Wednesday 2 August 2006

The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars

What do you do when someone really irritates you?

Perhaps they've just pulled their car out right in front if you;
Perhaps they've just shut a door in your face;
Maybe they've just insulted you to your face;
Maybe they've just looked at you funny.

What do you do? What do you say?

Is it okay to call them 'an idiot''?
Is it okay to swear? to call them 'a fucking idiot'?

Is that alright with you? You don't need to say it loud enough to be heard. You don't even need to say it under your breath if you don't want to. You can scream it silently in your head if you like. All in capital letters.


Feels better, doesn't it? It's perfectly natural.

How about we add an another adjective for emphasis? How much more satisfying would that be? Look at the state of this guy - he's a disgrace. He's a fat, ugly idiot. Does that flash across your mind? It's not so much an insult as a statement of fact.

You can say that, can't you? That's got to be okay. It's not as though anyone can hear you. It's just an instant knee-jerk response that flashes across your mind. The thought is gone before you even really noticed it was there.

Everyone does that, don't they?

Do you ever add other adjectives? Maybe you've noticed this fat idiot's colour, his religion. Maybe he's black, or sikh, or muslim. Does that ever get added on? Just in that first split-second as you react? Your first instinctive response?

Would that make you a racist? Even if the thought was supressed as soon as your conscious mind realises what it hasn't said? Even if you are horrified by the very thought?

Would that make you a bigot?

Has that ever happened to you? Honestly? Cross your heart and hope to die?

.....Liar. I don't believe you.


  1. You can call me a liar, but I don't think those strings of words ever have ever flashed across my mind.

    I have often called someone a twat (and worse) under my breath, but really that is about the sum of it. I am not aware that I ever pad it out with bigotry.

    That is not to say I am free of prejudice, but it doesn't seem to surface like that for me.

    In fact, I vividly remember that I did once, when drunk, tell someone that their jacket 'looked gay'. I had no idea why I said it, it was almost as though my mouth was possessed by someone else and I was horrified. I couldn't believe what I had said, it was so completely bizarre and out of character.

    It absolutely ate me up, and I was having anxiety dreams about it months later and had to go and apologise to the person again to calm my brain down.

  2. Sounds very similar to my rant about what I saw on the bus last week.

    The aggrieved party did nothing to warrant what was said to him, so he hit out.

    I suppose the question is: is v
    violence or calling someone racist names justified?

  3. Honestly, no.

    Thai heritage, very selective: most of my mothers' family is darker skinned than a lot of asians/indians I see, even though I'm just about as pasty skinned as they come - so having grown up in the odd position of being a completely white person raised in a multi-racial family, I genuinely don't see colour.

    In fact, I didn't even see it as multi-racial until ridiculously recently, and this here is the first ever time I've described it as such.

  4. "He's a fat, ugly idiot. Does that flash across your mind?"

    Not wishing to get off the subject (I don't think I have ever thought or used a racist insult) but I have described someone as fat simply because they annoyed me.

    That's plain wrong because I have a close friend who's overweight and while not avoiding the fact I'd never describe her as fat (or any euphemism for it) because it's extremely hurtful, short-sighted and judgemental, as is 'ugly.'

    However, in relation to someone I work with who regularly annoys the living hell out of me, the word 'fat' is usually one of the first words that springs to mind, along with 'lazy' and 'useless.'

    I don't associate 'fat' with 'lazy' or 'useless' but they fall together conveniently as insults which I can't say I'm proud of.

    If you're asking whether people think or say things in the heat of the moment that they wouldn't usually dream of then I see what you mean but the insults that occur to me aren't based on race. That's not to say that makes them any more or less excusable in my opinion.

  5. sorry. I didn't really mean to call you liars. I'm genuinely interested to know if this happens to you.

    It happens to me from time to time and it horrifies me (and I'm talking more about thinking of people as "fat" or "ugly" or whatever than I am about their colour, but that definitely happens to once in a while).

