We often underestimate the consequences of what we say and for those in the public gaze the extent to which an ill-considered comment or use of words can backfire badly. Mr Farage has just compared the EU to the Mafia, Ken Livingstone said that Hitler ‘was supporting Zionism before he went mad’ and Germaine Greer said that she did not consider post-operative transgender men as being women.
To be generous to Farage, he was just being Nigel Farage and we should expect little more from him in terms of tact and diplomacy; the Italians were justifiably offended. Ken was just plain wrong. Hitler never supported Zionism; he viewed the Jewish desire to establish an independent state in Palestine as being a ruse to fool ‘gentiles’ and to distract them from what was in his deranged mind a wider Jewish conspiracy. Agreed, some Nazis viewed Haavara and the re-settlement of European Jews in Palestine to be a possible solution to the ‘Jewish question’ but this was for the same reason that ultimately led to the Final Solution and the Holocaust. It troubles me that in the two years leading up to his hearing with Labour’s National Constitutional Committee he did not take the time to revise his history, realise his mistake and publicly apologise. Poor Germaine Greer was the victim of getting too caught up in the medical detail of the number of X and Y chromosomes while ignoring the individual personal ‘truth’ of transsexual people; namely that by biological accident they were born in the wrong body or that their gender was in any event biologically indeterminate. It is unfortunate that in her attempts to correct her position she seems to have made matters worse.
So it is really important that we consider the implications of what we about to say before we say it. I have been in many situations where I have felt that a potential ‘car-crash’ was coming because of what was being said by an employer to an employee; derogatory statements that were indefensible in fact or, often worse, unspeakably crass and ill-advised personal opinions. The habit some people have of talking over others can be particularly offensive.
Matters get worse in the written communication used in emails, texts and on social media. The sheer number of spelling mistakes, typographical errors, grammar mistakes and malapropisms often make the underlying message totally incomprehensible. It would seem that the writer was in such haste to hit the send or submit button and thereby give vent to his or her feelings that no time was taken to check that what had been written. No consideration seems have been given to whether it would make sense to the reader, let alone what impact or consequences it would have. We should all learn to think a little more before committing ourselves. We should learn to love the ‘pregnant pause’ for thought and to take a little time to think about what we're about to say and review our written communication before setting it loose. If not for any other reason, this would give a clear signal that we are listening, have respect for and that we are considering what others are saying before we respond.
Listening to the bass lines in reggae music could be a good study; it’s the ‘gaps’ in these that give the music the space to breath and gives it its joyous feel.