Monday, 27 January 2014

Friends and Values - a Reflection

Say you have a friend. Who is a vegan. And for the purpose of this illustration, you are not a vegan. And like friends sometimes do, you sometimes have heated arguments with your vegan friend. Maybe about veganism. Or how the world can/cannot sustain carnivorous human lifestyles. And in the heat of the moment, in exasperation, your vegan friend will call you the worst name he can possibly imagine to insult you: a Carnivore. And sometimes, if he is particularly pissed off at you, he may even call you a Cannibal.

And yes, you do understand that he is trying to insult you by calling you a "Carnivore". But because you do eat meat, and even love eating meat, and because you do not consider eating meat to be some act of moral depravity, you are not in fact insulted. You are in fact rather bemused by your vegan friend's attempt to insult you. And because you don't actually identify yourself with the meat you consume, you aren't even affected by the accusation of "Cannibal", which your vegan friend may consider even more insulting!

So it dawns on you that to be insulted by an insult, the insulter and the insulted actually have to share the same values. If your vegan friend were to catch his vegan friend eating a hamburger, he might well shriek at the offending vegan, "You Carnivore!" and his vegan friend might be ashamed, or even insulted.

So what does it say that we are insulted to be called "poor"?

Since when was being poor a failing, an insult, a shame?

Since when was having to take public transport a disgrace? An embarrassment?

To consider being called "poor" as an insult, we have to share the same values as the insulter - that is, we have to also believe that it is a shame to be poor, that it is an insult to be poor, that it is a sign of some personal failing to be poor, and that if someone calls us "poor", we would consider it an insult.

In our anger against Anton Casey, who we are truly angry with is ourselves. We see our arrogance reflected in him. We hear the warped values he voiced whispered within us. We feel ashamed of our disdain for poor people, for foreign workers, for our domestic helpers, for the bent-over old person collecting cans or cardboard. Because we believe as Anton Casey does, that these poor people are poor because of some personal failing on their part.

And that is wrong. And we know it is wrong.

So, the epiphany is, we are angry with him not because he is so different, but precisely because he is the same! Because he reflects the same shameful values or views we hold hidden within us, and we will DESTROY whoever has the misfortune to accidentally show our ugly selves to ourselves.

Yes. We are complicit in our anger to Anton Casey. And that is the saddest part of this whole incident.

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