    The thought flashes across my head unbidden, like some terrible form of tourettes. I'm not even sure if it's there as a thought in any kind of tangible form or if it's a feeling I interpret and rationalise later on. It's kind of like you describe Yoko - something that just pops along unbidden as though it's come from someone else's head.

    I supress it at once, of course, and feel guilty immediately. But it happens.

    Is this a kind of "original sin" that all my liberal values and political correctness can never truly erase?

    I could lie to you and say it doesn't happen, but it does.

    What does that make me?

    I was hoping that the answer was "normal".

    And I notice that we're all focusing on race. Is it really that much more acceptable to walk around and think of people as fat and ugly, but not to think of them in terms of their colour? It's very interesting.


  6. * ah, and as I post this, I see that bytheseashore isn't just focusing on the race bit.

    This whole thing was brought to mind by two things today:

    1) having some idiot pull in front of me in the car park on the way home from work. In my head he was a "fat twat" before I'd done anything more than slam on my brakes. I felt vaguely guilty about it all the way home.

    2) The Mel Gibson story. Mel made his remarks out loud, of course.... but he was drunk, and so was therefore presumably said what he thought instead of catching it before it came out.

    Would it have been okay if he'd only drunkenly thought those things, and felt guilty about it in the morning when he'd sobered up?



  7. To reply to your Mel Gibson hypotheses - his alcoholism puts him in another category to being simply drunk (in my opinion).

    I'm not making excuses for him, I don't know him, but I have known enough alcoholics to know that you cannot rely on anything at all that issues from their mouths (good or bad) when in a state like that.

  8. I leave out religion and race, but the rest of it I am 'guilty' of, especially weight and looks (irony is, I am quite fat and blotchy skinned. Many would fiind me unattrative). But what of it? Being human? Being normal? It's not right, but is it wrong?

  9. I usually just fire off "asshole" or "fucker" with no added adjectives. Usually, the thought of any physical characteristics that might stand out is too complicated for me in those moments.

    But do I think them and make judgements about people based on what they look like? Absolutely. What does this say about me? It says I was raised in a culture and family that gave me clear messages about who was attractive, successful, desireable, trustworthy, friendly, etc. based on certain characteristics.

    Is this wrong? No...I think that everyone does it. What is wrong is acting on these factors without critical thought or additional information. It not only promotes "isms" but it is pretty limiting.

    An example...the current person I'm dating is Jewish. My family (some of them) would be properly horrified. For me, his cultural/religious background didn't so much matter, but my first impression of him when I saw him was one of disappointment. He was not immediately attractive to me - more geeky than my normal preference. But I'm so glad I didn't allow that to limit me and I pursued something with him.

  10. When it comes to insulting someone I don't know, all I know is what is dead in front of me... their physical appearance.

    Luckily my sobriety and respect for people of any shape, size, color, or religious background keeps those insults in my head and not coming out of my mouth.

  11. Regarding Gibson, I tend to agree with Yoko. As for the other, I think Spins has the right of it. I squirm when I realize what I had been thinking, even though it only lasted a split second and I never voiced it. But I think I know what you're talking about. Especially when it comes to bad drivers!

  12. I think Michael has it - all you have to go on in that split second is what you see in front of you.

    I've been thinking about this since I posted last night... and I think that's what happens to me.

    When you describe someone as "black", are you simply be using an adjective to describe what you see? If you call them "nigger" (oh, and that's a powerful word to type - I hesitated and nearly used asterisks) then are you being racist because you are doing more than simply describing?


  13. (do I call people "white" in my head? No I do not. But then I imagine that I unconsciously use my own ethnic and religious background, my own gender, my own body shape and my own sexuality as the "norm" and only "notice" when this is different to my own.)

    I don't want to go overboard on this, by the way. This is not something that I wrestle with on a daily basis. It's just something that I have noticed and wondered about. I also want to emphasise that I'm not talking just about race here, although I realise that's probably the most sensitive issue and is the one that the mind is naturally drawn to.

