Thank you for your email and for having the grace to apologise for your crass comments last night. I suspect that someone we both love gave you a huge talking to but an apology is an apology. Isn’t it?
Well, no actually. You apologised for bringing up the subject of politics during our pub quiz and then proceeded to reassure me that I am one of your favourite “Nobs” on “Nob Hill” as you called it. Oh dear. That sort of apology is like saying “I’m sorry if I caused you any offence” or “I’m sorry, but….” It’s a mealy-mouthed, weasel-worded distinction that really means, “God, I can’t say anything these days without you taking offence at it. So there you go. I’ll apologise, you touchy, humourless moron, but you and I both know that I’m not really sorry.” It’s not really in the spirit of things, and starts to look somewhat less gracious. But of course, I’ll let it pass as I always do because I don’t want to make a fuss and prolong the unpleasantness for everyone. Heaven forbid that there should be any unpleasantness! I always seem to take this path, despite the grief and turmoil it causes my inner self. I learnt as a tender-hearted child to bear the pain of people’s remarks without comment because standing up for myself risks losing a relationship, a contact, that I continue to value despite the aggravation. So people like you get away with this sort of stuff because I think things are too trivial to make a fuss. This sort of thing gradually, steadily wears me down.
Anyway, it so wasn’t about that. Your “Nob Hill” comment was the least of my worries. I know that I live in a nicer than average area. What you actually called me was a “Socialist hypocrite sipping Champagne on Nob Hill,” which, I think you’ll agree, puts a slightly different complexion on matters. And all because I didn’t agree that Jeremy Clarkson was funny! What else did I say? Why such a tirade? I was truly mystified. You must have been saving that up for a long time. I notice that you didn’t apologise for that.
It’s a bit rich, really, because at the same time you’re angrily calling me a hypocritical Champagne Socialist, other people are busy denouncing me as a right-wing parasite because my husband happens to work for a bank. Which brings with it a whole other load of crass, rude, lazy and totally inaccurate stereotyping. I am bemused that so many people profess to understand my politics better than me, as I’m in a total state of political confusion most of the time, preferring to vote for policies with which I agree rather than parties or personalities. I am increasingly sceptical about tribal loyalties, which makes things far from simple for me at election time. It’s odd, but being insulted by both sides is strangely gratifying and funny, actually.
The truth is, of course, that very few issues indeed can honestly be expressed in terms of absolute rights or wrongs. To me, most things express themselves in a multitude of shades of grey, like an old-fashioned television set. You sort of know what colour something is supposed to be, but it’s always influenced by its opposite colour. Seeking to understand peoples’ motivations does not mean one has to agree with or condone their actions. Trying to understand the grievances of displaced Palestinian youth in refugee camps, for example, certainly does not equate to condoning the 9/11 attacks on the US. Condemning some of the actions of the Israeli government does not mean that one is anti-Semitic. Holding the view that prison serves a rehabilitation purpose and that some prisoners should have the right to a stake in their future by voting in elections does not mean that I am siding with the mugger against the granny. Few things, then, are unaffected by their opposite point of view. Like the relationship between Yin and Yang. That, of course, requires some thought, some imagination, some time in consideration. It requires a mental wrestle with oneself. It can’t be expressed in a soundbite or a newspaper headline. It demands work.
For what it’s worth, the things I consider to be absolutely wrong are racism, sexism, unfair discrimination of any kind and homophobia. And that’s a whole other can of worms. By the way, I was really upset by your parting comment to me last week, exhorting me that “I know you’re an Indian mummy, but try not to push [your daughter] so much.” As if her constant dizziness is my fault because all Indian mums are far too pushy and cause mental illness for their children. Thanks for that A. All the doctors she has seen are mystified, but you know that her problem is all my fault because I’m an Indian mummy.
Do you know what? You shouldn’t worry about bringing up politics in a conversation. I’d be happy to debate with you on any subject you care to choose. All I ask is the open-mindedness that I crave in people and that you seem incapable of providing. I wonder how you can be so sure of things? How do you know, for example, without speaking a word of French, that the French contribution to music is negligible? Have you heard of Ravel? Debussy? Serge Gainsbourg? Edith Piaf? Benabar? You might have forgotten that particular debate but I haven’t. But, you know, why would you need to listen and learn anything when you know it all already? I wish I had your confidence.
Still, I’ll accept your apology in a calmly-worded email reply, and it will all have blown over by next week. And certainly by the next time you come and quaff Champagne as our guest on “Nob Hill.”