One of the occupational hazards of sticking ones head above the parapet for any reason is the inevitability of someone taking a pot shot. The ways of exposing ones noddle to enemy fire are many and varied, whether it is having the effrontery to set up some small enterprise such as a child minder, flower arranger or decorator, to risk putting paint to canvas or becoming a model or poet, as sure as eggs is eggs, some missile will eventually be launched to dint ones armour. I am not referring here to justified criticism (if requested) or praise, both of which should be met with grace and humility, and to take such steps as honour and ability allow to right faults in good faith. No, what’s at issue here are those dear souls who seek only to hurt and who pursue their goal with malicious intent.
Many years ago I was discussing the issue of unwanted and unwarranted criticism with a good friend who said to me, ‘Keith, has it ever occurred to you that what other people think of you is none of your business?’ A gift like that is something that takes time to grow into and to mature inside but I slowly came to the realisation, ‘I am not a democracy’. I am not sure such a realisation has ever had a clear personal meaning in our history, and today it seems, from reactions to my saying it, it requires some explanation.
One of the many hard won gifts Feminism gave to us was Assertiveness Training with classes springing up all across the country. Whilst such classes were generally aimed at women their value was by no means exclusive to them. I was certainly someone who needed such skills if I was to learn the peaceful sovereign distance one can enjoy from other peoples expressed thoughts, opinions, well meaning advice, insults and demands for explanations and justifications.
Whilst it may be considered polite or even a duty to offer an explanation or to justify ourselves and we may feel intense personal and social pressure to do so and that an insult requires an answer to satisfy our ego so as not to appear weak, such responses are a choice, even and despite any coercion. An invite can be responded to with a simple ‘No’ and no more information is required to establish our unwillingness to participate. There is, however, always a but and it’s a big but. If I refuse to offer an explanation for something, even if it is insisted upon and I have to politely remind them that it is, in fact, none of their business, I may well be considered to have broken trust with social intimacy for the sake of personal privacy and that can lead to anger, hostility, loss of friendship and even domestic and social violence. Tackling domestic violence was one of the primary reasons for the training in the first place.
In saying, ‘I am not a democracy’ I am saying that I grant no one any rights over my will and my being and that it is not open to question nor a matter for a common vote. If anyone has a problem with that it is their problem and what they might think about me is none of my business.
Keith Lindsay Cameron