October 3, 2012 4 Comments
‘Send us your views.’ ‘Tell us what you think.’ ‘Your comments,’ ‘Text us, tweet us’ are all part of the modern world we live in. This blog post has a comments section underneath and some of you may be kind (or unkind) enough to give me your thoughts. So it’s somewhat ironic that I’m writing about comments, at least on major news sites and on phone ins.
Everyone has views on subjects in the news but some people’s views send me into rage and fury such that I now try to avoid reading newspaper comments at all. As an example, before comments were removed for legal reasons, some parents were quick to criticise the mother of an abducted five year old child. Why was a five year old out so late on her own? And here’s an infuriating (to me) comment from an article in the Huffington Post on ATOS who stopped the disability benefits of a war veteran who lost his leg in Afghanistan – ‘Time we stopped ALL benefits which of course would end all this contraversy (sic) about Atos. We can’t afford to pay benefits anymore anyway – just look at the size of the deficit and public debt. We have plenty of charities who can help disabled people.’
Why do these opinions bother me so much? After all, they’re just one of hundreds of comments. Why do they shout out at me on a page and make me despair for the human race?
It’s not that I disagree with an alternative view. I disagree with many friends on many subjects yet we’re still friends. It’s not that people can express an opinion without possession of facts or evidence with which to back up an opinion. I can cope with that. I don’t always have a folder of facts when I give my own opinions. Very few people do. It’s not even the abysmal spelling.
What kills me in each and every case is the total lack of empathy for their fellow human beings and the absolute certainty with which these views are expressed. A mother has had her child taken yet somehow it’s her fault. No thought that the mother may just have lost track of the time for a few minutes or perhaps a bit of fresh air at the end of the day was the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep. Whatever the circumstances and I don’t know, it’s no reason why someone should take a child. No thought for the mother’s anguish. No sympathy expressed for a young man serving his country and who paid a high price. No thought that disabled people might not be able to live on small charitable donations and food parcels. No thought that in different circumstances the writer of that comment may be in an accident or have a stroke and be unable to work, thus forcing him in poverty. Just no thought, no doubt, press send.
It’s not just anonymous people in comments sections who behave like this. Edwina Currie and Katie Hopkins are two people who always seem to cast the first stone on any subject. On benefits, you’re a scrounger. Out of work,you’re just not trying hard enough. Poor, don’t have a mobile phone. Each opinion followed by a long story of how they made it in their own ‘successful’ careers.
Why am I different from them? Why, as I get older, do I appreciate more fully that life can be cruel as well as wonderful, that people and their loved ones can get sick, have accidents, make mistakes or simply take a wrong turn? That things are usually more complicated than they seem at first. Why do I put myself in other people’s shoes and think myself lucky? And what makes people like them? What things in their life shaped their thinking? How did they become as they are?
Yet as much as I dislike these people, I envy them. Why? I envy their ability to look at an issue and make up their mind there and then, to blame someone or something else then just move on. Never to have to rethink an opinion in the light of new evidence. To look at someone with a different opinion and just think ‘tosser’. To begrudge paying their taxes for things they don’t personally use without thinking about other people or the future, to just see everything in black and white.
Life would just be so much bloody easier wouldn’t it?