Monday, 27 January 2014

Pick Your Prejudice

We are not an anti-prejudice people. We are all for hating people when it suits. We bully those we deem to be unacceptably different.

There are forms of prejudice that have been deemed unacceptable by society due to an inextricable link with an ugly episode of history. We abhor racism, for example. It's connection with slavery and oppression puts weight behind the anger and condemnation it gets and deserves. The notion to demean someone based on the colour of their skin is vile. Yet, if that person was white but born with ginger hair, we can tease them about that. The notion to demean someone based on the colour of their hair is considered acceptable. It's not just ginger haired people, blondes get it too. Why is it that you can't torment someone for one genetic feature but you can for another?

You see, our supposedly righteous indignation at the headline prejudices of the world actually expose how hypocritical we are. Double standards are common. We sit at a buffet of prejudices and pick which ones we think are okay. It is not right to abuse someone because they are homosexual. Theirs is a love between two consenting adults and they have a right to live their life free from intimidation or vilification. I think that is an evolved sensibility that we can all accept.

Now what about a technosexual? They are a fairly obscure group of people who claim to have strong sexual feelings for technology. I bet your first reaction is "That's weird" or something in that vain. It is uncommon and so people think we can justify a prejudice or a disdain for such behaviour on that basis. Yet in 2011, a UK survey indicated that, at most, 6% of the British population is homosexual. That can hardly be classed as commonplace. The reality is that education about how the LGBT community feels when persecuted for their emotional feelings, coupled with the horrid stories about gay teenagers committing suicide off the back of being bullied, has built the strength of feeling against homophobia.

Now those are prejudices based upon how people are born but what about things people choose? There is an increasingly feeling that it is okay to persecute and belittle people for having a religious belief. The argument being that you are not born with a religion, so it is fair game. Yet someone who decides to have a sex change was not born that way; they come to that decision later in life. People may tell me that when it comes to a sex change, it is a deep rooted feeling that overwhelms a person but I could easily say they same thing about religious convictions. You don't have to agree with either but you do have to allow both groups the right to live their lives as they see fit. You can disagree as long as you don't promote hatred.

It is wrong to be mean to someone because of their skin colour but if that is true (and it is) then it is wrong to demean someone for their hair colour.  If it is abhorrent to persecute someone for having a loving relationship that is fair and free from abuse, then it is similarly vile to vilify those who have intimacy that we don't comprehend. If someone wants to make choices that seem odd to us, that is their privilege and it does not grant us the right to torment them about it. We shouldn't pick our prejudices but we do. We are not as good as we think we are. We are still bullies from the playground. It's just now, we pick on a different group of kids.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Trust Is A Myth

Who do you trust? Think about it before you blurt out an answer. Who do you trust completely? I am going to make a bold statement. There is NO ONE in this world you completely trust. People will say that they trust their spouse, their parents, their priest or their best friend but that's not true. And why? Because to trust someone completely would be willing to let them know everything and anything about you. There is no doubt in my mind everyone has a secret, an uncomfortable moment, something that they would rather not talk about and if that is true, then no one trusts anyone completely.

You see, I think trust is a myth. Or at least, our understanding of trust is a myth. The reality is that trust is effectively the name of a gamble we are willing to take within a relationship with a person. That is all it is. A gamble. No matter how educated you are of the situation or how stacked the odds are in your favour, it is a risk we take. A leap of faith with varying degrees of certainty that a net is there to catch you.

The issue most people will have is that it is a very uncomfortable truth to accept that we gamble on people because it suggests a negative connotation. Trust is a warm, fuzzy word, the kind that offers security. Gamble instantly makes the person feel like they are staking their life savings on red or black of a roulette wheel. Well, trusting someone is a risk. You tell someone a secret and ask them to keep it to themselves, you have as much control over them maintaining that trust as you do over the roulette ball landing in the colour of your bet. None. You can pretend that the potential damage that would be done to the relationship may lovingly coerce someone to not do it but that is a fragile thing. One argument, one fall out or offence caused and that factor goes from a strength to a crippling weakness. All that has changed is you've gone from having a Full House to a pair of threes. The odds have tragically turned against you. However, much like poker, the lower hand, the big risk, could win and the higher hand, the sure thing, could lose. No matter how much you trust someone, they always have the capacity to betray it, so there is always an element of risk.

