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19 May 2017 @ 04:07 pm
The fear of difference  

I've been getting quite worried lately by the number of vox pops, BTL comments and pronouncements on the likes of Twitter (perhaps I should say Twatter) which seem to indicate a growing fear and intolerance of any difference from the perceived norm. It isn't just about immigrants or foreigners, though lord knows they suffer from this; it also affects disabled folk. This is partly the fault of governments and newspapers who have encouraged their dimmer readers to believe everyone in a wheelchair is some kind of fraudster bent on robbing them via the benefits system. But it goes deeper, I think, witness the online conversation I had lately about a man who, some years ago, was wrongly suspected of murder by the press (probably encouraged by the police) and had, quite rightly, received compensation for the injury to his reputation when the real culprit was found. The person on the other side of the conversation was inclined to blame him, because "if he didn't want to be suspected he shouldn't have looked so weird and had an odd hairstyle".

This is why I don't like politicians advocating national unity, coming together, shared values, singing from the same hymn sheet (particularly that metaphor: I don't wish to sing from any hymn sheet, and since I live in a post-enlightenment secular democracy, not a mediaeval theocratic dictatorship, that is my right). But I also want to live in a country where one is not obliged to act like everyone else, fall in behind the majority opinion, or even have a sensible hairstyle. I don't want "unity" if it means conformity, nor "coming together" if it means ironing out difference, rather than learning to tolerate it.

So basically I think all natural-born conformers should have a good listen to Georges Brassens' great song La mauvaise réputation. When the lyric says everyone speaks ill of him except the dumb, everyone kicks out at him except the one-legged, he isn't just making black jokes, he means those who are somehow different from the norm have a natural affinity, unlike the "braves gens" who think everyone should go the same road as them and be exactly like them. For anyone whose French is rusty, here's a rough translation I once did purely for the purpose of singing in the bath.

In the village, without a doubt,
I enjoy an ill repute.
Whatever I do, whatever I say,
I'm looked on as something out of the way.
Yet I do no harm to anyone,
I just want to go on my way alone.
But the good folk hate to be told
Theirs isn't always the only road.
Yes, the good folk hate to be told
Theirs isn't always the only road.
Everybody speaks ill of me,
Except for the dumb, naturally.

When the procession passes by,
I lie in bed and close my eyes.
If they want to have their jubilee,
That's got nothing to do with me.
Yet I do no harm to anyone,
If I do not choose to follow the drum.
But the good folk hate to be told
Theirs isn't always the only road.
Yes, the good folk hate to be told
Theirs isn't always the only road.
Everyone points the finger at me,
(Not those with no arms, naturally).

If I see a kid who's been pinching fruit
Run by with the law in hot pursuit,
I stick out a foot, and strange to say,
It's always the policeman in the way.
Yet I do no harm in anything,
If I help a kid who's been apple-scrumping.
But the good folk hate to be told
Theirs isn't always the only road.
Yes, the good folk hate to be told
Theirs isn't always the only road.
Everybody kicks out at me,
Except the one-legged, naturally.

You don't need the gift of prophecy
To work out what will happen to me.
If they can find a good excuse,
I shall be hanging in a noose
Yet I do no harm to anyone,
If I follow roads that don't lead to Rome.
But the good folk hate to be told
Theirs isn't always the only road.
Yes, the good folk hate to be told
Theirs isn't always the only road.
Everyone'll come to see me die,
Except for the blind, naturally.

 
 
 
Helenheleninwales on May 19th, 2017 03:21 pm (UTC)
I remember that case about the chap who was vilified in the press because he looked "weird" and therefore must be guilty. It was reasonable for the police to question him because he was the landlord, but of course the murderer turned out to be the young and "normal looking" boyfriend. I also didn't like the incessant references to George Brown's eye. Yes, criticise his policies, but not something he can't help.