Thursday, September 20, 2012

Throwing Stones

I try to live a simple life.  And by simple I mean that I try to keep to myself, stay within reasonable boundaries of people, and I truly try to live most of my life without casting unfair dispersion against people who honestly don't deserve them, because when all is said and done, I've been the recipient of far more than enough of various dispersions myself.  So much so, that over time, as my depression and anxiety took root, it has rooted in a space of my mind where the little voice says "you're not good enough".  In truth, I'm just as "good at anything and everything" as the rest of the world is, and there have to be one or two things that I'm better at than other people.  But the voice in my head is loud.  It's been nurtured and fed by the thousands of other outside voices who screamed it at me, whispered it behind my back, and who stabbed me with them whenever the opportunity struck.  Most of those people didn't even realize that this was the result of those thoughts, looks, snide remarks.

And that's not to say that I'm the victim of bullying, or what we now view as "bullying" behaviour.  Then again, I know now that really all of it is bullying.  But when I was growing up, it was more about taking your licks and learning to get past or overcome them.  When I was real young, I was bigger than the other kids.  I grew fast.  I wasn't fat, but stocky.  I wasn't inactive.  I was always busy and playing.  But I'd be picked on. Luckily for me, it would only be once or twice, and then I'd fight back.  My baby brother was picked on too.  He had big front teeth and a significant overbite.  I'd say comparatively, he took more than I did, but I do recall stepping in a couple times on his behalf too.  I recall that I took down a couple Grade 4 students for this kind of thing when he was in kindergarten...I was in Grade 2.

As I moved into highschool, I found myself with friends in all the different cliques.  I got busy with the theatre group, and ate lunch with a different group of people every day.  This meant that I was no real outcast, but I never wholly belonged to one group.  And that meant I would more often than not be forgotten for different parties, left out of different social things.  It meant that I had to find and make my own drum beat, because well, no one else's fit entirely.  And that also meant that I never felt good enough to fit in with any one group. Any grown up would have looked at this and thought, good for her, she's doing her own thing.  But that's not really what you want when you're a teenager.  In fact, it's never something you really want when you're a grown up either.  It's isolating.  It leads to a whole lot of navel gazing.

What it inevitably returns though is this acute awareness of what other people do, why and how.  When you live on the fringe of nearly every socially acceptable pocket of people, you become a very keen observer.  You not only make an art out of living vicariously through others, but you also learn how to benefit from other people's mistakes.  And so, when it comes to casting judgments on others, I try very hard to think first how I would have done things differently.  In some cases, that means I can be extremely harsh on other people.  And in many other cases, it means I can be way softer than people often expect.

That's never to say I'm perfect.  Far from it.  But I can be very critical of people, because I'm as hard on them, as I am on myself.  So recently I've been reading a blog that I really do like.  She calls it like she sees it, and very often we agree.  But she brought my focus recently to two separate issues and between her reviews of the situations and the resulting comments, I've had a lot to digest.  Here are my thoughts:

Honey Boo Boo - has her own tv show which is a spin off of the TLC show Toddlers & Tiaras.  Now often I've thought how easily I could have gotten my own daughter into modelling as a baby, and then shows like Toddlers & Tiaras, and now Honey Boo Boo, have ultimately reminded me why my husband and I said "no way, never, over our dead bodies".

And the photos of Peaches Geldof who has been captured on film stumbling the baby carriage on a sidewalk and criticized for not dropping her phone to collect her child, never mind the criticisms that ensue spiralling from this story to her fashion choices (like that has anything to do with the price of tea ANYWHERE).  The argument being made is largely that she cares more for the expensive phone, and by implication designer cut off jean shorts and great shoes) than for her child.  Peaches is the daughter of Bob Geldof (musician and political activist) and Paula Yates who died tragically of a drug overdose when Peaches was a young child.  In all honesty, I didn't know this person existed until the article on PIWTPITT.  And I can tell you I've thought of her father only when he's been referenced for being a pain in the ass whack job.

BUT, the things I'm most unimpressed with isn't the people in the show, how they are raising their children or whether or not they slap a pile of make up on their kid.  It's that TLC is making money from pitching people as lunatic fringe folk for gawking and general revelry at someone else's (a child's no less) expense.  And that news giants like the Huffington Post actually report about a nobody's clumsy gaffe, again for the purposes of profit and admonishment by the general public, all under the pretense that it's what we want.  I think it's reprehensible and I'm taking ill to the idea that we as a consuming public actually do want to see this shite.

In both those situations, I think to myself, if it meant feeding my family, or making sure my child had an option to go to college, I'd do everything short of damaging her odds.  If that meant whoring myself out somewhere, or eating shit off a street corner, I'd bloody well do it.  AND, I make a note of my own clumsiness, and my daily gaffes and I realize I can not criticize someone for not thinking to drop the phone, or laughing at my child when she says something rather adult.  Every mealtime is a new adventure for me, because it's a never ending battle to get through one without spilling food on my shirt. I've knocked over a full cups of iced tea on my new born and felt absolutely dreadful about it for 2 years.  I've definitely dropped the phone to address my child in a moment of crises or stumbling accident, but it's never been without doing what comes naturally and saying abruptly "Call you back" and hitting the end button.  I'm a human being.  Over the years, I've been conditioned to elicit certain responses, just like every single person out there.  So much of our lives are instinctual, habitual.  No one, and I mean no one, has the right to assume superiority over anyone else based on what happens in a split second of time.

So, do I agree with what Honey Boo Boo's parents are doing by contracting with TLC: categorically no I do not.  I think that does way too much harm to their child's future than it prevents.  BUT, I'm not the person to judge that.  They are.  And, for what it's worth, maybe it is their best shot at giving their child a hopeful future.  I think it's a shot at outrageous therapist bills to wade through and identify the precise moment when a child lost the respect of her country and the world at large and pinpoint why she never feels good enough at anything or worthy of anyone's unconditional love.  But that's me.  What I CAN judge is TLC for feeding the world crap, and disrespecting it own heritage as a network that promotes learning for the sake of profits.  It should simply change it's name.  It won't change my judgement of them, but it will better reflect their goals with shows like these.

Looking at this last picture of Peaches and how she is holding her child to coddle it and solace it, the comments I've read are all about the phone that's attached to her damn ear.  What I see is a woman who is probably going to beat herself up for the rest of her life feeling like a failure for that split second reaction, for letting it all happen in the first place, and God forbid, for all the nastiness other people have slung at her ever since.

To conclude, people in glass houses should never cast a stone in any direction.  We all make mistakes and gaffes and have things that embarrass us daily.  TLC and the Huffington Post and all those commentors who have holier than thou dispersions and judgements to throw off have a day of reckoning coming to them.  It's debate-able if I will then be able to find anything with which to empathize when that inevitably happens.

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