Posts Tagged ‘game’

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racism in a modern age.

June 20, 2010

I just got home from my nan’s.  For the second part of my journey, I took the number 6 from town to Kingswood, and while I was on the bus, a group of Somali women were having a conversation.  Suddenly, an English woman (I’m guessing about 55 years old; she was certainly older than my mother, who is 50) turns around and yells at them “Would you please shut up?!?!” After everyone looks up, shocked, she continues her diatribe: “Natter natter (with hand gesture), shut the fuck up or get off the bus.”  The women began to protest, but the woman just got angrier and nastier, and the Somali women ended up getting off the bus at that stop.  The English woman yelled after them “Fucking go home to your own country!” After a beat of shocked silence from all the passengers, the driver (who was mixed race himself) got up and challenged the woman.  “They are allowed to chat if they want, everyone here is just trying to get home, there is no reason to disrupt anyone else’s journey or otherwise YOU will have to get off the bus.” At this point, the woman went to get off the bus, and the bus driver said “Ma’am, you can take your seat, but please respect other customers because we all paid to use this bus, and please enjoy your journey.”  The woman sat back down, but then got off at the next stop (I wonder if she was not too bothered about getting off the bus if she was only getting off at the next stop anyway?), and the rest of the bus breathed a sigh of relief.

I was shocked that in 2010, such blatant racism still exists.  Well, I am shocked and I am not; I’m not naive and I know very well that racism is very much alive and well, but I was shocked to be present at such an outrageous and blatant display of it.  I was tempted to say something myself, but at the same time it was not my place to get involved; these women are old enough and strong enough to defend themselves, and quite rightly the driver made a stand for his bus and for the passengers on it; he is running the service, not me or any of the other passengers.  I wonder however, if the driver had not said anything, whether I would have been brave enough to say something? Plenty of things sprang to my mind; to challenge her and say that if her problem was with the volume at which these women were speaking, then instead of yelling at them and thus making herself a hypocrite, she should just ask them politely if they could talk more quietly.  If this wasn’t the case, it would have exposed her own racism without saying any more (racism she already exposed with her parting comment to them as they got off the bus).  I felt like saying that if her problem was with the fact that these women were not English (I know this woman was English just by coincidence, as I saw her loudly supporting England at Rewind when I was out watching the game with my friends from uni on Friday night – she had memorable cuts and grazes on her elbow that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the same woman), then should I get off the bus too as I am half-Italian, and I would not be here if my family had not come from another country to live here?  Until she knows the story of these Somali woman, who is she to judge whether they have (on a journey which they paid for, just like the rest of the passengers) less of a right to be on the bus and talk on the bus than her?  If I were speaking to my friends in Spanish, French or Italian, would I be less entitled to talk on the bus than if I were speaking in English? Does the fact that my skin barely looks any different to an English person’s (I am a tiny tiny bit more tanned, but it’s negligible) mean that I am not as mixed-race, or as ethnically diverse, as someone with a different skin colour? Am I entitled to the same rights as an English person simply because I speak native English, have an English surname and my skin is light; in return for these rights do I have to sacrifice my own ethnic background in the process just to fit in?

When I lived in Spain, if someone had spoken to me in that way because I was speaking English on the phone or to my family, I would have been utterly outraged.  Are we literally rewinding back to the story of Rosa Parks on the bus in the USA, before Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement? It felt like it.  Another thing I wanted to point out was that, as a result of my colleague Clare’s presentation on breaking down cultural barriers in guidance, I know that Bristol is considered a popular (if that is the right word) destination for asylum seekers and refugees coming from all over the world, because it is considered a racially-tolerant city in England. This is my hometown, my city, and I am proud of that fact.  By demonstrating such a racially-intolerant attitude, this woman is not only giving a bad example of herself, but of Bristol as a city and of England as a country; in actual fact, she is making herself look stupid and only propagating bad feeling for foreign people, whatever their reason or length of stay in England, which in turn only reinforces cultural barriers rather than breaking them down.  We’re in 2010; this should never have been happening, but it should certainly not be happening in this day and age.  And so I felt that if I didn’t speak up on the bus at the time (and it turned out that it wasn’t my place, nor did I have to – quite rightly, the driver did so), the least I could do was recount the event on here and spread more awareness that these attitudes still exist in our country and are very much alive in everyday life and situations.  This needs to change, and this entry is my little contribution; in my forthcoming job as a Personal Tutor at Cirencester College, one of the things I may well have to do in both interviews and group sessions is work on challenging racial stereotypes and breaking down cultural barriers and misconceptions.

