On Speaking Out

I’m not a quiet kind of person. I mean that both in the sense that I naturally possess a loud voice (and am forever being told to speak more softly because of it) and also in that I’m not afraid to talk, a lot. Sure, I’m shy with people I don’t know and it can take a while for it to feel normal for me to speak, but if I am comfortable with enough of the group, I will talk for ages and on all matter of subjects.

Specifically, I don’t shy away from controversial topics, or from pointing out something that seems wrong to me. This has lead to me making enemies quite easily – small-time bullies really don’t like it if you show up, new to the scene, and say “Why are you treating this perfectly decent person like crap?”.

After a lifetime spent doing this automatically, without a second thought but still having to deal with the consequences (said small-time bullies usually decide to get back at you by doing what they do best – bullying you), it seems utterly foreign and strange that you wouldn’t call people out, wouldn’t complain or protest, or even question the wrongdoers. But then, slowly, I realised why I made so many enemies compared to most people, when I always strive to be as nice as possible. The thing is, while lots of people are happy to criticize others behind their backs, they’re unwilling to say it to their face. And, of course, some just accept the bad behaviour, for whatever reason.

It’s a sad realization for me – after all, if everyone who complained would just join me in telling the person off, that person would be a lot more likely to get the message and stop being a pain. As it is, I say something because I can’t ethically not say something, the wrongdoer hates me for it and may target me, and the general group regards me as a kind of mildly mad, embittered and foolish character.

I understand that we have a fear of speaking out and thus standing out, of daring to go against the stream – but I personally cannot respect myself if I don’t call a spade a spade and try and stop people who are harming others when I see them do it. It’s like if you watched as someone walked past and, completely unprovoked, took a swing at a random person. Surely you would do something to help, whether it is to call for help, dial the police, aid the victim or even go face the attacker yourself. If you didn’t, you’d be seen as a callous, heartless person. And yet, people stand by and watch calmly, without interference, as bullies hurt people with words and presumptuous actions. (You know what I mean if you’ve ever seen a movie where the head jock arrives at a seat, finds it already occupied, but glares and/or gestures at the occupants until they flee from it.)

So – look, it’s not so hard as you might think. Assuming that it won’t cost you your job or personal safety, when you next see someone casually insult another person, or in general treat them badly – say something. Speak out. Not enough people do it, and to me it’s one of the problems in our society. After all, I may have an over-inflated sense of self-righteousness, but surely it’s a bad sign when the main reason people hate me, the main reason bullies have targeted me in the past, is that I dared to tell them to lay off.

The funny thing is, it doesn’t matter if they’re doing it to you or to someone else. If they’re hurting you and you say it’s wrong, then it’s “You only care because it’s about you, you’d get that it’s funny for everyone else. You just want us to stop, that’s why you’re saying that it’s actually wrong.” But if it’s someone else they’re hurting, you’ll get told “Shut up and mind your own business, it’s not your place to tell someone what they’re doing is wrong if they’re not doing it to you.”

It’s one of the lovely (watch the sarcasm drip off these words!) win-win situations where you’re the baddie either way. So, as someone who does their best to speak out whenever possible, I’d just like to ask absolutely everyone else to do it as well. Please, scream your heart out, because otherwise I feel like I’m getting nowhere.

 

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