This month over on my website I've been having a bit of a rant! I must say I've found it quite therapeutic and it got me thinking about how, we British, are brought up to be oh so polite and yet we are great at ranting! Maybe it's because we are so polite, (I mean we queue for goodness sake, they don't do that on the continent) that we also feel the need to let off steam in print, on blogs, on our soapboxes. It is part of our culture to express our opinions in sometimes furiously hilarious ways.
I love The Times letters; Disappointed of Dulwich; Incandescent of Islington; Furious of Fulham. I always have a good giggle at Speakers corner and watching politicians, notables and "experts" apoplectic with rage on Question Time is somewhat cathartic. The British are often referred to as having a "stiff upper lip" but that doesn't mean we are lacking in passion. Passion is good, in business it gets things done; in life, it adds variety, colour and excitement. Now I'm not suggesting we spend all our waking hours being passionate, that would become rather exhausting. Simply, that a world of grey is very dull and the love of eccentricity, difference and being passionate about what you believe in is important.
What gets your goat?
So, what annoys you enough for you to express an opinion? In my case, as an ex financial advisor and business owner, the red tape around health and safety is one of my pet peeves. I'm not saying it isn't important we keep people safe, clearly it is, but when it extends to stopping the simple pleasure of a conker fight I despair. Another of the areas that makes me see red is poor customer service, we've all been on the wrong end of that.
I really don't understand this as a business decision; it is clearly bad for business so why do companies treat their customers so badly sometimes?
Opinions that cross over into political correctness
It is one of the upsides of living in a democracy that we can express our opinions, but sometimes these viewpoints offend others. However, I do feel that the term "un-pc" has become somewhat misused by those who don't seem to understand why the term came about in the first place. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, political correctness is:
"conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated"
I'm all in favour of eliminating racist, sexist, gender phobic and anti-religious language that offends others but am a little puzzled as to how certain actions are regarded as "un-pc" when they are simply upsetting to some. Advertising is heavily regulated yet it uses shocking imagery to make a point. My talk on the train crash is uplifting but starts with pictures of post-crash and some of my injuries- upsetting, yes, but politically incorrect? Apparently one young woman in one of my audiences felt it was "un-pc".
When did reality become "un-pc"? Maybe the peeve here is the lack of understanding of language where we misuse common popular phrases because we can't be bothered to find out what they really mean.
Should you express your opinions or keep quiet?
Having a good rant every now and then is quite a stress relief, which is fine as long as you don't hurt anyone with your views. However, it is more than that. Ranting against bad service, injustice, poor behaviour, laziness and bad political judgments is a service to society. Nothing bad ever changes until people speak up. There is a quote attributed to various people in various forms; I like the one said to have been from Edmund Burke.
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Doing nothing is often easier, but that means those who are doing something bad are never challenged. Maybe writing a letter to The Times is a passive form of action, but it is action and it provokes thought and discussion amongst its readers. So, the next time you see red about something- maybe a good rant could change the situation.