Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hopefully this'll be the last

Jen (who used to have a blog, but then she got a life) sent me a link to this article as well as commenting on my last post on this subject.

I think (with the help of everyone's comments) I've decided where I lie on this issue. I appreciate that the world isn't black and white, I know that moral values are very much shades of grey and slide into each other. This idea doesn't stop me from believing strongly in an ideal. When choosing to reinforce this ideal I have to weigh up the situation and choose to act accordingly. I think I'll use eating as an analogy as I feel that the right of people to be treated with respect and dignity is as important as sustenance.

Every time I eat I might get food poisoning and die; this doesn't stop me from eating food. However I don't eat whatever is closest to hand when I'm hungry. I think this sums up the idea of when to intervene (eat) and when to not.

If I go to defend someone I might get stabbed and die, stopping me from doing further work to make the world more like I think it should be. I might not though and given that I still strongly believe that this sort of behavior is what vindicates further racist actions and so when appropriate I will still take action. While I know very little change in the world will come about, mountains are not built in one wheelbarrow load.

So I'm satisfied that while not doing anything might not have been the morally right thing to do, given the situation it is understandable to choose either option.

I will not, however, live in a state of fear that I might get stabbed and so not try to do right. That article describes how someone got stabbed while stopping an assault: yes there is always danger in all actions we do, but irrational fear of what might happen shouldn't stop us acting. If we get ourselves into a position where we don't act solely due to a disproportionate fear of reprisals upon us then we have started falling down a slippery slope.

We won't wake up one day to find a racist society to have sprung up over night: we'll wake up to find ourselves part of a racist society which has slowly grown over decades.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A play of three acts

I want to see it, I hope it's there.
I don't want to face it; not for fear,
but because it might not exist.

Hoping to see a box holding nothing.
Silence cloaked blackness; my freedom,
encased in a sweet nulling void.

Dreams of slipping and losing myself,
nothing shall I leave; my last tear,
climbs off a slowly sinking ship.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's time to grow some sharper teeth.

This is my follow up to this.

In response to...

Jon: Who cares? I care about people and the right for them to live as people with respect.

Kirsten: I would have done the same thing with or without you there. I was not suggesting I weigh in, just that I should have shown support to the people who were being harassed. In my mind silence in this case is complicity. What's to bet that the man thinks he was only saying what everyone else around him was thinking but too scared to say; after all if this wasn't the case then we'd have interrupted him surely?

Hane: It's not really a matter of danger or of having a resolution to the problem, it's a matter of showing where my thoughts lie: of showing where my votes lie. I'm not suggesting that anything would have come of me going up and saying something. There probably would have been lots of shouting of abuse. However it's the little steps which scale mountains. We won't affectively fight racism by holding festivals of world music in Trafalgar Square; we won't fight it by locking up those who rant and rave about it; we'll fight it by saying the little things and doing the smallest of actions which are the things which actually change memes.

It might be possible that trying to find some identity for myself was one of the things motivating me to think I should have done something, but that's different from the assertiveness which you suggest. My motivation was one of attempting to project some of my beliefs onto others in the world so that they can at least attempt to understand them a little more. This is very different from wanting to be the assertive hero.

Having said all that I also feel I should mention that this guy was almost body checking the two men that he was hurling abuse at. How do we know he didn't follow one of them home on the train and then assault him? How do we know he didn't go home but along the way burnt down the house of someone else who he thought was 'poison'? How do we know he didn't go home via the orphanage and spend 2 hours reading bed time stories to the children?

We don't. All I know is that I saw something which I believe is the symptom and cause of some of the deeper streaks of violence and hatred from people to other people. Having seen and registered all this, knowing all of this, believing all of this I still did nothing!

Would it have been different if it had been two women who the man was insulting? What if it was two women that he was harassing with lewd sexual comments? This would have exactly the same borderline legality to it, leaves people feeling bad and rejected, has just as much possibility to turn more physical, yet would you still just walk by? Would you all still come up with the same excuses you've given me? Are you all just trying to justify times when you've turned blind eyes to events even though they've been so against your set of beliefs?

I know this post is full of questions and anger. I know that there isn't really any resolution, particularly for something in the past between people I'll never see again. I know that heroes are only people who have done foolish acts yet managed to survive. I know all this yet I still worry.