I would like to start this blog by offering my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Drummer Lee Rigby and to also express my deep admiration for the bravery of Ingrid Loyau-Kennet who tried to talk down the men who allegedly murdered young Lee Rigby.
This action, while shocking and extreme is indicative of a wider problem in our society. The problem is Intolerance and Bullying. For too long now there has been a culture of bullying and “trolling” on social media and this has spread to society in “real life”. Friends of mine have been bullied on twitter, with tweeters ganging up to berate them and make nasty comments, simply because they disagree with another tweeter, or offer an alternative viewpoint on a matter of discussion.
I myself experienced this recently. I made a general statement to the effect that if I was following anyone who simply kept tweeting “inspirational quotes”, they should not be surprised if I unfollow them. I made this statement as I know many twitter users often wonder why someone chose to unfollow them, and I wanted to offer them an explanation. I did not complain or ask them to stop tweeting “inspirational quotes”. If they wish to do so, that is their right, I just don’t want to waste my time reading the same hackneyed quotes time after time. Someone who doesn’t even follow me then attacked me for making this statement and when I tried to explain my reasoning, they subjected me to vitriolic abuse and resorted to foul language. Personally I don’t care. I blocked the individual involved and didn’t lose any sleep.
However this is a problem. There are those in society who hold ideas/ideologies/thoughts etc. in which they firmly believe and express. The problem begins when somebody expresses alternative/opposing viewpoints. Some individuals cannot share space with those who don’t agree with them and seem to have a, “If you are not for me, you are against me” mentality. They cannot comprehend that anyone may have different viewpoints to them and feel so threatened by others that they resort to bullying tactics such as name calling, verbal abuse and threats. This cannot and should not be tolerated. Twitter/Facebook or any other social media should be an enjoyable and safe space for everyone to feel free to air their thoughts and ideas, express their viewpoints and engage in meaningful and respectful discourse and healthy debate with others. As long as people abide by the laws against incitement to hatred/hate speech/defamation and libel and as long as people respect each other, then everyone has the right to speak freely and nobody has the right to tell them to “shut up” or “stop complaining”.
This applies in the “real world” also. There are many people who air views that I find distasteful and often baffling or sometimes ludicrous. I can choose to ignore them or challenge them. As long as I challenge them in a respectful and meaningful way. My views are not the only views. I don’t have the monopoly on what is right or “right thinking”. Nobody does. How can we grow as a society or individuals if we don’t listen to each other, debate and learn from each other. I am not afraid of change and none of my ideas or beliefs are so fixed in stone that they are not open to change, as long as I can be given compelling arguments with valid reasoning and rational logic/empirical evidence. I will not have my mind changed because someone threatens me into it or tells me to “shut up”.
The two men who set upon Drummer Lee Rigby are examples of where this kind of thinking has been taken to an extreme. They claimed to be protesting against the treatment of civilians in Afghanistan. Whether or not this is the case, there were many ways they could have raised these issues. They could have joined anti war protest marches, took part in debates online and on radio/television, they could have protested by writing to Parliament. Instead, they decided to allegedly physically attack and allegedly took the life of an individual, simply because he represented something they disagreed with. This is not respecting others. This is the mentality that, “I am right, you are against me, you are the enemy and you don’t deserve to be heard or to share my world”. They couldn’t and wouldn’t share space with Drummer Rigby and as a result his life was taken away.
Now I realise some readers will think I have taken this too far and that there is no connection between trolling and the murder of Lee Rigby. I disagree. Yes, what happened to me was mild and nothing more than an irritant. However others have not been so lucky and I enclose a link to a story about how one person suffered “real life” bullying which had started as online trolling. My point is that though they are on different ends of the spectrum, the troll who tells another user to “shut up” is still on the same wavelength as the people who murder another for representing something they disagree with. They are all various extremes of intolerance, which leads to prejudice and bigotry which leads to hatred which can end with tragic results. Todays trolling bully on twitter could be the person on the street murdering someone else next year.
I leave you with the link to this thought provoking article which although uplifting could easily have ended more tragically.
Please remember, we all get the respect we earn and we all have a place in this world. We must learn to share this space and grow together in a healthy and happy world.
Thank you for reading.