I am English so naturally I struggle with this fine line.
The problem I have is that, when erring on the side of politeness, there is always a little voice in my head shouting, “Hypocrite! You’re a bloody hypocrite! Don’t let them go away with that view unchallenged – whilst you’ll put yourself in a vulnerable position, how can you live with yourself knowing that person is going to loudly perpetuate that complete tosh to anyone who’ll listen???”
I’d really rather not get into debates with everyone I encounter… but then I find the most narrow-minded to be the ones who incite discussion on controversial subjects. As if to assert themselves from the start and strong-arm me into automatic concurrence.
I think it could be argued that they are spoiling for a fight.
Etiquette vs Education
Yesterday an older gentleman came round to tune the piano. Firstly, he denigrated digital keyboards as a replacement for instrumental pianos which, I must admit, I could wholeheartedly agree with… after all, digital has it’s place but is no replacement! But he “hates” it.
Then he spied my bottles on the side table… and began to harp on about how he doesn’t drink and that drink is terrible stuff and so on, and that he “hates” people who drink. Again, can’t massively argue with the negatives of the demon drink although I see no need to nobble someone in their own home. I can’t drink anyway so he was barking up the wrong tree… it’s there for my “terrible” friends!
Next it was smoking. Again, completely agree but decided at this point to say, “Actually i enjoy the occasional cigarette…”, to which he began harping on about how he “hates” smokers and that he knew some old lady who had smoked like a chimney and how she was a bad person for that… and, “…she died! Ha!!” WTF??? I should have kept quiet but felt imposed upon in my own home by that point, which is just unreasonable. This conversation had only started after he had finished the job for goodness sake and my precious time was being wasted on ranting and it wasn’t constructive.
Next he mentioned a call he had to make to tune a piano, back in the 70’s. He had arrived to a group of people all smoking “that weed”. “It’s really bad that stuff – if you smoke it once it damages your brain for the rest of your life.” “You’re never the same again.” “It’s evil dangerous stuff people who smoke it are weird and bad.” “I’ve met them, there’s something wrong with them!” “It’s illegal too isn’t it?” “I hate people who do that.”
Now I have to admit that I am a defender of the medicinal properties of said weed. I am all too aware of the issues – mainly restricted to teenage boys and folk with pre-existing conditions – but far more frequently, I have seen too many adult people benefit immeasurably to be able to accept alcohol as fine and cannabis as not. I’m yet to see anyone tangibly physiologically benefit from drinking alcohol. Relaxation and loss of inhibition don’t count.
I couldn’t bring myself to educate this man. However hard the little voice in my head tried, my mouth would not commit to the noose in that way. I find that the narrow minds of the loudly judgemental ignorant are what poison and destroy sense, free social discourse and progress. I mean, the guy had just told me in no uncertain terms that he hated me on 3 counts!
I find myself often in this dilemma: Educate or Assimilate?
You see this gentleman is completely entitled to his opinion and to voice it… I just feel that he should be in hand of actual facts and evidence before he makes his judgement and goes out proclaiming aggressively to anyone within earshot. I also think “hate” is a very strong word.
Progress, in my opinion, is not related to the obvious – building big shiny things, converting every daily task to technology, searching the universe… no, I believe progress only continues where folk are prepared to question daily what they have believed all their lives. We need to always question ourselves and everything around us… double check it makes sense and we’re not just regurgitating false information provided by another biased and fallible human.
He continued on, as I walked him to his car, “They are letting them in left right and centre, they are taking all the jobs they aren’t learning the language”…. If I’m honest, racism makes me mental and I didn’t want him to stay the length of time it would have taken to debate that subject and so distracted him with a bird sighting!
You would have thought that admiring native fauna would have softened him, but his finale, and I jest you not, was the following;
“Well and of course those nature shows, they really shouldn’t show any of those bits that are unpleasant. I think they should censor when animals kill other animals or when something dies, I hate it. We shouldn’t have to see that, it’s horrible and it’s not right. Not right at all.”
Goodness, we really do have a long way to go with rational thinking.
I must confess that with his final flourish he had induced a burning inferno within me that would not have allowed a rational response had I indulged it. I know I shouldn’t get so angry and frustrated but my first response (of 5 billion that were queuing up in my head) would have been – “So you’re a vegetarian then are you??????” (I know he wasn’t because he’d mentioned meat earlier.) Followed swiftly by, “Do you have any inkling of how fortunate you are to be able to hate so loudly, liberally and ignorantly???”
The problem is that all my responses become swathed in a mire of, “You bloody moron. How can a person live on this planet for over 60 years and come out with such utter drivel? Forget nature programmes, it’s folk like you who should be bloody censored – you’re a danger to a rational and reasonable society, a threat to the environment and a blockade in the way of progress!!”
Instead of course, I smiled through gritted teeth as I waved him off to spread his very assured lunacy-fuelled hatred elsewhere, where folk might actually listen and take it as fact. Scary.
When he’d left, I genuinely couldn’t get my head round what he’d said. I may seem just as judgemental but it’s been a while since I’ve met anyone so entirely closed-minded, shallow and quite so vehement with no provocation. There’s some really serious sh$* going on around the world at the moment and this guy felt he should take up an hour of my life spouting crap that doesn’t even make the scale. He left me feeling frustrated and flabbergasted, guilty and doom-laden. How can he have visited such a wide variety of homes, schools, venues and locations over the course of his entire working career and not realise that people are people, you can’t pigeon-hole them or condemn and if they’re not hurting you and yours then really what’s the problem? Where’s all this hate coming from?
Ignorance breeds Fear. Fear breeds Contempt. Contempt creates Division. Division becomes Factional. Factions just Fight.
I avoided the fight but I feel like a coward. Not only did I judge a book by it’s cover – nice old gentleman, lifelong local piano tuner, moderate and polite – I had also allowed him off my turf to perpetuate his unchallenged, ignorant dogma. The media is rife with tales of horrendous evil Muslims and BNP idiots inciting racial hatred but I would like to mention the insidious, irrational, fear-induced inciting of racial hatred that goes on in all sorts of unassuming places and can even seep into your own home if you’re not careful, leaving a bad taste and staining the view for a while.
It’s a good thing really that he came across as such a throwback – I guess the fewer and further between these dogmatic and hate-fuelled individuals become… the better for us all.
I dread his return in 6 months but I suppose I could be out… or fully prepared with a Power Point presentation and an hour to spare!