Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Ask and Ye Shall Receive...

I wrote a rant the other day. Perhaps you read it? It appeared on the Mundane Meanings Collective blog, as well as my own blog and my facebook page. It's sort of what I do. I write things, and put them out there for people to read. I've done it many, many times before, writing rants, short stories, scripts, reviews, random musings, vague ideas and one time, a poem. It rhymed and everything! People have read them and, in many cases, given me comments and criticism, both positive and negative. Once or twice, someone has disagreed with something I've said. There was a short debate, or a brief altercation, but nothing more than that.

This latest rant though, wow. Did not see that coming! Reactions were extreme. Most of them were contained to my facebook page, and most of them are no longer there (I'll go into why in a moment). The rant itself wasn't anything particularly different or special when read next to other, similar rants I've written. I talked about something which annoys me, in this case random strangers poking their noses into your business when they've never met you before. As I often do, I used specific examples from my own life to illustrate why this annoys me. In this case, I happened to mention that on one day, when some random wanker told me to "cheer up", my thoughts turned to the events which had recently occurred within my life, and which had been on my mind at that moment. In the original version of the rant, I briefly discuss what those events were, in one sentence, simply as a way of putting into context what I was thinking and feeling.

It was this one sentence which got people talking.

The sentence contained some pretty personal information, stuff that some people, and I do understand this, aren't comfortable talking about. However, that said, I'm generally a very honest and open guy. I don't really have any secrets, and any I do have aren't secret because I want them to be, but because others have confided in me and requested that they stay private. As such, I will sometimes go into things about myself which some people may think are a bit personal or uncomfortable if I feel they're relevant. On this occasion, the sentence in question did also refer to other people. Now, I freely admit it, those people almost certainly don't want me talking about them in this manner on a public forum. However, these two people were never going to read it, the only people who were going to read it that they would've had any contact with already knew, and I made sure that I didn't use their names. Okay, it was obvious who they were, but only if you were one of the aforementioned few who knew about the whole thing to begin with.

Also, and lets be clear here, these are people who have screwed me over. I'm not saying that's why I put it in there, and I'm not saying that's something I'm dwelling on particularly. It's just another reason why I had no problem saying what I said. There was absolutely no malice in it, no desire to create offence. I was simply illustrating a point.

The reactions to the rant started slowly. The first few were simply people agreeing with me, giving their own examples of strangers poking their noses in, and pointing out how they dealt with the situation. Then, things snowballed pretty quickly. While I was getting notes from people saying they admired the honesty and openness with which I'd written, there were a couple of others who thought that I shouldn't have been.

Suddenly, the point of the rant became lost, as people were focussing on THAT sentence, telling me I was either brave for using it, or a little foolish. And then came the most extreme reaction. One individual went off on a rant of their own, in which they called me a hypocrite, accused me of overreacting, listing each and every event I had mentioned and telling me why it wasn't a big deal in the slightest, or how I brought it on myself in the first place. They then went on to tell me they'd never been more ashamed of a human being in their life (Bin Laden may have committed countless acts of terrorism and be responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, but me being honest? Shameful) and that everyone would lose respect for me because I couldn't let it go.

Did they speak to me beforehand? Ask me for more detail? Nope. Not at all. They just attacked me without getting their facts straight. It angered me, and I responded in anger to it, writing another rant of my own, one which, I will admit, I maybe shouldn't have written without having some time to cool off first. It's a moot point now. And so was my initial rant. The focus was lost. Now all people cared about the one sentence, and the comments which had come about as a result.

I left it alone for a while, just reading other peoples comments and seeing the reactions. I found it interesting that I could write this whole piece, and have most of it be forgotten on account of one sentence towards the beginning of it. I wasn't going to change it though. Yes, some people had reacted negatively to it, but that's no reason to censor something. The point of a rant like this is to provoke a reaction, and I'd certainly done that! Why sanitise it, just because you don't like the reaction you're getting? As far as I'm concerned, that's nothing but cowardice. If the time came that I ever regretted what I'd written, then fine. I would have no one to blame but myself.

Despite all that, I have now cut the offending sentence, and any comments which make reference to it (which includes pretty much all of the more extreme ones). I want to stress, here and now, I didn't do so because of the reactions to it, and I didn't do so to save anybodies feelings. I did it for one reason, and one reason only. A friend asked me to. They didn't attack, they didn't judge, they didn't demand. They simply said to me, and I’m paraphrasing here because they used a lot more words, "it makes me uncomfortable, could you take it down please." Someone I care about asked me nicely. Lately I've been finding out who my true friends are, and in a way, it's almost funny that the only thing that can make me censor myself is something so simple as one of these people, who I care about dearly, asking me to do so.

But don't think for a second that I'm going to change. Expect me to be honest and open in my writing, sometimes brutally or uncomfortably so, and I won’t be censoring myself to make others feel better. Ya know, unless you ask nicely.

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