A wasted opportunity.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the behaviour of certain people in the public eye, all of whom will remain nameless because I don’t wish to cast particular nasturtiums in anyone’s direction. Doing so tends to obscure any meaningful debate with lots of muddy water.

I rarely listen to BBC radio 2 at lunchtime, because so often, they throw deliberately contentious issues open for discussion, which seems to routinely end in bouts of heated argument. I don’t particularly favour that approach to debate, because, I feel that if you wish to persuade someone to a different point of view, it is more useful to listen well and talk quietly.

But a particular type of person seems to defend what I would consider to be obnoxious behaviour in the public sphere, with the argument that goes, ‘This was merely a typical, ordinary response of an ordinary bloke/ess down the pub, who was probably having a chat with his/her mates on a Friday night….’ and therefore his or her forced resignation, departure from public office, is out of all proportion to the perceived offence, tweet, post on FB, etc, which seems to have caused so much upset among the general populace, and the unreasonable leftist press in particular.

Yes, perhaps a single, offensive tweet is excusable, and perhaps it is the result of a bit too much bevy. Perhaps, from the point of view of an educated, middle class, white male who has – let’s face it – been part of the system that he and his ilk have fashioned and benefited from for eons, one remark should of course be excusable. But…

I have been accused of being unreasonable – a long time ago – when I have responded angrily to a single, jocular comment, of course meant in fun, but which I have found deeply upsetting. Probably because one single jocular comment from one person is probably the latest of about three thousand irritations that have accumulated over the course of several years, one more pebble of discomfort to add to the collection in my shoes…

That I no longer rise to offensive comments is not intended to suggest that offensive people may, each in their own way, contribute their pennyworth of offensiveness to the general discourse and expect to be excused. Racism, sexism, disable-ism, double standards and unkindness deserve to be called for what they are, and kindness, toleration and peace are always worth encouraging.

Try telling the single mum with three kids living on benefits that a ‘scrounger’ comment from a local official was only meant in fun. Try telling a bulky young man that comments about his size are only banter. Try telling a woman who has been for seventeen job interviews that her position is laughable. To those who have to battle the system every day, every gesture of kindness is appreciated. And every joke at someone’s expense is a wasted opportunity to be kind instead.

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