful, disrespectful and downright nasty. in which case they should very well be afraid to say such things - afraid of the pain they will cause and the unfairness of their words.

or they maybe afraid because they know they will be criticised for what they say. and so they should be. people who say silly, stupid, ignorant and hurtful things deserved to be called out on, deserve to be told exactly the reasons why their words are so clearly wrong. as i've said many times, free speech applies equally to those who criticise you as it does to yourself. you may well have the right to say stupid things, but don't forget that those who hear you hear you have an equal right to point out just how stupid that thing you said was.

the third problem with this phrase is that it implies some kind of bravery on the part of the bigot. as if they are being especially courageous by being nasty. no, nastiness does not take courage, it takes insensitivity, callousness and selfishness. it comes from a person who has a complete disregard for those who might be hurt, and who believes there own ability to be offensive is more important than anything or anyone else.

nastiness comes from a place of thoughtlessness. it comes from a person who can't be bothered thinking about the implications of what they say, can be bothered to take the time to educate themselves, and to put some time towards the way they phrase their words. no, they want to be able to utter whatever pops into their brain, without any consequences to themselves. if others have to face consequences because of their utterances, this person just doesn't care. there is absolutely nothing brave about that.

bravery involves challenging power structures, speaking out against injustice when the consequences could be detrimental to yourself and possibly your family. bravery is in whistleblowing, challenging stereotypes, giving people reason to question their own prejudices and reducing the amount of hatred in the world.

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