Trolls, language and a new rendition of Cats
I'm often told that language isn't important. Mostly by trolls on Twitter, who seem to have overlooked the fact that threats of physical harm come with a pricetag to the tune of a very real prison sentence or a hefty fine, rendering one devoid of money to purchase the latest KKK pointy hat or hire Katy Hopkins as a children's party entertainer. Sticks and stones can indeed break my bones, but wearing a plaster cast for a few weeks is absolutely nothing when compared to a lifetime trying to navigate through a world of emotions one has no map for - I'll take the sticks, thanks. Unfortunately for the trolls, they seem to have been born without any sort of map, emotional or otherwise. I feel bad for them (I don't - not one bit).
Take this recent quote from, of all people, a GP specialising in mental health:
"I know a guy with schizophrenia, he's a really nice chap though!".
What this actually means is that you think he doesn't seem that mental. He's probably never made you feel your life is in danger, or bitten off any bats' heads when you've invited him round for an evening of fine wines and a delicious supper. There aren't any canvasses covered in blood and shit on the walls in his house, or dead birds in pickle jars in the spare room. Yep, he's actually a decent mad guy. Christ, what an accolade eh! Who'da thunk it? Someone with a mental illness who actually seems 'normal'... you may suspect he's got a cupboard full of plump-lipped blow up dolls wearing makeup, wigs and second hand Primark lingerie somewhere, but somehow he manages to hold a conversation with the other grown ups without shouting "badger!" and diving under the table, knocking plates of roast beef and a gravy boat into the laps of your highbrow guests whilst the ladies faint and the gentleman take out their smelling salts. Gosh, that's terribly generous of you to host someone with a mental illness, considering how they normally behave - but then I knew you were a good person after you told me you definitely weren't homophobic because you had gay friends...
A subtle change in language can herald a change in culture. It's not about dictionary definitions; it's all in the nuance of tone, context, metaphor, identity, history and an old favourite - reading between the lines. Of course I'm not in any way saying that anyone who doesn't access or use language this way is missing out - to them, intention is right there on the surface with no digging necessary. Without meaning to 'other' anyone, I wish there were more of those people, because then perhaps the ones who're all talk and no trousers (yes, that is a thing) wouldn't be so bloody and undeservedly successful. One of the hardest moments of my career to date was the realisation that someone with the power to affect real change for thousands of people is actually a sort of facade of a person, or in other words, a complete cretin. Someone who talks a good talk, but may as well be going home and rolling in money every night, whilst laughing about all the stupid people back in the office who might actually buy into it. Someone with no idea what that change could actually do for real people. Yes, I know I was a fool to think that someone might actually do it for the right reasons, but I reserve the right to always give people the benefit of the doubt until just before they sign on the dotted line to confirm they're actually a c***. I may be often self-critical, but I know (and I think those that know me in person know) that I would risk my career to be honest in a debate with someone like that. I hate game playing. If it comes out of your mouth and you're not drunk, you'd better mean every word or I will call you out on it. I've had face time with MPs, royals, CEOs and policy makers, and the same applies to all of them. If there's some magic condition that kicks in at a certain amount of money and power that really does enable one to be without conscience, then sure, get a diagnosis and come back to me, but don't dick around talking like a big shot if you're not going to mean it.
Most of us seem unaware of how our language can shape us. Notice which way around that is. The more you reiterate something to yourself, the more it will become what you think as well as what you say. Unless you're an actor of course, although arguably it could apply even more then, which might be why many actors seem to so very publicly struggle with life. I can definitely see the attraction in playing anyone but myself most of the time.
I remember during my second stint of college (A level college) a lecturer told me I'd never get a job if I refused to change my appearance in order to fit in. You may not be that surprised to learn that I was indignant that I would never change myself for the sake of someone else's inability to look past the superficial to identify my talents - I truly believed that appearance shouldn't matter, and I still live by that sentiment now. By virtue of us being human, of course we come with some preset modes, and one of those is the irritatingly named 'first impression'. I say bullshit to that. If you think you can tell everything you need to know from meeting someone once, without seeing how they work, knowing what they believe or getting to know them in any way, you're not only misguided, but you're missing out. Much as I hate her to occupy one, let alone two paragraphs of my blog, Katie Hopkins is your spokeperson. And we all know what that means...
I've been judged on all of the above, even aside from my mental health. By medical professionals, colleagues, bosses, family, friends, strangers in the street. But there were others, who simply judged me by my work, my abilities, my ambition and my work ethic. Those are the people I keep in mind when I feel I'm banging head against a wall. They've got the right idea. In my own, midly neurotic way, I've managed to dramatise this into a sort of theatrical number (perhaps one akin to Nicole Scherzinger in Cats) so it's now my life's work to prove everyone else wrong, about everything, all the time. Who knows how that'll pan out eh?