Funnily enough, only earlier my nan and I were discussing the nature of football fans (topical considering that it is currently the World Cup).  English fans, deservedly or undeservedly, have a reputation for being violent, thuggish and neanderthal-like throughout Europe and possibly worldwide.  At the bar on Friday night, there was a fair amount of brainless chanting, stomping and cursing; but then, England did play poorly and I suppose that if so many people are passionate about this, it amasses a certain amount of volume.  I personally don’t like that kind of behaviour, but in itself it’s not racist; it’s only when it either causes damage or turns nasty against other ethnicities, races or against people of other countries that it’s inexcusable.  Nevertheless, I believe in conducting myself in a dignified way at all times whenever and wherever possible; by living up to hooligan stereotypes, England fans only propagate this image of themselves nationally and internationally; it’s not vogue and it doesn’t do the country or the sport any favours.  What’s more, my nan made a very good point that why do many England fans only support England during the football; if they really liked football, why do they not watch or show any interest in the matches involving other countries? Is it about the sport, or is it about the country? If it is about the country, why act so intimidating when watching the football (as opposed to other sports)? Surely this only sends out the wrong kind of message, a bad example to everyone – that this is how England fans behave, and that this country accepts that behaviour as tolerable and normal for football fans towards each other, and towards other people both from this country and from outside it?  I know that there are plenty of people who support England in the World Cup who don’t act this way – a lot of my friends fall under this category – and if I were them I would be somewhat embarrassed and angry that this reputation precedes me.  Everyone is entitled to behave in their own way, but I really wish we considered the feelings and cultures of others more than we do.

A final anecdote, in case I sound holier than thou – I’m not perfect.  When I was 12 years old, I once used a racial slur – I am ashamed to say.  Even more stupidly, it was towards a friend of mine whom I had known for 7 or 8 years by that time; he was acting in a very irritating way during a DT lesson, and out of sheer frustration and for pure shock value, I told him to “shut up you Paki”. Now, I am not racist nor have I ever been – so why portray myself in that way? Even though I was a child, I knew better before and after that event, and yet I did it. It had the desired effect, but I belittled myself by doing it, and my friend (to his credit) handled it very classily by laughing and saying in response to my immediate apology: “Um, no offence taken because I am Indian so that’s not what I am”.  His response made me feel all the more ashamed because not only had I attempted to use a racist expression in order to shut him up, I had used it in an incorrect context; it showed up my foolish behaviour for what it was.  Our friendship did not suffer for it; in fact I believe that the event was all but forgotten by breaktime, but it taught me a valuable lesson: that kind of behaviour is never acceptable, never appropriate, and never necessary.  I apologised profusely and he forgave me, but even recalling that incident makes me feel ashamed 12 years on; I was old enough to know better, and the lessons I learned as a result of that event are the redeeming factor; I have never thought or acted in that way since, and I am now in a position of responsibility to challenge others who do so. During a practice day, I successfully challenged one young person’s attitude to immigrants and the labour market; during my job at Cirencester, I anticipate doing this kind of thing more.  In this blog entry, I have also tried to challenge this behaviour.  Thankyou for reading.

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disinterest.

