Recently, Erica Bartle wrote about her Christian angst on Girl with a Satchel.
She said her “newfound sensibility” has made her “hyper-sensitive” to all that is wrong in the world. “Why can’t everything just be nice and Christian?!” she bemoans.
I wrote in response in the comments section that I don’t think what she’s experiencing is an exclusively faith (in the religious sense of the world; I’m an agnostic, yet I still believe in a higher power of some kind and that all things that are meant to be will eventuate. I know atheists who, like George Michael, have faith.) -based problem.
Last week, a former colleague and Facebook friend wrote an anti-refugee status along the lines of “fuck off, we’re full”. Classy. I commented, saying that as the “lucky country”, we should be extending our resources and welcoming asylum seekers with open arms, as they have a legal right to seek asylum in whichever country they can gain access to which is safer than their own. To cut a long story short, a shitstorm ensued, and bigoted bogans far and wide chimed in to berate me and asylum seekers alike.
They claimed “boat people” were making their local kinders stop celebrating Easter and Christmas and that while people like me have to pay for my education, they get it for free. I don’t know where they get this misinformation (middle-right mainstream media, step right up), which is what I wrote, albeit in a more forceful manner, and was attacked personally for it.
There is a fine line between standing up for what you believe in and berating all others who don’t subscribe to the same school of thought. If bigotry means not being able to see the other side and thinking less of those on it, then call me one, because I just can’t see the reasoning behind being so uncaring and un-compassionate. (The downside to free speech.)
So if standing up for what you believe in and the rights of others makes you a “good person” by a lot of peoples’ definitions, which side makes you a “better” person? The side that wants to protect our country’s borders and focus our money and resources on people already in it, or the side that believes we should extend those privileges to those in need, no matter which country they hail from? And why isn’t the latter the more mainstream and accepted view?
Bartle writes that sometimes her hypersensitivity to issues not unlike the one I just mentioned makes her wail, “Why can’t I just be NORMAL?!”
What is normal, anyway?
If normal means having the prejudiced views of the friends of my Facebook friend and, indeed, the two main governmental parties in this country, then normal is something I do not want to be. From the last two and a half years of content Bartle has posted on her blog (not to mention the two years before I discovered GWAS), I doubt it’s something she would really strive for, either.
But, to be a woman of God means to “let go of the idea of your awesomeness, your pride and your talents” and “burning ambitions/dreams/desires”. Forgive me, but the “god” I believe in wants me to be the best I can possibly be at whatever I choose. (“God” is starting to sound an awful lot like “mum”.) I want me to be, too. There’s that pride thing Bartle’s talking about…
So does being a “good person” mean being agreeable, having no passion and being boring? I know some of these people and, to my mind, they mightn’t be bad people, but they’re not much brighter than “normal”, either. To be a good person you need to buck the status quo, and be both passionate and compassionate. These things make you anything but boring and “normal”.
But we see what these things lead to, and it’s anything but compassion.
Take the Mia Freedman/Cadel Evans saga, for example. Freedman has made a career out of giving her opinion on all things media- and woman-centric, which is exactly why the unwashed masses turned on her when she deigned to question the focus we put on sportspeople at the expense of other, perhaps more deserving, people.
Bartle includes an excerpt from Get Her Off the Pitch: How Sport Took Over My Life by Lynne Truss, in which the author writes that sport can sometimes be a waste of time (my thoughts exactly!) which, in turn, got me thinking about pack mentality, both in sport and in religion.
We’ve seen how mobs of sports fans engage in rioting, amongst other pack-like behaviour. Even the very act of cheering and booing your favourite/least favourite team in the stands is inherently mob-like. Not to mention the “group-bonding” sessions of gang rape and group sex amongst teammates. (This is not to say all sport is bad; it’s just not for me, and this is just one of the myriad of reasons why.)
Religion, I believe, also encourages such actions. The use of deities to justify all manner of wars, massacres, executions, terrorism, riots, rapes, murders, stonings, and law reform, amongst many others. (This is not to say all those who are religious subscribe to such extremities, but I do believe that all organised religion is a crock.)
And we, as a society, accept such behaviours because they are hidden under the cloak of Godliness, or Australianess. (More on what is considered Australian and un-Australian tomorrow.)
So, this has gotten a little off-track, but I suppose I’m putting the question out there: “What makes a good person?” Obviously, this is a never-ending debate, but I do know that being one is certainly not dependent on religion or “patriotism”.
I think it’s dependent on being courageous, compassionate, respectful, which in turn generates respect, standing up for what you believe in and having the courage of your convictions, staying true to yourself, standing up for the underdog and yes, being a little bit proud and selfish every now and then. ’Cause no one respects a “yes” (wo)man.
Related: In Defence of Mia Freedman.