Bunslove used to work in radio. (His name is because of his sweet tooth – you can, he says, buy him for buns and tea.) Our tastes may differ but there is also an area where we cross over, a good cross over ie to things we can enthuse about and share, and a bad cross over where we share our deep dislike of (usually) sound or style. And Bunslove make phrases. “Oh” he exclaimed the other day (he’s gay) “ save me from men who haven’t the balls or the vocabulary to make themselves clear !” And when I had finished laughing, I thought we could probably extend the phrase to most of us.
You may call Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and so on, social media and I know it has positive applications. But social media reminds me of something much darker. My past covers a lot of public speaking and there was nearly always somebody who wasn’t content to disagree or dislike but actively dispelled cold hate. You could often locate them and nearly always feel the chill in the general atmosphere. You learned to stand up and be counted and exchange comments, fortunately never for too long because there were lots of other people wanting to put in their two cents’ worth. And leave quickly. I have had enough anonymous mail and phone calls (up to and including death threat) not to want any closer association with trolls. I never did like the sound of trolls even when they were under bridges in Scandinavian stories.
As soon as you say what you mean, you are in very finely balanced territory. And the screen is oddly inflexible. The seduction is to write as you speak but the screen cannot reproduce the cadences of your voice and the music of your speech and, without them, what is written may sound quite different.
Most of us like to think we can communicate clearly but the tag is that we don’t want to be called to account for what we have omitted or for the negative we have communicated by mistake. This is not about never making a mistake: that is not a human option. It is about accepting that most of us find communication only acceptable when it tells us what we want to hear. Communication is all very well but we don’t want it to reflect badly on the communicator, especially if that’s us. So I “like” being called wise but I find being called “nosy” less flattering. But the cap fits and I deeply believe that if you dish it out, you must be able to take it.
I have several good gay friends, shining delight to my life. Yet once when I said this on air, my first off air call was a sneer “Fag hag !” They are not in a separate category, these people, they’re friends: gay is something about them, not something about my choosing them. And in spite of the increasing sectionalisation of the way we live, I still prefer to look for what binds us together as humans, rather than what separates us. So, at the risk of feminist disapproval, I can call to mind women who (colloquially) don’t have the balls or the vocabulary either.
Because it takes courage to even try and communicate. Because as Abraham Lincoln said, ”You can’t please all of the people all of the time” and I would add “only a darned fool would try.” But while you may get a blast of adrenalin for delivering the bad news, you don’t want to be seen as a bad person. And the balancing act between what you say and how it makes you sound takes us back to the Bunslove exclamation.
If you are still interested in life, your life, after various shades of politicians , national, international and global, have compromised it – then you still want to learn. Wanting to learn is every bit as brave and dangerous as space travel and a good deal cheaper. Like Buns, I remain fascinated by people who are all sorts of intelligent but cannot use that intelligence on themselves.