August 21, 2009

In the dating game over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about men, and I’ve learned a lot about myself.  It has yet to really get me anywhere, but as much as dating should be about romance, about clicking with someone, about personalities coming together, sparks flying and the potential for love, it seems to be more of a transaction.  What am I to you?  Who am I to you?  What can I do for you?  What opportunities do I provide, what I can I get in return?  I’m not interested in relationships of convenience, and perhaps that is why I haven’t really had much dating success.  I either become blinded by my feelings, or jaded and clinical about the whole affair.  Here’s a brief examination of what people seem to what from me:

Sex : Most of the time, a promising exchange of ideas all seems to dissipate once you get me into your bed.  If they haven’t lost interest after the first night (I’m not that easy, and have only given it up once on the first date), then they suddenly disappear once they finally get some sexual interaction.  Not because I’m not any good (I am confident of this – I’m sure I’m not the best lover ever, but I know what I am doing well enough to elicit… the desired response), but just because I’ve fulfilled their need.  People tell me I am sexy, I am beautiful, I am this or that, but once we’ve done the deed, I apparently stop being those things and become “just another guy” or another conquest.  So silly me for thinking that there might have been something more, that I’m more than a mouth or a body to you.  I tell myself time and again that I should just use people for sex myself, but I can’t roll that way – I can’t do it.  Perhaps I’m not that jaded yet.

Trophy boyfriend : I am not bad-looking, I have some designer clothes and jewellery, I have plenty of friends and a couple of guys have enjoyed the fact that I seem to be reasonably popular and ‘cool’ (whatever that means).  Yes, I listen to music, I read books, I go to clubs, I am pretty sociable.  I also work hard, am educated and have thoughts in my head, but that seems to pass certain guys by.  They want to buy me things (far too soon, in one guy’s case – one meeting and he buys me something from the Britney concert he went to – I never found out what it was because I decided to end it once I found out; it was too intense for me! He was a bit of a stalker anyway…) and show me off, but I’m not going to be paraded as your ‘better half’ just to give you extra social clout.  Step your game up and take an interest in me for who I am, because I do the same for you.

Friendship : Obviously, a big part of a relationship is establishing a firm friendship between the two of you. But one of the things I find most difficult is when I date people who suddenly reveal they already have partners and just want to be friends.  By this time, I am the kind of person who might have fallen for them and am inventing scenarios in my head (of course, I keep that part to myself).  To have this shot down, when I reasonably assumed that because we were on a date, we were both single (!!!), means I need to majorly readjust my priorities and my attitude.  I manage to do it, but it bruises my heart somewhat because I get my hopes up (perhaps, again, I should know better by now) only to have them dashed.  Usually, it’s the perfect-seeming ones who already turn out to be attached – it figures, I guess.  Does that say anything about me being single though, that I am not that good a catch?  I like to think that of course it doesn’t, but sometimes it niggles away at me.

Emotional crutch : All too often, I find that guys quickly reveal that they have certain problems in their lives and they share what is going on.  More than once, I’ve dealt with guys with mental health problems, and I like to think I’m a pretty good listener and pretty compassionate.  I try to be there for them and understand as much as I can.  I give space when needed, I am ready to talk when they’re ready to talk.  But after a while, I begin to feel that “I’m depressed” is being used as an excuse to pick me up when they want me, and then drop me when they don’t.  I find myself wondering, “What about my needs?  There are two of us here… why are you waiting for me to text you?  Why does it take me asking you how you are?  Why can’t you pick up the phone, I have feelings too.  Just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean that I am happy 100% of the time.”  I apologise if it sounds slightly childish, but at the end of the day it is true.  It takes two to make a relationship work, and if there’s no room for me beyond being an agony uncle / sounding board for all your problems (however valid they might be), then I’m sorry but that just isn’t enough for me.