The other problem with accepting that trust is a myth is that it encourages the growth of paranoia. Trust means never checking up on the person. A gamble is thought to be looking long at hard at the horse race we have a tenner on to see if it comes good. It isn't true. People can take a risk on someone or something and then be blasé about it or be supremely confident about it.

The reality is how much you are willing to chance on someone is the trust you place in them but it is never a full trust. You may say "Oh I don't need to bring it up with them" when keeping a dirty secret from the past or an uncomfortable moment. That is merely a justification to keep the trust myth going.

Now I say all this but I don't think it is a bad thing and this is why. Because this "trust" is not about your relationships with other people but how reconciled you are within yourself. When you are free to open up to someone to a greater degree, you have come to deal with or accept the good, bad and ugly moments of your life and parts of your personality. Some of the most liberating moments are found in taking the biggest gambles. Those who take the chance of a skydive or bungee jump will tell you it was one of the best things they ever did.

We think trust is the cement of our relationships. It isn't. Trust is the declaration that something in our lives is starting to heal or progress. The cement of relationships is understanding, reciprocation or absence of unfair judgement off the back of that gamble, depending on its nature. Someone who finds it hard to trust does not have a conflict with people, they have a conflict with themselves. So when you are prepared to take that gamble, don't fear that someone will betray your trust. Be grateful that you're finally getting past one more hurdle life has thrown at you. Then every gamble, every trust, will be worth it, win, lose or draw.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Mediocre

I once attended an audition for Britain's Got Talent. Not one of those where you stand on a stage in front of hundreds of people. The one where it is you, a producer and a camera in a room. That's it. I always said that I wanted to try out for one of these shows. I wasn't under any illusion I was good enough to win, I just wanted to do it for the hell of it. So I did. How did I do? I got a polite letter saying thank you but we're not progressing you. I put it down to being not very funny in my stand up comedy routine but then someone else struck on the more likely truth. You see, if I was really good or horrifically bad, I would have gone through. I was neither. I was worse than that. I was mediocre.

It made me realise that, generally, I am mediocre. In everything. There is nothing I am particularly good at. Sure I have turned my hand to many things and been somewhere between self aware of how rubbish I am at it, all the way up to decent at it. But never good. Never great. Just average, alright, okay. You might think it is better than being bad at everything but then people have forged great careers and lived memorable lives off the back of being rubbish. Being in the limbo of mediocre is the worst of the worse. You have nothing to offer the world and you won't be remembered. Your life will be about living for the weekend and doing a job you increasingly resent to pay the bills in between.

Being on the Z list of celebrity may be mocked but for a group supposedly on the bottom rung, they seem to do well in life. Always going to parties, featuring on random TV shows that you're addicted to and dating fellow celebrities from the C list or lower, you have to say being a incompetent freak tends to be better than what is perceived to be normal. Once you're in that realm of society, even failure pays well.

It's depressing being normal because mediocre is just so... common. Everyone can do it. That makes it the worst place to be because there is little to be proud of, little to look forward to and even less chance of changing it. Your mediocrity makes you anonymous. As much as you aspire to be something greater, unless you have some exceptional talent hidden away, you have probably peaked already.

It explains the ire of the public that Z list celebs get. Why do they deserve better than us because they are worse than us? You wouldn't go to school and think "Well, if I don't get an A, then I might as well shoot for an E. Don't want to be in the land of mediocrity that is a C." That would sound ridiculous. Yet it applies there too. Some of the most successful people in the world are academic failures, including Einstein, Edison and Richard Branson. Granted, they all had extraordinary talents and went on to capitalise on them but what they did was get noticed.

The point is that if you can be outstanding, you need to be able to stand out to get ahead in life. The world judges us by our covers, not the prose of our character or the blurb of our achievements. The last thing you want to be is mediocre. The difficulty is that it tends to be the best most of us, especially me, can be.