I hate that mirror
It makes me feel so worthless
Electronic – Getting Away With It
Over the past couple of years it has become apparent that some people on Twitter are not always what they seem to be. We seem to be regularly let down by people who we looked up to and admired for their opinions or positions on certain matters. I know this isn’t a new phenomenon; at times I think we are almost genetically programmed to disappoint people.
However it is hurtful at times to see people turned upon just because they say something that is unpopular, that exposes someone for all of their frailties or makes accusations about the unwanted behaviour of people we admire.
I’ve tweeted at length over the past couple of days about sexual assault and how the criminal justice system can be seen as letting down victims. Those that know me have seen me take a stand on things like this before – I first blogged about this two years ago here and have appeared in the TES talking about similar subjects. This weekend another blog was brought to my attention where, yet again, the recipient of the unwanted attention was unable to do anything because there was a lack of evidence against the perpetrator. That the alleged perpetrator is a prominent Twitter voice on a number of educational matters makes it even more difficult for people to speak out against them.
But why am I, a nobody teacher in a rural first school, so interested in cases like this? What drives me to do what I do, supporting people and helping them to find a solution?
It is because, a lifetime ago, I was weak.
In the early 1990s I had just joined the Royal Air Force. I had been posted to one of those places that nobody knows exists except those that were there. It was a hard working, hard partying, hard drinking place where men were men and women were often just the entertainment.
One night there was a party, nothing unusual in that, lots of drinking and merrment. A young female had just been posted to the unit (I think she was about 19 at the time) and she had joined the party as a way of getting to know people. All fine and dandy so far.
Later in the evening one of the males present decided that the best thing to do would be to sneak up behind the new girl, unzip her dress so it fell to the floor and grope her – in full sight of everyone else there.
Now obviously the male was a good guy, in a position of responsibility on the unit and it was ‘uncharacteristic’ of him to do something like this. He was happily married, with a family of his own (a daughter not much more than 18 if I recall correctly).
So nothing was done about it. It was swept under the carpet and not mentioned. The girl tried to carry on as if nothing had happened, having to work within the man’s chain of command, seeing him at work every day pretend nothing had happened.
This took a toll on the girl and, a month or so later, she attempted to take her own life. Luckily she was found, taken to medical facilities and made a full physical recovery. Her story didn’t end there though. In those days, if you displayed any sign of mental weakness, you were carted off (almost literally) to the RAF psychiatric hospital at Wroughton, near Swindon. Here fully trained psychologists would decide whether you were fit to remain in the service or ready to just be kicked out. Mental health issues were still forbidden at the tale end of the cold war. They were a weakness the enemy could exploit to force you to spy on them (although they knew far more about our capabilities than the average airperson/sailor/soldier could have told them).
So while the young lady undertook the course commonly known as the ‘basket weaving course’ (I told you we were all over MH issues!) the man just got on with his job.
The main issue is that, almost to a person, nobody stood up for the lady. Nobody ‘saw’ what had happened, nobody made a complaint about the man’s behavior. It was just ‘high spirits’ and, although this was never openly said, what a young lady should expect for volunteering to serve in what was a male dominated environment.
19 year old me was weak. He didn’t stand up to be counted. He wasn’t the best he could be because he didn’t want to stand out. Maybe 19 year old me could have stopped a young girl from trying to take her own life. Maybe 19 year old me could have offered to give evidence in a courts martial.
But 19 year old me was scared, frightened by the crowd, frightened by the backlash that swimming against the tide would cause.
48 year old me is far more introspective though. He cares less about what others think and stands up for people when others wont. It’s not about ideology, colour of skin, religion or anything else.
It’s about being a decent human being and doing what is right.