Title: A question on how we see others Credit: Diane Sparkes Features Monday 12th November 2012 - 11:19am1352672340 Article: 12533 Rights
The gay red top saga has writer, retired teacher, trans activist and trans youth advocate Diane Sparkes wondering whether we are becoming too sensitive? As a society are we becoming too sensitive, politically correct in everyday life? Whilst we object to language that is offensive, do we ever stop to think about the context or situation in which certain language or comments are used? Society has created language (used certain words) over the years specifically intended to be derogatory, certain factions of society use these words in order to attack another person’s identity or behaviour. But what if that was not the intention of the use of those words? Frustration; or lack of a suitable word to more accurately describe another’s identity or behaviour might not seem available in our vocabulary, or maybe there is a word, but it might be a medical or legal term that does not fit into general language use. In this case a simpler common word is used that fits more easily into everyday language, and eventually becomes the norm. A recent example reported was that made by John Key in his reference to a red shirt being gay. Those words just roll off the tongue easily becoming part of the manner in which the conversation is going. After listening and looking at the contentious video many times, discussing with others, I doubt it was meant to be offensive, but that view is open to opinion, the truth is; only John Key knows. If however instead of referring to the shirt being gay the word homosexual was used, the context of the conversation would take on a different meaning, more likely to be seen as offensive, but whoever heard of a homosexual shirt! Yet the meaning in this context is the same, gay being the more common term for homosexual. In an effort to communicate and to be seen as communicating there is one thing very important to consider, that is the manner in which the communication takes place. Considering the way the dialogue evolves therefore is just as important as the dialogue itself. Words used in a friendly non threatening and jovial manner of communication will have a totally different reaction and meaning to the use of those same words in a reactionary and confrontational manner. Fortunately human beings have the ability to decide for themselves the meaning of the manner in which any communication takes place, and if they choose, make the appropriate connotations to the words used. So words are used that have one meaning in one way but a different meaning in another, confused! Is it any wonder that the general public gets confused, when more confusion is added in the way certain sections of society refer to themselves. Society is expected to accept comments made by people who refer to themselves as for example, gay, but those same people become offended when others refer to them as gay, is this a double standard or what! Such words are like viruses, they quickly infect our language, but because their specific meaning may be interpreted in a variety of ways, one person will understand the meaning that will be different to another, and looseness of the use of the word develops. In an enlightened society, should we not look closely at ourselves and really see what messages we give, all messages of intention should be given in a manner where there is no need for explanation, but is that always possible. Not every message made in conversation is cool and collected, especially when humour is involved and sometimes what is said is not what was intended, being caught up in the moment is very much a human condition. It is all too easy to come to the wrong conclusions, another human condition. If, in the case of John Key, his message was to infer that someone wearing a red shirt was a homosexual, did that message come across? No! Did he try to make the point, that this was not his intention? Yes! Was he human in the way he went ahead with his explanation? Yes! Something that we all do when we realise we have placed ourselves in a sticky situation, is inevitably make it worse, this is no reflection on our self, but a factor of being human, and humans make mistakes. Is anyone that much better than another they have the right to judge, but that sadly happens? It is unfortunate that when one in public position behaves in a questionable manner, their words somehow take on a greater meaning, whether those words are intentional or not. Everyone is aware there are no excuses; society is full of marginalised people who will respond in their own defence, that offence can be a consequence, that there can be no justification no matter what! But does having a public position somehow bestow human excellence on these people? No! They are just like the rest of us! The past is littered with situations where those that thought they were right, who with a lynch mob mentality sought to judge and execute their views, regardless of true guilt. Much of the language used today might be questionable, but are we always positive we are right, or are we human enough to admit, that what we see or hear is not necessarily intentional. More than that; have we the right to take apart someone else’s life in order to be correct! There is a saying that goes something like this: - “Do you want peace or do you want to be right”! There are so many arguments about what is or is not offensive, and mostly the truth depends on the point of view, because we are human they will never be the same, until we see all things as one. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but when those opinions are offered as fact or desire or as a response to a perceived wrong, there is much need to question. Only when we are all perfect will any of this change, in the meantime we must continue without judgement and do the very best we can. Diane Sparkes - 12th November 2012    
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