Am I always kind?
Am I always tolerant and respectful of other people?
Am I buggery?!
Am I perennially considerate, diplomatic and sensitive to the needs of other mortals?
Ha bloody ha! As if!
I can be extremely unkind. I can have the level of tolerance more normally associated with huge men in ill-fitting black suits and a penchant for the Up Close and Personal with a Meat Cleaver approach to disagreement. I have no respect for Authority per se, and will not be told that I should respect others just because of who or what they flatter themselves to be.
My level of diplomacy, whilst slightly less Neanderthal than that of the Duke of Edinburgh, most assuredly will not get me anywhere near the Diplomatic Bag (whoever she may be) during this incarnation.
As to consideration and sensitivity – I have to admit to a disappointingly non-rebellious duet of agreement, in that I can generally read other people’s moods and am able to feel compassion easily. I have, in fact, had, at times, to stopper up my ears and place a suit of invisible armour over my body in order to keep people out!
Oh my God, I can be outspoken, though; I can be vulgar, rude, offensive (usually with deliberate intent, and with many a bow to the Punk Rock influence that freed so many of us from the more tedious aspects of middle-class manners back in the seventies!) and, at times, downright nasty.
I am more than capable of frightening people, though I try very hard not to because I know, only too well, how horrible that feels. When I was teaching full time, I regularly used to reduce children to tears – not because I was a natural bully (I’m not), but because I was loud, forceful and meant what I said!
I tend to hold myself in check for a while (good intentions and all that); I tend to behave well and show the best side of who I am – and then, after a while, my excellent intentions, and my self-control, begin to slip. I get bored – I am being honest here – with niceness and sweetness and patience and letting others get away with behaviour I would never tolerate within a classroom situation!
I get terse. I get tetchy. Wildness begins to poke through the surface levels of civilisation. My temper begins to fray. I look, with a jaundiced eye, at those who have dissed me. I view – with something close to contempt – those who have underestimated me. I feel the rage of anyone assumed to be nice just because he or she does not show obvious signs of being downright nasty!
You see, dear friends, I have learnt a very important lesson: Tolerance, though very important, can be taken to such ridiculous extremes that it becomes little more than a coward’s way out of confrontation; a covert plea for bullying, for the kind of intimidation I have spent months, if not years, trying to free myself from.
People (and I have been one of them) become so terrified of being seen as intolerant, disrespectful and prejudiced that they go far too far the opposite way in their desperate attempt to convince others that they are right-thinking. They become frightened of saying anything that might offend; that might be construed as prejudiced. In an ironic volte face, this craven need to prove an almost angelic level of tolerance can open them up to overt intimidation by the very people they are trying to protect and support!
At school, and as a teacher, I saw children tip-toeing in terror around the dominant and manipulative other, so scared of saying or doing the wrong thing that they barely had the energy or courage to open their mouths at all. I saw them grovelling, breaking in with an apology immediately as a kind of ghastly insurance policy: A sad kind of, ‘If you do take offence, at least I have already made reparation…’
Frankly, I cannot be doing with this kind of emotional bollocks. I am not one of life’s natural tip-toers, and I am not built for bowing and genuflecting. I cannot be arsed to pay obeisance to the would-be princes and princesses of this world. It’s tiring, boring and a complete waste of my time and energy! I have done enough of it in the past, and am no longer cowed in that frozen and horrified way.
I am not always kind. Why should I be? Nor am I always those other fine and virtuous things. Who the hell is?
Tolerance, as I said at the start, is important – but so is a healthy blast of occasional out-and-out, totally politically-incorrect, ranting! Each of us was gifted with an individual voice. We do not have to agree with anyone else if we do not wish to – though society works better when degrees of common ground and diplomacy are agreed upon. We certainly should never have to feel insidiously shamed and pressurised into agreeing with another because we are scared of that person. That is wrong.
If we are tempering and curbing our own natural responses out of fear of the person we are talking, or writing, to, there is something seriously amiss with the interaction – and, in all probability, the relationship.
Learning a measure of unkindness, disrespect, intolerance and insensitivity would probably do me the world of good!
I am, in fact, asserting my right to be nasty when the need arises!