Friday, January 19, 2007

Must try harder

I didn't see a single British news story in the Indian newspapers the whole time we were there. The only international story that made any impact at all was the hanging of Saddam Hussein, which caused buses, ferries and rickshaws to go on strike in the city we were staying in, and various political factions to march through the streets shouting and burning effigies. We wandered through it all unsure if they were celebrating or protesting (the effigies didn't resemble anyone in particular), and waving at them when they shouted at us. We realised when we got back to our hotel and discovered that it had put up the riot shutters that this was possibly not the safest thing to do, but I'm guessing it must have been fairly clear that we were not warmongering Americans.

Less than a month later, chav munter queen Jade Goody has singlehandedly changed all that. I didn't watch any of the footage in question, but I vicariously followed the 'is this racist bullying or just cat fighting' debate online, and couldn't manage not to tune in to Jade's silent eviction this evening, though I felt slightly ashamed of myself for doing so.

FWIW, yes, I think Shilpa was subjected to bullying behaviour, and that this had a racist element as well as a class and a beauty envy one. As Ani DiFranco once said, everyone harbours a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room, and it seems that if she's a different colour as well it's going to be worse for her. But I also think that if you'd stuck Keira Knightley in a house with a bunch of rough-as-knackers Indians, she'd have had a grim old time as well.

But that doesn't mean I think it's okay, and it's not enough to do it and then say, as she did, 'well yes, it looks awful doesn't it, I can't defend my behaviour and I apologise'.

When I worked for the little publishing company in the house on the hill I vividly remember being steamrollered in a meeting by the marketing director. Later, we passed in the corridor and she said 'sorry if I was a bit aggressive in there'. I said 'actually, you can't behave aggressively in public, where decisions are made, and then apologise later, when nobody's watching. It might make you feel better, but it doesn't make it all right'.

In fact, several people *were* watching, and they flattened themselves against the wall in anticipation of a row that didn't materialise, and I like to think that I gave her pause for thought. But I have been bullied since, and no amount of candid feedback worked there. Some people take responsibility for their character failings and consequent bad behaviour, and use what they learn from others to help them be generally less of a dickshit over their lifetime. I like to think I generally fall into this category, though I do have a tendency to hold a grudge for longer than is healthy, including (at times) against entire genders and nationalities.

But others have bad intentions and skins of leather, and if you're thick as a brick with it, as I fear Ms Goody must be, well it's going to be ugly.

Essentially, I'm, making like Chumbawamba and saying our apologies count for nothing. You need to own your own mouthful of shit and do something about it. At the end of the day, you can't help the hand you're dealt, but you can help how you play it. End of.


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