Saturday, March 18, 2006

Am I a two faced arsehole?

As you know, I am in a constant battle of wills against Buckwheat, a semi-skilled older lady with, in my opinion, not all that much upstairs.

Today we had our weekly morning tea and Buckwheat was spinning one of her many tales of well something. Then she said this. 'There were these two poofters up the road...'

At this point, and admittedly still annoyed at the Come on Down it's Crazy Laptop Giveaway she'd been doing earlier, I kind of slammed her in front of everyone. I wasn't loud, or angry, I just said 'Buckwheat's-real-name, you can't say that. It's offensive.'

'Huh?!?' she blinked in that way she does.

'Don't use that term. It's offensive.'

'Aw what? I wasn't even talking to you.'

'It doesn't matter. Saying Poofters is offensive. Please don't.'

'Aw it's getting so I can't say anything at all.'

She was getting pretty heated at this point and, as it always happens in an office environment when there's a fight on, it got pretty quiet. My fellow leftie co-worker tried to diffuse it by saying that he had gay friends who didn't like the term and found it offensive, but Buckwheat was giving him the flick off, crossing her arms and saying she didn't want to talk about it.

I got steamed enough that I said 'that's it, I'm leaving' and stomped off muttering - not sure if they heard me - but basically along the lines of 'fucking bigoted witch'. Leaving everyone else being quiet as I did so. Much like a western saloon eventually the piano and dancing girls kicked off and conversation returned to normal.

She's right too. I have criticized her before for saying stuff like 'blackfellas' and 'we should shoot illegal fishermen on sight.' So I can certainly see why she feels picked on.

Later, after Buckwheat had stayed in an office bitching about me to two fellow workers, I asked one of those workers her opinion of whether I was out of line. She shocked me deep to the core, so deep I got that shitty 'I'm in trouble' sick feeling you get like when you're sent to the principal.

'Yes, you were way out of line. You say things that are very offensive all the time and we don't pick you up on it. You let her get to you too much. You were wrong to slam her like that.'

I'm paraphrasing here but that was the gist.

She was right. I am offensive. I swear too much, with fs and cs, and my somewhat overt leftist ranting does take on a mean tone about certain political or cultural current events. I am for example often yelling at my PC when it's malfunctions or if I read glowing crap about John Howard.

So, does that make me two faced? Buckwheat has said she finds the F word quite upsetting. That was a general comment, and not specifically at me. And here in the good old public service I can put my hand on my heart and say 'she has not complained of my behaviour to me.' Although I know, ironically from the co-worker that gave me the hard word, that Buckwheat did complain about my being 'mean to her' late last year.

It's all true. I friggin' hate Buckwheat. I don't go out of my way to be mean to her, but I don't help her out if I don't have too - and I am a moderately helpful person. It's just that she has said so much bigoted crap, and is so frigging useless at her job, and makes so much work for everyone else, my tolerance for her bullshit has evaporated.

Would I have stomped someone that hard if they had said the same thing? No, I would not have. Sure, I would have felt uncomfortable, but I wouldn't have admonished anyone else like that. So that's true. But then I don't have any other co-workers that routinely propose final solution esq plans to illegal Indonesian fishermen in our waters, or claim that 'all blackfellas are smelly' and other racist shit like that.

I am letting her under my skin. And I do swear too much. And I know if I ever made a formal complaint my own actions would come back at me.

Then, later today I remembered that I was laughing about how some bogan chick in Take 5 (a magazine here in Oz) had named her kid 'Feenix'. So I was using the same exclusionary or persecution language style she was. So I guess that does make me two faced.

Besides, as my wife said, am I really going to change anything by saying it? They only change I would have made if any was make her hesitant to say crap that she believes anyway. And as we found out in Oz that's just putting a bandaid on a festy scab.

I guess what it boils down to is I don't like her, and I don't like people like her. So I am hating her for her and her for being what she represents. She represents to me all the deadwood in the Australian Public Service of people who have been here for 20 years and suck the life out of anyone in earshot, have no idea what they are doing, and cause work for other people, and to top it off have a lack of compassion and a bigoted mindset.

So, to answer the question. Am I a two faced arsehole? The answer is yes. But was I right to say something? Well, I have to say, on balance, well yes. Because it's when fuckwits like her fire off their filth mouths with bigoted dribble and no one calls them on it that it allows sentiments like that to take root.

All up I think I did the right thing. But I felt wretched for the rest of the day, and only until I thanked Buckwheat for some assistance with a task she'd been of absolutely no help on that I felt better.