    I also agree with Yoko that the Mel Gibson case is different - not just because of his alcoholism though... he has been accused of anti-semitism before.


  14. > my own body shape

    Are you trying to say (in a subtle way) that in your head we are all short arses?


  15. Hmm...

    I will occasionally swear at someone in my head like "twat" or "nobhead" but that's about the extent of my insulting.

    Being Indian by birth, I can honestly say that although I have been forced to run the gauntlet of racism and racist jokes in my youth, these days people are much happier over politically correcting the White (is that a form of discrimination?) Middle Class of this country.

    As to insulting "fat" people... I live with ElshaUK, who is overweight, so I am regularly having to endure "fat bird" comments from my co-workers before pointing out their major flaws to guffaws of laughter...

  16. My race-blindness is something I've had to explain quite a few times recently, so that was the first thing in my head when I replied, but thinking about it, I very rarely get past "fucking" when it comes to adjectives.

    Considering the filthy, unhealthy, unnatural addiction to starvation our culture has to endure, I don't see "Fat" as an insult.

    I do, however, catch myself walking down the street and yelling "Eat something!" in my head at all the skeletal types...

  17. I honestly don't think race or religion has crossed my mind in a moment of anger. Partly because most of the phrases commonly used just don't cut it in the anger release stakes like "twat" and a whole host of other words.

    However, I'm not absolving myself from guilt here. I have occasionally muttered words like "spacker" or "retard" which, while not racist, are pretty abhorrent when you think about it.

  18. I thought you were building up to a "Let's forgive Ron Attkinson because we all do it really" moment there.

    I'm almost disappointed you weren't - I was bracing myself for an argument!

  19. I'm assuming there was some allusion to Mel Gibson here...

  20. I swear, in my head, I suffer from Tourettes. I constantly have to edit what comes out of my mouth for fear of being punched.

    It's never focussed on people's appearances - although I'm rarely forgiving about bad dressing - but more on what I believe to be their stupid and inconsiderate behaviour.

  21. Lithaborn - being a fat girl who enjoys food, I too often have the reaction of wanting to tell someone to eat something...but usually, I want to take them home and feed them.

    I've been thinking about this a lot since yesterday. Being fat, I've been called fat any number of times, and the part that hurts about it the most is that (so far as I can tell) it has not been in response to a situation where I've pissed someone off. I think if I cut someone off and they called me a fat bitch, I'd be okay with it. But when I walk down the street and I get called fatass or some variation of that, it's pretty awful.

  22. I would say that it's almost impossible to stop unwanted thoughts from entering our heads. It's easier (but still tricky in the spur of the moment) to control what we do with these thoughts. As long as we do control what we do with these thoughts, I don't think we should feel guilty about them.

    I think of it in the same way as I think of dreams: I've had some dreams where I've done horrendous things, but I shouldn't feel bad about that, should I?

  23. Has that ever happened to you? Honestly? Cross your heart and hope to die?

    I'm afraid it has.
    Swiftly dealt with within the old grey matter before it's been vocalised, but yes.

    I'm sorry.

  24. I've been thinking about this occasionally over the past couple of days. Doing a lot of driving, so lots of opportunities to muse. Yesterday in particular was a bad day to be on the road. It's as if every psychotically bad driver was released to the roads at once. I started out thinking bad things. Then muttering them. In the end I was reduced to saying "Get out of my way you fucking fuckhead!" really loudly through gritted teeth. I was resigned at that point and too tired to come up with something better.

    Then today I saw a couple of black boys walking down the road dressed a certain way and my first thought was "druggies." I immediately felt bad and wondered where it came from, until I realized that I think the exact same thing when I see white (or any other color for that matter) kids walking down the road that way. So I guess my thought wasn't racially motivated so much as stereotyping. Still not good, though.