Swivel eyed loons or, ‘Hey, I resemble that remark!’ 19/05/13

On my recent walk with a talk around the town of my birth I asked the audience to yell out disparaging words for people with a mental malady.

Between us, me and a couple of plants in the crowd came up with quite a few. I’m sure, with just a couple of minutes thought, you could come up with at least 20.

The vast majority of folk though, found themselves paralysed – it’s just not the done thing, is it? I mean, what would people think watching a bunch of people walking behind a guy with a mental health issue calling him names.

When I gathered people around again I asked them how they believed this name calling made me feel.

I think a number were surprised when I said I cared not one jot what people called me.

When I was doing my social work training back in the ’90’s, we found ourselves paralysed on more than one occasion when we had to think about how we had to refer to one minority group or another.

There was a story about one university at the time who had banned the use of the term ‘black coffee’ because of the possible negative racial connotations.

Hmmm.

So let’s say somebody comes up to me and says, ‘Hey Chris, you must be crazy to be walking around the edge of the UK,’ or some such, and I take offence,’How very dare you! I have a bonafide severe and enduring mental malady…how insensitive…’ etc and so on… then I am stopping any dialogue.

This person has tried to talk to me – they’re now thinking ‘Bloody hell, I wish I hadn’t bothered…’

It’s a lose – lose situation.

Names really don’t matter to me. It’s the underlying attitudes that I believe are important.

The unfortunate thing is – attitudes are more difficult to measure – they involve discussion and an exchange of ideas.

Sure we can change the words – just like we did with the introduction of the term ‘special needs’.

Can anyone honestly say that they’ve never heard anyone say that phrase using a ‘funny’ voice?

If I don’t take offence – I can continue to talk to folk – Hell, we can even have a bit of fun.

However….

Most of you probably couldn’t help but notice the news that a leading conservative individual had referred to a bunch (not sure of the collective noun for backbench conservatives) of his colleagues who he believed were pandering to the UKIP hopefuls who were taking a strong stance against Europe and gay marriage as ‘Swivel-eyed loons’.

Have the media piled in stating that this may not be an altogether pleasant term for someone with a touch of lunacy?

No.

Everyone seems to be wetting themselves about how this is causing great division in the Conservative party.

I think we can be in little doubt about the individual who allegedly hurled this insult and his attitude to folk with a mental health issue.

How would you feel if you belonged to a group that had names applied to it that others used as an insult?

My concern is the blatant ambivalence around the media and in parliament regarding this use of language.

No-one seems to have even considered the impact this may have on me and my fellow swivel eyed loons, and/ or the general population.

I find that kind of alarming.

Walk a mile

Chris

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