Opinion: Hurt feelings

POSTED: 06/13/12 1:09 PM

United People’s party MP Ruth Douglas made a remark in parliament yesterday that deserves closer scrutiny. Speaking about the argument between fellow-MPs Romain Laville and Jules James (who had just more or less graciously offered and accepted apologies, after Laville threatened to shoot and kill James on Monday evening) Douglas went into the nitty-gritty of human interactions by addressing the way people talk to each other.

From James’ acceptance speech (of the apologies that is) we learned that Laville had used a truckload of expletives, swear words and bad words. Somehow we’re inclined to think that they were just all expletives, aka four-letter words.

But anyway, Douglas divined from this rude interaction the following: “We have to be conscious that we can be hurting other people’s feelings.”

It does not take a rocket scientist to determine that this argument is flawed. Let’s take the dog fight between Laville and James as an example.

Laville uttered a handful of unprintable words (they’re not really unprintable, of course, but we will leave the expletives out of this piece) directed at James.

Did those words hurt James’ feelings? Of course they did not.

The effect these words (something like: If I had my ff-ing gun I would ff-ing shoot you and ff-ing kill you) had on James was that he felt threatened. He really thought, at least for a moment, that Laville would really go for him and put his words into practice. We don’t suspect for a moment that James went home thinking, jeez, that guy hurt my feelings real bad. If he ever does that again ….

The truth about these verbal outbursts is that they say everything about the one who is articulating them and absolutely nothing about the one on the receiving end.

Little children have an excellent defense mechanism against pestering bullies. If someone calls them names, they have a tendency to respond with: “What you say is what you are yourself.”

There is a deeper truth in this statement. Children are uninhibited and because of this they also have fine-tuned antennae for the truth.

So if we accept that the words people speak say volumes about who they are (and they do) those words will never be able to hurt someone else’s feelings.

There is therefore no reason to get excited when somebody starts throwing four-letter words at someone else. A fine example is the way someone on an internet gossip blog called MP Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce this week a female dog, thereby masking the word the writer really meant – bitch. But even the gossip site would probably have censored that word.  The MP reacted to this statement that she apparently considered an attack on her person. In reality, the writer presented her with proof on a silver platter that he (or she) is suffering from low self esteem.

The only one capable of hurting Romain Laville’s feelings is Romain Laville – and he did it in a big way on Monday night. Nobody knows this better than Laville himself.

We obviously do not encourage rough language to get a point across. Just remember: it says everything about the messenger and it does not affect the receiver. Not at all.


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