Friday, 17 December 2010

Are you committed?

My BFF is fantastic. She taught me a thing or two.

Like, switch on the bedside light if you stagger out your nest at 2am. Otherwise you will be driving your broken nose to A&E by 2.30am, dressed in your jimmy jams.

That is useful knowledge. She also taught me, if you want the council to move a lamp post along your street, you have to never give up. You have to be committed.

I think about that word, and I came to the conclusion that it's no accident the word committed means:

a) being locked up in a mental institution and
b) doggedly sticking to a point of view even though everyone hates you and laughs at you.

Maybe that's why some people avoid making a commitment to any position in public. Even stuff they get angry about. It is very exposing and makes you feel vulnerable. That is not a comfortable way to live. Once you make any commitment in public, you have to be on your ready to argue your point of view at all times.

Sometimes you have to argue with any random person who is equally committed in the other direction. And, let's face it, they might be mad, taking the opportunity to have a pop at you, or simply have a better, more convincing argument than you. They might be able to use their rhetorical classes to much better impact than you, too. They might win the argument. Publicly. How humiliating is that?

Sometimes, and I speak from bitter experience, after you make that public commitment, and the equally and oppositely enraged come at you with pointy sticks and cruel words, you enter an emotionally exhausting world. Sometimes you want to have done with it. It brings out the aggression in you. You want to stick up two fingers, and yell Piss off! Other times you just want a quiet life. You want to cave and squeal I don't know! It's all too much! Leave me alone! Then burst into tears and refuse to leave the cubby hole under the stairs.

But there are many times you find solidarity with other people who think like you do, and whose views are similar to yours. You can find strength in that.

It's yet another weakness of course, because you share the support of a group of people who can be easily identified, grouped, mocked, discredited and discounted. So you have to leave that cosy warm circle, go stand in a public place again, yell out your point of view some more, and be made uncomfortable and vulnerable all over again.

Personally, I recommend it. Making a public commitment to something - anything that you feel strongly about - is a good thing. Much better than sitting at home mumbling quietly to yourself and the kid's pet gerbil.

You see a lot more of human nature, find out a lot more about how government systems and societies work, learn a great deal about your local area and about national politics, and probably become a saint and a devil in the process. That has to be a more interesting way of spending a year than staring at the TV every night.

But if I could have seen a little of what was ahead for us, when Ed Balls and Graham Badman picked a fight with home educators - when we normally quiet, left-alone parents had to suddenly overcome our differences, take to the streets, visit local authorities, organise petitions and expose ourselves to the ordinary public in ways we had never done before - maybe it would have helped.

So, if you are committing yourself to any local or national action, then I recommend you read the ten lessons here. You could substitute wind farm for any issue. There are some parts I would argue with in reference to home ed, but not of the experience as a whole. It's as good a guide as any, for what lies ahead. The more informed you are, the more you can act.

Now, who's up for getting something done about that gravelly patch of waste ground? The one that could be made into a secret community garden, an old folk's sitting out area, an urban farm, or a kid's kick about area?