I’m still trying to figure out how to not let myself be sucked in by different guys, but it seems like every few months I learn a new trick – the hard way.  There are lots of ruses and games that people play in order to get what they want from you.  I have learned to lose interest more quickly and cut guys off if their play becomes too desperate / blatant, but is there any advice for being able to spot the bad ones more quickly?  It would save a lot of drama and some heartache too if everyone just wore a badge saying “Hi! I am looking for… I am interested in… I am not seeking…”  At least it would be honest.  But then, as they say, sometimes it’s all about the chase…

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balance of power.

July 28, 2009

Growing up with my parents and their perennially “stormy” relationship (that is one of the most accurate and yet most polite adjectives to describe it), I have always been acutely aware of the balance of power that exists in relationships, friendships and even day-to-day interactions.  For example, many a time have I apologised to my mother after doing something wrong.  But I can count on one hand the amount of times my mother has ever apologised to me after upsetting me.  The reasons for this are simple: although generally, being man enough to apologise when you have done something wrong makes you “the bigger person”, it also means that you cede a massive amount of ground in the balance of power that exists between you and that other person.  Acknowledging your fault equates to acknowledging their lack of fault and thus their superiority (obviously not in reality, but in power-struggle talks, this is fairly accurate).  That is why “sorry seems to be the hardest word” – because it involves swallowing your pride and giving away a small part of it to your opponent.  And when you have to apologise just to clear the air, because you don’t want to fight anymore but you don’t feel you are to blame… well, I don’t bother with that anymore, because I have done enough of that already in my short 23 years of life, and another thing that my mother has taught me is how to hold onto anger.  The silent treatment is a fantastic invention for testing the balance of power, and me and my mother have gone 4 weeks without speaking.  Of course, I am not recommending not apologising, or refusing to speak to somebody for weeks on end, because it is childish and it’s better just to get on with your life.  I am merely explaining the logic that exists in my family of how important it is to maintain a position of strength in the balance of power that exists between you and everyone else.  The moment you are seen as weak or a pushover, that’s the end of you (until you find a devious way to turn the tables.  But no ground lost = no scheming necessary).

So I move onto the situation I have been experiencing recently.  My father has become pathetically obsessed with this online game called Evony (if you want to look it up, more fool you, but you can find info on it on youtube and all the usual places) where you build your own medieval town and then defend it from other people’s armies while trying to make your town more powerful and take over other towns.  And when I say obsessed, I mean it – he spends every waking moment of his time at home on his laptop playing the game, which doesn’t seem to consist of much more than staring at the screen and occasionally clicking on a little house, while reading inane commentary between other users in a chat box in the corner.  He is back at work now (he was off for 3 weeks on holiday) and still stays up until midnight playing the stupid game, despite having to get up at 5:45am the following morning. He drinks cider and shovels crisps in his mouth and does not allow me to sit on the sofa nor watch the tv.  And I am 30 years his junior, so I am DAMNED if I am going to go to bed before him without enjoying even 5 minutes of peace and quiet downstairs in the lounge, watching what I want on tv (the only chance I get to watch what I want is when my parents are not present, which is usually once they have gone to bed) and having a cigarette outside on the patio and listening to my music undisturbed.

This is where the balance of power comes into play.  I don’t know if my father has decided on purpose to stay up until stupidly late to try and annoy me, but it certainly does the trick.  I of course refuse to go to bed, and my advantage is that I do not have to get up stupidly early for work the next day (though I am, as of today, employed again!!! The hospital came through, yayyyy 😀 😀 😀 )… Whether this is, in his view, a struggle for power and supremacy by despatching me from the lounge or whether he is just single-mindedly playing his pathetic little game, I now view it as a competition for control of the television at least 1% of the day, and establishing myself as more than just another piece of furniture around the house who disappears without causing any trouble.  I will not be ousted from my own house by my own father who is 30 years older than me and playing an idiotic little game.  I will not be sent to my room before I am ready to go, and I will not cede control of my bedtime nor of my right to enjoy myself in my home.  I will stay up until he goes to work if necessary… I don’t care.  This is a battle of wills now, and I promise you one thing: Like Rocawear, I will not lose.