Wednesday, 26 November 2014

<insert generic outrage here>

Outrage is fashionable. Taking umbrage at something anything is almost a currency to show how much we care.

There have been a few more recent examples of unacceptable behaviour in my beloved spot of football, but I'm picking a slightly older incident from April 2014. To summarise - football player was given abuse during a match and his response? He "leaned behind him and pretended to insert something in his bottom".

That's it. Without lapsing to the "that's how it's always been", there is a fair amount of precedent of football fans going to a football match, chanting abuse to the opposition player and then ... brace yourself, the opposition player responding in kind.

Now, he's clearly not the brightest fellow to let himself be provoked - and I won't condone either his stupidity in response (and choice of response) or a crowd deliberately winding him up, but it was the reaction of the offended individuals in the crowd that piqued my interest.

One gentleman managed to be both "utterly disgusted" and "clearly shocked to see a football player perform a gesture like that on a field of play" and if interviewed further would probably have been "appalled" for how out of the ordinary this must be at a football game. I suspect the grim truth is more likely he took a wrong turn on the way to see Sussex Cricket Club in action, where anything above gentle applause is considered a riot, and ended up at the wrong venue.

It was interesting he didn't feel offended by the crowd chanting "you fat bastard" at the player in question.

The speed of emotional escalation in recent years is impressive. From a gradual greyscale of non-plussed through to pure fury, society is in the midst of removing the lower end markers. No longer is anyone perturbed, frustrated, confused or uncomfortable - it now starts midway through the original spectrum and travels quicker to the upper end.

It may be a sign I'm inured to some of the unpleasant events that now occur on a regular basis in the world, but are any of us so naive to feel these are shocking, upsetting moments? A grown man pretending to insert something in his bum by way of response to a crowd baiting him, is something I feel comfortable saying isn't shocking. Stupid? Most certainly.

Can we bring a little moderation to how annoyed, shocked and upset we are about these things?

Sunday, 23 November 2014


The worst invention of the 21st century ... the non-apology.

"I apologise if this offended you"
"I'm sorry you were offended"

These aren't apologies. They're simply disappointed that another individual found something unacceptable, and frankly it's borderline passive-aggressive in terms of deliberately not recognising something was wrong or even perceived as wrong; no expression of remorse or guilt.

Nothing has changed at the root with the above statements. The author may continue, safe in the knowledge their original stance has not changed or been compromised - and they've had an opportunity to add salt to the wound. Essentially this is an expansion on the traditional mindset that the fault must lie elsewhere, other than oneself.

Now this is considered an acceptable way to respond to allegations or concerns, it should be only the first step on the road of escalation for anti-recrimination. Next we will see disappointment ...

"Naturally I'm disappointed they feel this way"

... because nothing does passive-aggressive quite like disappointed. It's the perfect way to demonstrate someone has failed to achieve what was expected of them, in this case acceptance of something they disagree with. Despite it often being contrary to their belief, yet spun round to make it appear the fault is theirs.

In time, after being nurtured in bitterness and bile for several months, it will be followed by its older, meaner sibling - anger.

"I'm angry that they're offended by this"

Because nothing fuels an inner fire quite like righteous indignation. How very dare you not understand, you ignorant bastard! It cuts short the debate, provides a barrier and generates a catalyst to ignore the complainant.

This is the natural state - the urge to protect self-interest, deny that there's potentially a problem and with the thin end of the wedge in place to give people leeway it won't get better. After this, we advance to all out warfare and weaponry will be handed out to the PR teams for running battles through heavily populated DMZs within Twitter, potentially scaling up to all out nuclear assaults on Facebook pages and soundbites for the Daily Mail.

What can we do as rational individuals?

  • Discuss. Explain the rationale, and listen to the counterpoint,
  • Apologise. If we actually have been offensive, and the two sides explained well, scales should fall from our eyes.
  • Adjust. Work harder to ensure it doesn't happen again. It may, but at least you're making an effort not to be a racist/homophobe/misogynist/xenophobe/general twat.

This isn't heart surgery - which is a complex, finessed operation - this is day-to-day interaction with humans, which we've all been practising for a few years now. It shouldn't be that hard to remain civil, recognise our faults and be better people.