hard shell

Since day one I’ve tried not to be changed by the job in the way so many talk of it. For lots of reasons, if not just because it’s the way I think the world could be a more peaceful place, I’ve tried to remain compassionate, empathetic, giving, believing, reasonable.

I believe I’m still quite fair and I’d like to be able to say I’m quite true to myself. But a thought which has crossed my mind this evening is how my work has hardened me, or how I feel I need to be hardened to do it. That doesn’t only refer to the things I’ll see and have to deal with but the hard environment I work in, the thick skin I think I need to fit in. The jokes I need to make and the innuendo I seem to need to anticipate.

My housemate’s girlfriend recently mentioned me being in someway rude because I jovially said something about a part of a woman’s body which was being overtly sexualised in a film. This after she’d made a comment about it being gratuitous and unnecessary, as if we still needed that pointing out. I immediately thought ‘oh! maybe I’ve been vulgar‘. Then I reassessed and realised that I hadn’t. I would talk about ANY body in that way and it’s important to me to be comfortable with human bodies in their natural state and not to exacerbate the big deal made of nudity. I talked about it with my housemate afterwards and he said something along the lines of ‘you weren’t inappropriate. She masks her insecurity with a false feminism.’ (I might have to touch on that second point another day but, of note – i have found some significant contradictions and hypocrisies in her ideas around women/ gender.) From our conversation i thought this was a false sense of or requirement for prudishness and ‘modesty’ and picking holes in more sound women particularly around her partner. I don’t know. But those few exchanges made me wonder if I’d be as outspoken as I can be if I worked in a different environment.

Over new year I got to spend some real time with wonderful humans but also someone held dear to my dearest and I really enjoyed a few days of getting to know someone new to me. Listening to an individual who seems so true to their own sensitivity, positivity and shares their feelings for other human beings so fully has been encouraging and possibly highlighted one way I might not be as true to my self as I had been prior to becoming quite embedded in my role. It’s a big cliche, but it made me see a fence I might put up to prevent any weakness being seen.

(Not for my love, my walls are built from straw for him.)

What I perceived was someone who lives by their values so well and doesn’t refrain from reaching out even if it’s at risk of a less than ideal response. I think what I’m trying for is a bit more heart on sleeve and less mouth in the gutter.

I think we can give ourselves a free ride sometimes especially if we can bend our day (and night) jobs into something that might seem like ‘helping people’ more than it does. I wonder often about complacency, in what is so often decided to be a subjective and relative environment. It may actually be that it’s quite objective, and you’re either helping a little or a lot but I suppose it depends what cause you think you’re helping towards.

Authenticity is important and facing things head on is important to me. Not shying away from reality, having the grit to take it, whether in ones stride, or with a bit of work to get past a challenge.

One of the parts of my job I struggled with initially was the bravado required, because i was (and hope i can still be) too honest and clear in my position and intentions. I was pleased about this, pleased I couldn’t fool someone that i was completely confident in what i was doing when i simply wasn’t. Making people think i’ve got the balls at work does help with the work, but separating that from the sensitive, careful individual i hope to remain away from that world is vital.

Someone new recently thought i was a Sergeant in a briefing because i appeared knowledgeable and confident, but it’s just because it happened that I had important information to share that day and a slight insight into a discussion point that other’s didn’t have. But it shocked me, because inside i feel so fresh myself, looking up in awe at some of my colleagues.

The brash assertiveness I’ve seen at times is not how I wish to be. I can feel it sometimes in my quickness to make a joke or to pick up an easy dig, to be sarcastic or cynical when there are other softer options available which others who don’t roll in a daily environment like mine would jump to sooner.

I don’t feel like I’m putting myself down here – I’m seeing room for improvement inspired by real people. Using others as examples to galvanise and be honest and open and hoping. Not growing a vulgar outer shell to weather one environment and then being unable to lose that for the more tender parts of life.

Despite the purposeful (or not) encouragements of my colleagues to remain true to myself and not let the job change me, it’s a tough break to hold off without some reflection. Looking to other human beings helps me to see that although I feel I give people chances, the benefit of the doubt, try to be kind, that doesn’t mean that I’m truly opening up, or that I’m making days as easy as they can possibly be for those around me.

There’s always room for more tenderness in the savagery.

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Looks like the end of the world…

“sore back! sore feet! a ragtag army and we’re sick in the heat. we’re not pretty and we’re not rich, we’re gonna have to fucking work for it. it’s our life! we do what we choose! black jeans. black shirt. black shoes. mom and dad still don’t approve.”

Not sure Modern Life is War meant to be writing about ‘the job’ but it just fits too well.

Tragic deaths with police presence.

The reaction to the latest incident in the U.K. involving the death of a young black man having had contact with police is troubling me.

There appears to be two sides to this. One is an apathy apparent from one half of the population (unacceptable) and the other is what I see as potentially misguided anger.

I only know what the media are choosing to tell us but from those details alone it strikes me as not as simple as a story more common in the US which is ‘young black male killed by white police’.

Attacking police because a man died having attempted to swallow (what is highly likely to be) evidence of an offence while being chased by police doesn’t make any sense. I cannot comment on the actions of officers involved and that is a variable that should I know more might change views on this specific situation.

It is unfortunate and catastrophically sad that this human has died but possibly sadder is the way that generations now of young males see that organised criminal activity is the only way to live their valuable lives and that at various points along the way, (charting pivotal historical and policy points would be long) it is our society which has created this cage continuously ensnaring young men.

Crimes like dealing drugs (comparatively lucrative to these young men in the face of some of their other options) also carry a severe enough penalty (at least 3 years inside) that it’s worth it to these young men to fight police and to run and to risk swallowing dangerous objects in order to evade police or the judicial system.

If someone has done nothing wrong they should do exactly as the police in the UK say when being stopped or in some way apprehended. The fact is unless an individual gives them reason to they should not use undue force and if they were to when you have been proven innocent and they’ve been proven wrong they will be held fully accountable for their actions and their information they must have acted on. This is where a lot people don’t see the key differences between US law around police and U.K law. We ARE accountable and the anger directed at U.K. Police sometimes is based on events in the US. Having complied with initial fast time requests of police (e.g. Stop, show me your hands) if they want to they should say absolutely nothing to police. It is their right and sometimes the smartest thing.

I suppose one of my concerns about the activity from those who are enraged by this latest incident is that it seems to be used as an excuse to relight the flame and to riot. (Another time I might rant about riots and how as well as a just and deserving cause voiced by usually unheard people, they also drag in all the other disaffected young men and women who do things like go to hardcore gigs because they like to punch people with no repercussions but don’t actually like the music and greedy people who want to make the most of the situation and loot).

Black lives matter. But this movement shouldn’t need an ill-fitting example as an excuse to make a stand and protest. This specific incident doesn’t strike me as one to start riots about and it shouldn’t be against the police this time. The fight needs to be taken to policy makers and government. It needs to reach further than a molotov thrown at police ever could.

I know there are some bad police. And I know there are some bad people. I know not all criminals are bad people. I know not all people police have suspicions about are criminals.

I will always try to deal with a situation with the wider community relationship with police in mind. The tension in this relationship is one of the reasons an austerity based conservative government concerns me. Less officers mean a changing dynamic and one which limits any ability to keep peace by policing by consent.