Friday, October 31, 2014

It isn't courage without risk


Just a simple thought for you all, because I'm only partially invested in this recent issue.  I've never watched or listened to Jian Ghomeshi – always found him kind of goofy in that same hipster/poser/"CBC-approved-edginess" light that I consider George Stroumboulopoulos. A toe-dip in the ethnic perspective, if you will. (They just seem to me to be these curious quasi-men – growing up and down at the same time, running in opposite directions.  Grow old gracefully, already: don’t try to be both young/hip and experienced/seasoned at the same time!) 

Anyways, as old stories go, this is a pretty old story – ‘David vs. Goliath’ old.  Everyone has whispers, everyone gossips and everyone seems to know something that they can't prove.  I get that.  But, if you were driving down a dark road and your car fell into a ditch, wouldn't you make sure that a sign was put up to warn future drivers?  In our world there are lots of ways to put up signs.  Lots of unofficial and official ways.  Mark Felt had a pretty imposing adversary, but he found a way.  Ms. Martin makes the valid and indisputable point that only those who really demonstrably suffered at the hand of a bad person can report them - scuttlebutt and hearsay simply fuel the victim-blaming narrative that woman will face.  But for all the estimations and analysis of whether reporting him in some way was worth the personal and professional risk to themselves, at no point do any of these revelations seem to touch upon thoughts of the next woman.  I can empathize with anyone put in a compromised position, I've been made to feel small and powerless - that's what bullies do. But each of these woman (less so obviously that the brass at the CBC who no doubt turned a blind ear to the whispers) to my mind falls just short of enabling Ghomeshi.  The message that he seemed to have received from them was that it was bad what he did, but not quite so bad that he should stop.  What you did was bad, but if you're into that, you just have to find the right dance partner.  Okay, but what about behaving badly towards people that aren't into that?

All of these woman understandably addressed the issue from the immediacy of the problem – the magnitude of the ditch, making sure that they never fell into the ditch again and trying to forget about the ditch. Whispers among confidants about the ditch, telling who they could to steer clear.  But whispers about the ditch are different than planting a sign in the ground.  Of the women who actually fell into the ditch, none of them appear to have done anything to spare the next person that would fall into the ditch.

Gravity can be defied.  Easy to say, difficult to do.  A man can walk on the moon.  Easy to say difficult to do.

There are bullies in this world.  You have to stand up to them.  Easy to say, difficult to do. But it will never stop being true: it’s no less true on a playground, in the mud of Western Europe in 1944, or in a bedroom.  It helps to stand up to them in the best and safest way possible.  But you have to make a stand and this case, like so many others, reminds us again why.  Bullies don't magically learn the error of their ways.  They become emboldened.  They become even more brazen in their bullying with time.  If acting like a thug works, why should they act another way?  Ms. Seth almost seems surprised that Ghomeshi's behaviour escalated from their brief time together.  In what other direction could it have gone?

We can hem and haw and talk about consequences and hearsay and proof and making our lives easier or losing friends, but, there it is.  Each of these women were hurt by this man. And each of them have an unspoken question to ask of the victim before them and an explanation owed to the victim after them.  What did you do to make it harder for this to happen to me?  What did I do to make it harder for it to happen to someone else?  If the answer to both questions remained nothing at all, Ghomeshi would still be a respected broadcaster.  If it was easy, then it wouldn't be worthwhile.  

Always remember grandtots: if you're afraid, if your heart is beating, that probably means you have a chance to do something worth doing.  You only get to call it courage when there is was risk.  


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