Sunday, 14 March 2010

It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice

One of the most shocking things to experience is the moment that one of your friends or family says something uneducated and discriminative about a topic that you feel strongly about. It's horid to have strong feelings about something; be it sexism, racism, domestic violence, human rights, religious supression or something similar only to hear somebody you respect saying something disrespectful about the topic in question.

I can recall the time that I had to mentally scold myself to stay quiet when two male colleagues of mine were discussing the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and said "bomb them all and the problem is solved." It was the same solution they had offered a few days previously regarding the war in Iraq.

I just walked away because although I had all these facts and numbers and horrid images in my head of the actual problem and the ways it could be solved, me telling my two colleagues they were wrong wouldn't have any effect. It did make me wonder though if my colleagues actually knew what they were saying, what implications those actions if put into place would have. Did they have the facts? Or were they just repeating what they felt was the right thing to say in the situation they were in? 'Social moronic' is the term I like to use. A social moron is, in my opinion, someone who acts like a moron or says something moronic just so they fit in with the situation they're in at the time.

If you have to discriminate against somebody to make you look cool, then you're not cool, but in fact, shallow. 

I've always been known as a bit of a do-gooder (a title I hold proudly, by the way) and people would always roll their eyes at me when I put my point across against their discriminatory comments or their bigotry because I was just being Hayley the do-gooder again. Silly little girl, that I am. However I was always tolerant of it because I knew that I was right with the way I saw the world. I was right when I believed every single human was equal and entitled to rights and freedoms. I would always be polite with my arguments and never be in peoples faces with it because I didn't want to loose friends over those sorts of things.

However, there came a day when all of that changed. Anyone who works behind the scenes in retail will know how stressful it can be and the day in question had been a pretty stressful day and one of my colleagues had joked that another, younger colleague of ours who was training to join the marines was just canon fodder defending the rights of animals. This was an arrogant, disgusting thing to say but what made it even worse was the fact that the younger colleague who was indeed training to be a marine was stood in the office when this was said.

There was an intake of breath and a few seconds of silence as everyone in the office reeled from shock at what had been said and in those few seconds a switch inside my brain flipped and I turned into somebody I didn't know. I can remember rising from my seat at my desk, turning to my colleague who had made the disgusting comment and completely tearing what he had said apart.

See, my cousin's son is a marine and not a week before his best friend had lost all of his limbs because of an IED. To refer to these brave people as canon fodder was strike one, to then describe the innocent civilians of Iraq as animals simply because they live differently than you might do is strike two, to do this in the presence of somebody who has made the decision to fight as a marine was strike three.

After I told them off there was once again silence as I sunk back into my office chair, silently shaking with rage. Never, after that day did anybody ever become a social moron in my presence for the rest of the time I worked in that place. Infact, word must have spread because people would come and talk to me about Amnesty International (who I'm a keen supporter of) and human rights related news.

On the day I lost my cool with my colleague I realised that it's good to remain calm in the face of something that conflicts with your personal beliefs but sometimes it's also good to shout out in sheer outrage. It's okay if you loose friends because of something they say that you don't agree with (unless it's something pety of course) because I realised that there were some people - racists, homophobic people, sexist people etc. that I didn't want to be friends with; who didn't deserve a second of my time.

I am normally a calm person who will quietly point out the side of the argument you didn't consider, but if I have to I will be a bitch. I will always fight tooth and nail for things I feel strongly about and unfortunately in 2010 equality is something we are still having to fight for, for human beings everywhere.

If you don't want to meet Hayley the bitch, simply be a nice person.

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