A comedy programme aired on a Saturday night, features a derogatory sketch; based on an unpleasant smear – which has long been unfairly leveled at a politician you support. How do you react?
1) Shrug your shoulders. A thoughtless comedian, long past their prime, trying to gain an audience through being controversial? Big deal. Haven’t people got anything better to do on a Saturday night, anyway?
2) Outrage! This injustice represents everything that is wrong about everything. Take to twitter immediately; and spend several days denouncing the comedian, and the channel which broadcast the show – along with anyone who might have been involved in producing it.
3) Write a short piece outlining why the sketch is misdirected, and liable to prove divisive; thereby making a difficult situation worse.
A former public official, with a track-record of extremely dubious behaviour, has made a statement which many people are openly agreeing with; on a subject you think is important. How do you react?
1) Shrug shoulders; and join in quoting them verbatim. Play the ball, not the person.
2) Fury! It’s the messenger, not the message which matters. Take to Twitter as soon as possible – instantly assume the worst about anyone who expresses agreement with the person in question; and harangue them, until they recant.
3) Write a short piece explaining that people who are quoting the person may be damaging their own reputations; and harming their cause in the process.
A politician renowned for campaigning against racism, throughout their career – even when it left them unpopular and marginalized – is being called a racist; after expressing support for an effaced mural, which had featured controversial imagery. How do you react?
1) Shrug shoulders. That’s street “art” for you. Should see some of the graffiti around my neighborhood! Like this one with a donkey and a …well, you get the picture.
2) Join in with the furor; even though you know the allegations aren’t likely to be true. It’s important to be seen saying the right thing.
3) Write a short piece stating that while the clamor is obviously a cynical political exercise, designed to cause damage in upcoming elections; both the mural’s artist, and the politician, ought to reflect on how easily something can get misunderstood – and exercise more diligence in the future.
A poorly-constructed referendum is conducted, on a complex and divisive issue. You find yourself on the losing side of the outcome – which is widely expected to turn into a debacle. How do you react?
1) Shrug shoulders. It’s unfortunate; but these things happen. Can’t win them all.
2) Outrage! This is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone, ever. It is a waking nightmare of unending horror – and only by furiously denouncing it on Twitter, daily, can you even hope to preserve what remains of civilization.
3) Accept the outcome; but remain cautious about where it might lead – and campaign to prevent any harm it may cause to people.
There is a discussion about proposed legislation, designed to improve the personal safety of sex-workers. The sex trade is something that many people find disagreeable. How do you react?
1) Shrug shoulders. It’s a free world. Everybody has the right to do whatever they like. If anything, these attempts to interfere in the trade just seem to be prudish, and a bit patronizing. Besides, what would I do on a Friday night?
2) Fury! How dare anyone suggest that sex-work is acceptable? Don’t people realize that it’s a misogynistic industry – rife with exploitation, and abuse? These things are inescapable facts of prostitution. Sometimes you have to save people from themselves.
3) Recognize that there are some serious problems within the sex industry; but put your own feelings to one side, and give careful consideration to the claims and counter claims being made. Then try and arrive at an outcome which suits everyone’s needs and wishes, as far as possible.
Some people are using the term “gammon” to describe their political opponents, online. It’s being used to characterize florid men, in their middle years; who dislike foreigners – while being noticeably keener than most on real ale, and the use of nuclear weapons. How do you react?
1) Shrug shoulders. People are always calling each other names on the internet. Part and parcel. Besides, it’s just a bit of fun.
2) Rage. Write a five hundred word comment piece, for a reasonably popular news outlet; denouncing name-calling as the preserve of idiots and morons.
3) Appreciate that it’s only people being flippant; but write a short piece suggesting that dialogue needs to be inclusive – and that ridiculing someone over their appearance isn’t especially pleasant.
There is a debate about the inclusion of trans men/women in the candidate-shortlists of a political party; on the basis of self-definition. Some people have objected, on the grounds that this might result in eligibility criteria being abused. How do you react?
1) Shrug shoulders. The feminists are always complaining about something. Haven’t they got anything better to do?
2) Take to Twitter, and explain at length how science proves that trans-women, in particular, aren’t really women. It’s just basic biology – and as far as women are concerned, biology is destiny. Repeat this explanation, at regular intervals; and enlist low-grade male celebrities, with large Twitter followings, to echo your viewpoint.
3) Accept that unless trans people are going to be excluded from candidacy wholesale, then they will need to join shortlists for men or women at some point. Surely the most practical and humane course of action is to allow someone to identify within the category they are most comfortable with; rather than risk degrading people, needlessly.
So how did you do?
That’s the spirit. Nothing matters very much. It’s not like actions have consequences, or anything. People spend too much time thinking, these days. Best to just get on with things, using commonsense.
You are a serious and sensible person; who believes in a politics of the practical, for the mutual benefit of all reasonable people. Whether that’s instituting a 5 pence charge for plastic bags, in return for tightening benefit sanctions – abstaining on immigration acts, in order to accommodate very real concerns; or supporting regrettably necessary wars, in good faith – and learning any correct lessons as required. Have you considered starting a new Centrist party? One for rational people only?
I’m afraid, you’re on the wrong side of history. There’s a time and a place for thoughtful critique – and that time is never; while that place is nowhere. You would do well to familiarize yourself with the word ‘apologist’ – because, rest assured, you’ll be hearing it a lot. If anything, it’s too mild a term. Now, go and sit quietly somewhere – and think about how much you inconvenience your betters.