Deliberately ignoring another human being is one of the cruellest acts we can perpetrate against another. I have had a bellyful of it, particularly over the past two years. But, with me, it goes way back: It would have to, wouldn’t it? Let me explain.
When did it start? I cannot recall precisely. But it was a hole in my spirit, a wound, a clearly-visible point of vulnerability as early as Primary School. The power of threats delayed too: Somehow I learnt, before I was five, the dread of waiting, in thrumming silence, to be punished and upbraided; I learnt, that is, that silence is not always golden and that harsh words waited at the end as often as rainbows did.
I can remember vividly sitting in the classroom, aged eight or nine, last lesson of the day (painting, it was) and being handed a ripped scrap of paper by an intermediary – the writer herself had been ignoring me all day – which said (a memory still fresh and painful after fifty years), ‘I’m going to get you after school…’
She did too, chasing me to the park and then disappearing – which was, in its way, even more scary – only to grab me as I attempted to walk up the ginnel and bang my head, hard, against the metal bars.
That hurt. A lot. I felt dizzy and scared and small.
But what hurt even more was the back-turning that followed. This other child was a natural leader and, looking back, I can see that many others were frightened of her, too scared to stick up for her chosen targets. She convinced the class that I had wronged her – and, for one truly awful break time, I was completely alone, though sniggers and pointed fingers and whispers broke out just within hearing range wherever I went. No one would talk to me. It was deeply scarring.
She had the Power of Silence. She had the willpower to keep up a campaign of ignoring another child for days, if not weeks. Silence was part of her Armoury of Bullying.
Yes, bullying. Let us not delude ourselves here: The malignant act of ignoring another is emotional bullying whether the person concerned is nine or ninety. Let us not kid ourselves about this reality: Back-turning is done to wound, to punish, to top up the tank of insecurity, to exert control over another, to bring someone else to heel.
This kind of ignoring is a form of mind game. Designed to make the other wonder, and then worry, what he/she might have done wrong, it is, in its way, just as effective as the slap, punch, kick or hair-pull. It is both malicious and sanctimonious: Done to teach someone a lesson, to assert a Holier than Thou mindset.
I have a long history of continuing to ‘play’ with other ‘children’ long past the degree of sense and tolerance many would be prepared to show. I give malevolent fellow ‘playground’ inhabitants chance after chance after chance, too frightened and insecure to boot out even the most vile and abusive ‘friend’. I make endless excuses for the other and fail to act assertively when met with overt cruelty or a barrage of deliberate silence.
Part of it, I know, is that I have this absolute dread of being unfair, insensitive or overly demanding. The worry always lurks at the back of my mind that the silence I see as sinister might indicate a horrible life crisis on the part of the other – and any accusation of cruelty on my part would make a bad situation even worse.
I do not find it easy to admit, even to myself, that the longest silence indicates that the person, or people, want nothing more to do with me; that they have turned against me, for whatever reason, and rejected me. I find it very difficult to think, genuinely, ‘They are not worth a further second of my time,’ or, ‘Their loss!’ or, ‘Good riddance of bad rubbish…’ as so many, more secure, people seem able to do.
In the symbolic sense, I am perpetually waiting, I guess you could say, for one of that silent class full of children to send me a tiny smile, a covert wave, a quick thumbs-up, just a little indication that I am not alone, that I have been forgiven (for whatever heinous crime I was supposed to have committed), that someone is still willing to be my friend.
Since I am not a talker, not at ease on the phone, my medium tends to be the written word. Most people when undergoing a crisis talk a lot; I write reams. Neither form of communication is any better than the other; it is just a case of personality traits and personal preference.
So when, after months have gone by, I still have not heard from those I write to, instead of writing them off, I say to myself, ‘Writing does not come naturally to A; he/she is far more at ease talking; I must be tolerant…’
But there is another part to this: Often I have been so busy trying endlessly, pointlessly, to please, flatter and keep on the good side of abusive and bullying types that I have failed to appreciate the many really lovely and genuine people who do care about me, who do communicate, who would not dream of imposing the Sanctions of Silence upon me. It is as if I am in thrall to the ghastliness of darkness, of the roller-coaster that is an abusive interaction, the adrenaline highs and lows of unpleasantness followed by charm.
But I am sick of giving abusers just one more chance. I am tired to allowing others to rule me with their aggressive silence. I am pissed off with people who think it their right to hold my communication over me as a weapon; whose refusal to respond – for months! – is, in its own way, an act of hostility, a throwing down of war’s gauntlet.
Now, I want to give the other side, for it is important to redress the balance. Yesterday was a very difficult and painful day. For once, I am not going to share the details. I was, to put it bluntly, under par. Three friends picked up on this and contacted me spontaneously and lovingly; all offered support and kindness when I most needed it. To continue the dominant metaphor of the entire class back-turning all those years ago,each of my caring friends yesterday proved to be one of the brave children who was willing to smile a tiny smile, to wave or wink or give a thumbs-up; all were Samaritans who refused to walk by on the other side of the road.
I am incredibly lucky because I have a committed friendship-base from my pre-Glastonbury life and have found some truly lovely, special people here, some of them through Shadow of the Tor, some people who live near me, others friends who live in other parts of the UK and in other countries.
In the rational, logical part of my soul, I can see clearly that I do not need to carry the heavy, dark and spiteful sacks of the perpetual ignorers, the mind-game-players, the shits in human clothing with me; that they are waste which should be flushed away pronto. But, emotionally, I am less certain, less strong, less resolute because I have carried many of these foetid cases for a goodly number of years, and familiarity is a seductive drug for the insecure.
However, untreated sewage can be very dangerous. It can poison the atmosphere and the human population. I won’t even go into the analogy of the unflushed toilet: Too primal at this time of the morning, even for me.
I am blessed with my true friends. The false ones, the ones who enjoy seeing me beg and suffer and grovel, can fuck right off. I have had enough of being sent to Coventry for nothing. I am tired of being used as target practice by those who, unwilling to look at their own flaws, fire arrows of projection at me. I am NOT a human punch-bag to be emotionally battered whenever the demons of frustration come a’calling.
Sending another to Coventry is a child’s game. It is not a sign of a mature and well-balanced adult! It is the spite of countless primary school playgrounds. It is the sullen sulkiness, the, ‘I’m not talking to youuuuuuu…’ jibe of spoilt children throughout the world. To be continuing with such behaviour past the teen years is a sign of arrested development!