To be or not to be… a nice person

So, this morning, Twitter is being bombarded with reactions against this article by Julie Burchill. I can see why everyone is getting inflamed about it. The language she uses is indeed inflammatory and people are quite rightly getting upset and angry. But there is one very important thing that most people (with one or two notable exceptions) are not saying, and that’s why I’m writing this now.

There is no reason or excuse for anyone to use language which is intended to offend certain members of society. (And no, I don’t mean swearing. I personally can swear like a navvy when I want to. I also know when not to.) If someone does use such language (and they frequently do), they must expect people to react badly and, in this case, they have, and Suzanne Moore (who wrote the original article) has been hounded to such an extent that she has deactivated her Twitter account to avoid more abuse. Julie Burchill has reacted to this so strongly, I suspect, because Ms Moore is a friend of hers. I have no qualms about saying I would defend my friend, too. What kind of a friend would I be if I didn’t? Even so, if I thought my friend had been out of order, I would say so, in the very same article I was writing in his or her defence.

However, Ms Burchill had the perfect opportunity to make a point, here, but she has spectacularly failed to do so, and people are getting so fired up about the issue that they’re forgetting the most important thing just as completely as she is. What is the most important thing according to me, you may ask? Well, personally, I don’t give a flying one whether someone is a woman, a man, a transsexual, gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, black, white, Chinese, Christian, Muslim, pagan, Jewish, or whatever the fuck else. The most important thing, in my opinion (and you may, of course, take it or leave it), is whether or not someone is a nice person. What Suzanne Moore said was wrong, I agree. I get her point about the ‘ideal woman’s body’ being an impossibility, but she was still wrong to phrase it the way she did. But for the transsexual community to rise up against her and hound her so badly that she deactivates her account makes them no better than she is. It’s simple mob mentality.

Unfortunately, all Julie Burchill has done by writing about it has made the situation even worse than it already was. I had no idea it had happened until she highlighted it by writing the article. Perhaps she thought it needed to be highlighted. Who knows? But people are right. No one should diss transsexuals. But by the same token, no one should diss women, either. (And yes, I use the word women deliberately.) Or men. Or gays. Or people of different racial backgrounds. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, are we not all human?

The point Ms Burchill makes about trans women being ignorant about the issues ‘natural’ women face every day is a good one. I agree. No man (and no one who was born male) can ever really know what it’s like to be a woman. The same way no biological woman can understand what it’s like to be a man, either pre- or post-op. And I can’t begin to understand how terrible it must be to feel you’re living in the wrong body and want it surgically changed to what you consider to be the right one. It must be a living hell. But that just illustrates the fact that no one can know what it’s like to be anyone else. Not really. We can try our best, and we can empathise and we can sympathise, we can try to imagine what it would be like to be someone else. We can even, given our propensity for anthropomorphising things, imagine what it’s like to be something else. But we can never really know.

And this leads me to believe that whether or not someone considers themselves a woman, unless they are biologically female, they’ll never truly know what it’s like to be one. In the same way, a man who was born female can never really know what it is to be a man.

I know this blog post is going to piss a few people off, and I do regret that. But this is my opinion, and I’m as entitled to express it as anyone else.

I’m going to repeat here what we say when a new child joins the kids’ kung fu class: Always treat other people the way you’d like to be treated yourself. If you see something happening, ask yourself, ‘Would I like that done to me?’ If the answer is ‘No,’ don’t do that thing to someone else. It’s easy enough to remember. If you’re a horrible person, you can’t expect people to be nice to you, and it doesn’t make any difference who you are or who you used to be. Who you are may increase the odds of others being horrible to you. It may not. Does that mean you have to be horrible to other people, just in case? Of course not. What we give is not always what comes back to us. It’s sad. But it’s true.

So what would my reaction have been if I were in that situation? Anger? Undoubtedly. Hurt? Most certainly. But would I hound the person who’d upset me so badly that my own actions meant I’d lowered myself to their level? No.

Be nice. People won’t always be nice back, but the chances of them being nice are significantly increased if you’re a decent person. I went to a lecture yesterday, a talk about Daoism, one of a series by our Chief Instructor. I took a lot of notes, and a couple of things are pertinent to this issue. “All actions have repercussions.” So if you do something, don’t expect there to be no comeback on yourself. Or on other people. And something one of the other instructors, a scholar of philosophy, said: “If the end justifies the means, you need to take full responsibility for the means.” And that is something that far too many people forget. So the end goal was to upset Suzanne Moore by telling her what a cow she is. Well done. Mission accomplished. But will those people who hounded her take responsibility for their actions? I’m really sorry, but I very much doubt it. And that’s one of the least attractive traits of the human species.

I’m not saying I’m whiter than white. But I do my best. And really, that’s all I ask of anyone.

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