Thursday, 29 November 2007

Racial Ravings

I don't like racists. For one person to hate another, to injure or discriminate against them purely because of their race is utterly abhorrent to me. And, what is more, it's irrational. There are many, many reasons to dislike someone to a very great degree, all of which can be valid when viewed from one perspective or another, but race alone can never be one of them.

Much as I dislike racists, however, I dislike folks who play the race card for their own advantage even more. Unfortunately, I can't help wondering whether something of the sort might have happened in the case of an Irish grandfather who has been convicted of racially aggravated disorderly behaviour for calling a Welsh woman "an English bitch".

According to the Daily Mail, the incident occurred during a heated dispute over a scratched car. Well, that seems fair enough - any traffic cop will tell you how annoyed people get over these things, and, on the basis that normality is determined by the majority, it seems like a fairly normal reason for one party to dislike another. And it may even be that a charge of disorderly conduct was in order - again, folks can get pretty het up about these things, and matters may have gotten a little out of hand.

But racially aggravated? If matters really were exactly as the Daily Mail reports them, and the "English bitch" line was the full extent of the "racial aggravation" it seems a bit unlikely to me. For one thing, it seems a bit petty of the Welsh lady - whose husband is English - to take such offence at being called English (or any other nationality), though I can see that the "bitch" aspect of things would be more than a little galling.

For another, it's surely just a matter of geography; Welshpool, the scene of this little drama, is pretty much bang on the border of England and Wales. There is far less distance between the two than between, say, London and Sheffield, yet you cannot imagine a Yorkshireman facing similar charges for calling someone from London a "southern bitch", despite the significant cultural differences between the regions and a very strong temptation to do so.

I can, however, imagine someone being very, very annoyed with the chap who's dinged her car, and who's then gone on to insult her. I can also imagine someone wanting to get even with that annoying, perhaps even unpleasant person, and using the "English bitch" line to do so. Yes, it's not the nicest thing to say, and yes it's probably a technical breach of the law, but invoking that law in a matter that, if the Daily Mail reports correctly, was little more than a row over a minor incident, serves only to diminish its impact in cases where it is genuinely needed.

As the lady's husband quite rightly says, "There's no way this should have ended up in court, it's the sort of thing you should be able to sort out without that." Unfortunately, he then goes on to say, "But he said what he said and I think he deserved to be found guilty." No doubt. But I think that adults should be grown up enough to be able to turn the other cheek to an insult without screaming for an apology and running to the courts when the don't get it.

Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case any more. The world is ruled by an "eye for an eye" philosophy that, before long, will lead to mass unemployment for opticians. Folks should grow up, calm down, get a grip (not on someone's throat!) and relax. Life's too short to let a trivial (or even not so trivial) dispute eat up months of your time. Even if you're in the right, morally justified and fighting to save the world you don't get your time refunded when you reach the Pearly Gates, so make the most of it while you can.

Billy Seggars

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