This is a blog which has been building in my head for a long time now. I’m going to talk about bullying at work, racism, homophobia, snobbery, and anything else which pops into my head while I’m at it.
Years ago, in 1997, I worked for a Council where I was really badly bullied. During that time I had a nervous breakdown, which involved crying, a lot, in a little heap on the floor. I was actually considering smashing my car into a wall because I’m just not brave enough to commit suicide any other way. Fortunately, though, my doctor was helpful, kind and supportive, and when he diagnosed me with asthma at the same time as the depression, he put asthma as the cause of the absence, rather than depression.
This was because I was not welcome where I worked. Everybody expected somebody else to get the job, somebody who already worked there, and who was junior to me. Nobody else on the team had children, and for some reason this was also a reason for resentment. I was excluded from conversations, regularly ignored when asking for help, nobody picked my phone up when I was out, so schools couldn’t contact me, and I was deliberately excluded from meetings, which I mostly discovered by chance. The other thing was that I would get up to make a cup of tea or coffee, ask if anyone wanted one as well, and they would all say no. Immediately I had made my cuppa, somebody else would get up and make them all a drink. Finally, we all used to have a small section on a whiteboard where we wrote our appointments. I wrote mine on the day before, so that if I had six schools to get round, I could go to one before going into the office. Regularly I would find my appointments erased, and the day I left, I found my name erased at the beginning of the day, as if to say “f*ck off, bitch”.
When I had the breakdown, I was off sick for six weeks. Nobody phoned. Nobody sent me a card. There had been somebody else on the team off with stress, who received cards, flowers, the lot. When I got back to work, nobody asked how I was. The schools did, the school staff were lovely. I had phoned my boss every time I went to the doctor, which was every two weeks, to tell him how much longer I was signed off for.
I was absolutely furious when I got back to work. I slammed around, didn’t tell anybody anything, didn’t bother saying “good morning” because I was always ignored anyway, didn’t offer to make them drinks – and my boss, bless him, asked me to be nicer to them, because, he said, “I was lowering myself to their level”. My response was “you are joking, aren’t you”, but he wasn’t.
How is it ok to treat people like this? when I left, lots of other people, in different sections of the same department, said they knew what had been going on, because they’d heard the team bitching about me. I should have gone to my union rep, but had no idea who that was, and anyway, had no strength to fight.
Anyway, I only had to work there for 10 months, then got a much nicer job, at a much nicer council, where I worked happily for five years until I was medically retired.
I’m fairly sure all the problems arose because they didn’t want a stranger from another area getting the job their friend wanted. And anything else about me was just another irritant. I heard somebody once (the ringleader, in my view) complaining bitterly that my children phoned every day to tell me they were safely home from school. Apparently this was a Bad Thing. I was working 20 miles away from home, and I needed to know they were all right. I don’t care what colleagues thought, my children were much more important to me than they were.
Now then. Why does anybody care what colour anybody’s skin is? why? we all came from Africa originally, and we’re only pale because we live in the northern hemisphere. That’s no great achievement, really. It’s much harder to live in Africa, where the weather is unforgivingly hot, than it is to live in northern Europe. Being white is no big deal. Being a different colour from somebody else, whether you’re pale brown, dark brown, whatever, is just no big deal. And why, then, if it is a big deal, do white people spend such a long time ruining their skin and health trying to get browner? I just don’t get it. It’s wrong, unfair, childish, and just horrible to see racism in practice.
Here’s another thing that gets my goat. In this country, in the UK, we almost have a caste system. There are the very rich people who have inherited their wealth, who look down on the very rich people who have earned their wealth, and they all look down on middle-class people, who, in turn, look down on working class people, who, in turn, look down on the people who have no job, either because they can’t find one, they’re not qualified for the ones that might be out there, or because they have health problems which mean they can’t work.
Our media does nothing to help put people straight on this. In the view of some of the media, mostly the right-wing media, there are “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor”, but most of the poor are poor because they’re just stupid.
In my view, we’re all just people. Some of us are better educated. Some of us are rich, some aren’t. Some people are good at practical things, some people are good at academic stuff, some of us are artistic, and so on and so on. But none of those things make us “better” than others. It makes us luckier, maybe.
Is it not true that at bottom, what we all want is a comfortable house, to be able to afford to keep ourselves and our children fed, warm, healthy and happy? why does it matter if some of us live in great big castles, and some of us in tiny little houses? the only way it matters to me is that it’s grossly unfair – I’m not completely sure of the statistics here, but something like 10% of the population of this country own 90% of the wealth/land. Now, how is that fair? How?
There is enough wealth in the world, owned by the privileged few, to pay off all the debts of the masses. There is enough food in the world to feed us all. But because of the way the “system” works, millions of people go hungry, while a few people live in obscene luxury.
That’s one aspect of wealth vs poverty.
What is equally vile is when rich people look down on people less rich than they are, and make them feel bad about being less rich. That’s just spiteful, mean and unforgivable. There’s almost a “if you do as we do, and do as we say, you could live like we do” attitude amongst the middle classes – but who says anybody wants to live like that? What’s wrong with living your life the way you want to? as long as nobody gets hurt, and everybody’s happy, why not?
I remember being repeatedly told, as a child, that we were “upper middle class” and resenting it completely. So what? why do people have to be divided into “classes”? so that the “class” at the top can look down on and make everybody else feel awful? wouldn’t it be nicer and kinder if everybody was just kind to everybody else? and didn’t make sneery comments about other people’s lives?
In my view, every sort of job is necessary. We really need the refuse collectors – look at Naples where the rubbish piles up, smells, and is a public health hazard. We need shop assistants, hairdressers, beauticians, street cleaners, all the jobs that exist, we need people to do. So why do some people look down on people who do those jobs?
And don’t even get me started on homophobia. Who cares what other people do in bed? who? why? as long as it’s consenting adults, it’s nobody else’s business. And why are people so exercised by the thought of gay marriage? if two people who love each other get married, how does that affect anybody else? why is it anybody else’s business? and don’t quote the bible at me. That’s just a collection of stories, written by various people, hundreds of years after the event, and in most cases, the events were made up anyway.
I don’t understand, and get very cross indeed, when people are nasty to others because they’re different in some way.
I think that’s about it. There’s probably more bubbling away in my head, but I think 1500 words is enough . . .