Which makes me double two faced. Or manipulative. Ah, who knows? If I get called into the bosses office (X was away), all I can say is that 'I found it extremely offensive and I didn't think and got upset. It's just that she says this stuff all the time (cue several examples) and while I admit I have a potty mouth on occasion I can put my hand on my heart and say I am not as bigoted as she is.'

Er, maybe scratch that last point. That does not cast me in a good light. Even though its 100% true. Because I am bigoted when I think I am better than other people, smarter than them, or think their opinions are all shit just because I've only heard them 'talk' on a couple of issues. She could be the nicest person on earth outside of work, if she didn't have to be near gays, aboriginals, or Indonesian fishermen. So maybe I'm just not giving her a chance?

So, the plan. Be nice. Be courteous. Try not to get angry when she fucks up - and she likely will since we all make mistakes - and if she says her bigoted crap again I will consider my options in the coolness of logic, as opposed to ruining morning tea for everyone by stomping off like a petulant fuckwit.

9 comments:

  1. I don't think it's out of line to pull someone up for using overtly bigoted language. What would happen if you had a gay co-worker?

    Yes, someone can be nice and be a bigot at the same time. My own grandmother is the epitome of the sweet little old lady, but she's previously expressed horror at the fact I'm 'dating' a black man (she doesn't know we live together). Does that mean it's a good idea to just smile politely when she says something horrible? She has never said anything to me personally, but thankfully my family attempt to put her straight every time. What you say may have no effect, but it's still the right thing to do. Does it mean that you have to treat that person like a leper? No. Short of being a psychopath, everyone has some redeeming qualities. But you knew that.

    Saying something 'offensive' like swear-words may offend people, but bigotry has the potential to deeply wound people. I say you did the right thing, but good on you for thinking over the issue afterwards.

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  2. I don't think you're being two-faced here, and I agree with Sarah that bigotry is worse than saying "fuck!" all the time.

    I'm actually a little surprised that she thinks she can get away with saying something like that. In my work environment right now, despite being pretty right-leaning, I know for a fact that if I said something similar (altered for region/dialect, natch) I would probably have a long and unpleasant discussion with a manager about it.

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  3. yes poofter is offensive
    i;m sure the correct term is fudge packer

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  4. Notallright,

    You are a bad man.

    Sarah, Mort. Thanks for the advice and words. I've been fixating on this, and discussing it when my betterness. I think come Tuesday (monday is a public holiday) I will see the boss and tell them I have been reacting poorly to BW and realise my behaviour needs modification and ask for their advice on what to do next. That way I can cop to being a prick, cause I was, and still get me issue of her crap across.

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  5. You just have to take advantage that as a bloke you are less at the mercy of your emotions .....
    just think that one day this person may be further up the work ladder than you are

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  6. You just have to take advantage that as a bloke you are less at the mercy of your emotions .....
    just think that one day this person may be further up the work ladder than you are

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  7. You may have a gay co-worker (it's a bit easier to conceal than, say, being Aboriginal) - and what business is it of anyone else to know that anyway?

    Obviously, bigoted language is going to offend this person deeply.

    And you, to this person or persons, are a freaking hero.

    But, if need be, you can approach the matter with diplomacy:

    "Excuse me, Buckwit, but I object to your use of the word 'poofter'. In my opinion, this word should only be used freely by homosexuals themselves, and only by others when being physically violent towards a gay person, whether it as a parent or even within a gang. Please find a homosexual to assault before using the term."

    That should shut the cunt up.

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  8. That should shut the cunt up.

    Indeed :)

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  9. You did the right thing.

    The problem with dealing with bigots is that you have about two seconds to respond, and so often those two seconds are wasted allowing one's jaw to dangle. For this reason I have rehearsed a sentence to lay on the next little old lady / taxi driver / bus driver who apparently thinks I'm a fellow White Supremacist. (Actually a succession of sentences, concluding with "Shurrup you loony old trout.")

    But for more difficult situations eg the tea room, my Mum taught me the word "uncomfortable". "That word makes me really uncomfortable." "What you're saying makes me very uncomfortable." They don't lose face because it's as though you're the one with the problem, so there's no blowup to deal with.

    In the end you could always swap your swearing for her prejudice, so if she comes out with something offensive, you can say "Now, I'm trying to control my language, so as we agreed, I'd appreciate it if you'd do the same." The moral high ground!

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