Hello lovely people, and a big welcome to those of you who have visited blogblunders in the last few days – it’s great to have you here! If you are the person who came across my posts after googling ‘Cherry Healey nude’ (Read, Listen, Watch) then, my apologies, there are no naked pictures here! 😉
So…it’s taken a few posts, but finally I’m taking you back to the world of musical theatre today. Years ago I performed in the European Premiere of “The Will Rogers Follies”. At this stage I need to make it clear that the fact that it was the European Premiere is not actually that exciting. Fundamentally, the reasons the show had never been produced in Europe were a) the Broadway production had not long closed when we performed it and b) it is totally insane. It tells the life story of Will Rogers – “American cowboy, comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer, actor and one of the best known celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s” (Wikipedia link) through big production numbers akin to those featured in the Ziegfeld Follies, a revue show which he often headlined.
One of Rogers’ famous quotes was “I never met a man I didn’t like”, which is the title of the theme song of the show (if you want to listen, there is a horrific version by Barry Manilow here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOqLuwoxfrU&feature=fvst I couldn’t find a way to link to the original cast recording!). By way of introducing himself, Will sings a version of this at the opening with the show, and interrupts his singing with this dialogue;
“Howdy. I guess I met a whole lot of people in my lifetime, and I always try to approach them the same way my Indian ancestors would. You see, an Indian always looks back after he passes something so he can get a view of it from both sides.
A white man don’t do that. He just figures all sides of a thing are automatically the same. That’s why you must never judge a man when you’re facing him. You got to go around behind him like an Indian and look at what he’s looking at. Then go back and face him and you’ll have a totally different idea of who he is.
You’d be surprised how much easier it is to get along with everybody.”
I’m really struck by these words, as I’m aware how easy it is to judge others according to our own values, beliefs and opinions, without due regard to the fact that they might think differently from us.
I wrote a few weeks ago about a girl called Zoe who told me that she was pregnant and was planning to have an abortion. She was 16, not in a long term relationship, and just about to start a course at college. At the time we spoke, I was heavily pregnant with my first son. As she told me about her plans, I felt him squirming and kicking inside me, and urgently felt that I needed to fight for the life of Zoe’s unborn baby. So I asked her to consider keeping the baby. I told her that even though it was scary, it would be OK. I told her that there would be lots of support available to her. I told her that even if her Dad was angry and disappointed to start with, he’d calm down eventually, because he loved her. It was very easy for me – a 24 year old, with a husband, job, mortgage, supportive family and crucially, a planned pregnancy – to say these things. And whilst they might have been true, on reflection I know that I was trying to assess Zoe’s situation according to my circumstances…not hers.
In this instance I know I should have been more aware of the need to look at things like Will Rogers did. I might then have had a better chance of helping and supporting Zoe in her decision.
On the other hand, this week I’ve been challenged by people who have opinions SO different from my own, that try as hard as I may, I can’t see things from their point of view.
On Wednesday morning I saw a facebook group, called sTopman started by Tender, an organisation my friend works for (www.tender.org.uk) who work with young people to stop domestic violence across the UK. sTopman was set up to protest the sale of this t-shirt (Guardian Article) – specifically the red one which lists commonly used excuses for domestic violence).
Within hours, Topman had removed the shirts from their website and stores and issued an apology, stating that they were “meant to be light hearted and carried no serious meaning”. What I can’t understand is, given how many people must have been involved in the process of getting this tshirt from design to store, why no one objected to it before it even had chance to hit the racks?
Do we really live in a society where some people still don’t take domestic violence seriously?! Well, according to the comments on the Topman facebook page after the statement was issued…yes, we do. Alongside those thanking Topman for recalling this item, there were over a hundred comments from people who genuinely thought there was nothing wrong with it. A ‘choice’ few (edited for language!)…
“Seriously? Some people can’t take a joke can they?”
“is idiotic. It’s a t-shirt…if you don’t like what it says then don’t buy it”
“Get a grip…end of the day its a T shirt! You don’t have to read it nor buy it so stop moaning.”
“Anyone who thinks that the red tshirt refers to domestic violence is an idiot.”
No matter what angle I came at it from, I couldn’t see how anyone could justify the sale of these t-shirts. Even if the domestic violence interpretation was not what Topman had intended, did no one consider how it might affect a victim of domestic abuse to encounter someone walking down the street with those phrases (“You provoked me…I was drunk…I didn’t mean it”) emblazened across their chest? I think that t-shirt was a bad choice by Topman. It’s not funny, and could do serious damage. In this instance, no matter how many different opinions I read, nothing was going to convince me to change my mind.
I think Mr Rogers might have been onto something though. Sometimes looking at things from another person’s perpective might help you to develop a more rounded and informed opinion. It might enable you to help or support someone, and will often improve your relationship with them. Conversely, sometimes you may come across opinions that are so opposed to yours, that considering them for a moment serves to confirm and strengthen your own beliefs. It’s win-win 😉
This week join me in taking time to think about things from another perspective. Let me know if you have any fresh revelations!