I had trouble sleeping last night after a little online incident.
I was reading a news item on facebook about an airline offering a new configuration of seating. Nothing particularly controversial, but it had one of those typical ‘click-baity’ type headlines – ‘you won’t want to fly again after you read this’. I’m always fascinated by the comments that people leave, so was reading through and noticed that one young lady had tagged her friend, who commenting with the following. (And I’ve dithered about including the actual comment, but I feel that it’s important in the context of this story, so apologies in advance for the offensive language.)
“Jew cunts. They can suck my balls. Fucking airbus.”
I had an actual PHYSICAL reaction to reading that. My stomach felt sick and I went all hot. Typing it out has made my hands shake. I sat for a little while to see what the reaction was, and was astounded to see….nothing. People were commenting, and completely ignoring this horrific statement. Those who know me well know that I’m not good at keeping my mouth shut, so I replied – fairly innocuously, with:
“I wonder what kind of life you lead to make you feel that it’s ok to use that kind of language”
The friend who originally tagged this young man replied very quickly with
“You must have a boring life to be the language police.”
My comment quickly gained likes, and a few other people commented after saying things like:
“Leigh-ann is obviously educated, unlike you”
I fired off one more comment before backing away,
“I am far from the language police. What I am, however, is an advocate for common decency and I speak up when I see it lacking.”
That comment also got quite a few likes, and soon afterwards, the original comment was deleted.
Who thinks it’s ok to use that kind of terminology though? In what sphere of society would you speak like that in a public forum?
The crux of it for me, however, was this. Until me, no-one spoke up. People ignored it. Now, I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a small town and when I was a teenager, I knew that if I were misbehaving in public, any of the adults around me would let me know that my behaviour was unacceptable. Why are we afraid of doing this now? We shake our heads and mutter to our friends about how poorly the ‘young people of today’ are acting, but we do nothing to censure them. How are they to know their boundaries if they are not reinforced?
And on a more global scale, why do we stand by and watch what we know to be wrong and say nothing. What I saw online was small, but I lay awake last night and realised that it was a symptom of society today – we want a perfect world, but we want someone else to make it happen for us.
We need to get involved, and it starts with small gestures. Speaking up gently when we see something wrong, setting the example for our children that we have to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. We all hear stories and respond with the classic “I would have said….”, “if I was there, I would have….”, or “you should have…” but what do we actually do? Very little.
I realised last night that I do speak up when I don’t agree with something that’s happening in front of me, but is that enough? I don’t know. I’m having my ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ moment here, and suggesting that we all need to stand up against injustice, and affirming that I always will.