This week, Stephen Fry has been called out as an all round bad guy when he, according to the Guardian, exclaimed the following when talking about the self pity he believes that motivates individual requests for trigger warnings…
“It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place, you get some of my sympathy, but your self-pity gets none of my sympathy because self-pity is the ugliest emotion in humanity.
“Get rid of it, because no one’s going to like you if you feel sorry for yourself. The irony is we’ll feel sorry for you, if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just grow up.”
Stephen Fry, what a…
I always knew he was a…
I mean, with his over privileged background going to school at…
And uni at, well, you know…
Remember when he bailed out of that west end play because he had…
What about the BAFTA’s where he called that poor woman a ‘bag lady’?
Don’t get me wrong, I always liked him in…er…thingy…although he wasn’t so good in…that other one…
Imagine being under that much public scrutiny? Being anointed the president of Mind, and, as such, the King of the crazy folk…?
Have you ever said anything that might cause others to say, ‘I say, steady on…’ ?
Or something that has led you to say, ‘Shit, I said WHAT???’
Have you ever thought, ‘Fuck it, that’s it, I’m finished with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Friends Unrequited…I just need to get away from it all…?’
This may not come as a great surprise to many of you, but this isn’t the first time Mr Fry has spoken publicly on his opinion on self pity.
Take a look here
And yet, somehow these seem to have slipped past the scrutiny of the wider media. Or, at least, my scrutiny.
So, why is his, consistent if anything, opinion of such great interest now?
It never ceases to entertain me, the media’s, ‘Hey, we’re just reporting a story,’ view of events; the bland denial that their reportage impacts the very story they’re writing about…
What’s happened here?
It would appear that, and please correct me if I’m off beam here, Stephen Fry is having a go at a group of people who, he understands, are demanding that any potentially challenging media, written, filmed or sung – that, he claims, includes the word, ‘rape’ – whatever, must be prefixed with a ‘trigger warning’ to protect them from pain.
These ‘demands’, he would be appear to be saying, somehow make a mockery of our great history of literature, from Shakespeare to Dickens, censoring our favourite scenes of wholesale slaughter and murder, because of self-pity.
How he conflated ‘trigger warnings’ with ‘self-pity’, well, I’m buggered if I know.
What does this tell us?
Well I, for one, wouldn’t be rushing out in the hope of gaining his sympathy.
Is he right?
Is he a prick?
Are these attributes mutually exclusive?
Ok, it’s time to get all walkamiley on him. Let’s start with the Walkamile fundamental…the cornerstone of this here…
People are fabulous.
Bit trite? Vacuous? Patronising?
Fuck off! People are fabulous.
Join me on this mental ramble as I bump into Mr Fry, the writer, the raconteur, the actor, the…the…
Anyway – we get into conversation – he offloads the above…what are my first thoughts?
Let’s start with self pity.
From my ‘knowledge’ of the man, I ‘know’ that he has almost died of self pity a number of times.
Regardless of his achievements, he, according to his own accounts, has reached that lowest of all low points, where he’s felt his contributions to the world are, at best, meaningless, and/ or that he’s a burden on all of the people he loves.
He hates self pity because it’s the attribute in himself that he despises the most.
Sure, it’s a hypothesis, but it’s a point of engagement, of conversation, an attempt to understand where on earth he can be coming from with all this.
Quite simply, I’d ask him.
On the subject of ‘trigger warnings’ and hordes of self pitying er, self pitiers…
Where are they?
I don’t think I know anyone who demands trigger warnings at the beginning of…anything really.
That said, I must hold my hands up and say I’ve put warnings at the start of many, well, at least a few, things.
Why would I do that?
Fear I might cause someone pain?
Is this misplaced? Patronising? Prejudiced? Stigmatising?
Bugger, yes it is. And, er, maybe it isn’t.
Why do large mental health organisations put up trigger warnings?
For all the above reasons, I’m guessing.
So why should he get into a lather about these, seemingly benign, warnings?
I don’t know, and neither do you.
He might see them as an attack on this great British way of life from which he gains huge comfort – he, apparently, loves to show off his academic prowess as he recalls these ancient scripts that are so dear to him…
Or, he might see this care, compassion and concern from others as despicable for other reasons…
Perhaps he hates his own vulnerability so much that, when kindness is offered, he despises that too, in a maelstrom of confused emotions?
How does respect for someone translate into their self pity?
I certainly don’t.
I know one thing though.
How do I know this?
Because everyone I’ve met on this grand Walkamile tour so far has been just that – fabulous.
But he said…
Yes, he might well have said…
And, good God, yes his words were painful, prejudiced, attacking, disparaging, disgusting and unacceptable in equal measures.
Especially for someone in his position…
As Voltaire probably didn’t say
“I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
I’m a big fan of free speech, partly because it allows others the right to challenge me, sorry, my words, when I spout something ridonculous.
What’s the difference? Me? My words?
You? Your words?
If I were to meet the man, I’d like to think I could separate the person from his behaviour.
If I hold in my mind the prejudice – a preconceived belief – that he’s fabulous, I’d see these misplaced and hurtful words as out of character for him.
I guess my argument is somewhat weakened by the fact that he’s spouted this before – but I still see this as the tip of an unknown iceberg.
So, Mind are going to have a word with him? I’m guessing (there’s that word again) that they have known him to say things like this before.
So why are they showing their righteous indignation now?
It’s funny, the thing that’s bugged me most in this latest Frygate incident isn’t his words – it’s the standpoint of this huge organisation that they’re going to have a word with him.
I’m pretty sure that Mind, as an organisation, know, or have access to, approximately a bazillion folk, give or take, who’ve experienced sexual abuse who’d be more than happy to have that word with Mr Fry.
Why don’t they, why can’t they, facilitate such a meeting where he’s held to task by one of the very people, me included, who’ve been disriminated against by his words, and who are, quite rightfully distressed and/ or pissed off?
They could film it.
Alternatively, they could have a private word with him, and he’ll apologise/ resign/ walk away from it all in due course.
And nothing will change.
People’s views will continue to be polarised, and large organisations will continue claim to talk on behalf the poor people they say they’re protecting, as such disabling folk more than they were in the first place.
It’s time to change that particular status quo.
I was sexually abused as a child.
I feel the impact of all kinds of media – yes, I’m triggered by stuff, yes, sometimes I’ll dissociate as a result of something I read, see or hear – and I’ve told people time and again, as someone who calls himself a mental health campaigner, that’s a hit I’m willing, if not happy to take.
But that’s my choice.
In an ideal world, I’d prefer to be given the heads up, because there are some times when I’m more able to take that hit than others.
And I’m guessing, there’s that word again, there are many folk like me.
To be singled out with this vitriolic discrimination as someone who’s self pitying, frankly, pisses me off.
To have a huge mental health charity promising to ‘have a word’ pisses me off more, especially when I and/ or the bazillion people in my position could have that word with more credibility and validity.
So, Stephen, Mr Fry, President of Mind, I’d be delighted if you’d take the time to have a chat with me, or someone like me, to start to clear up this sorry affair.
Personally, I’d start by saying,
‘I don’t want your sympathy.’
‘Empathy would be nice, but sympathy? No thanks.’
Walk a mile