Todays Daily prompt is to join in with Blog action day by discussing what inequality means to me. I am approaching the task by way of free write so here goes.
We face inequality, unfairness, prejudice and discrimination in every walk of life. I hope that I am open minded and that I stand up against inequality whenever I come across it. I suspect that my strong feelings hark back to my growing up in Northern Ireland. Early in life I was aware of members of my family displaying an extreme and totally irrational prejudice against anyone who was a Roman Catholic. This seemed totally bizarre to me. I could understand people hating on those responsible for terrorist atrocities, but grouping everyone of a particular faith for hatred as a result just didn’t seem right.
I left Northern Ireland and joined the Navy at 16 and very quickly became aware of how it felt to be on the wrong end of discrimination and prejudice for no good reason. Just because I had a Northern Irish accent I was labelled stupid, a terrorist and became the butt of a never ending stream of Irish jokes. I was called Paddy, Mick, Bog trotter, Boggy, just about anything except my given name. This was not just by my fellow trainee’s but by instructors and trainers as well. I can’t even begin to explain just how difficult it was to stand up against this. When you stood up against this type of insidious bullying you were labelled a trouble maker and accused of failing to fit in.
When I moved to my first ship this type of behaviour was prevalent. I remember when two black lads were attached to my ship for a period of training. They were from a foreign Navy though I don’t remember which one. The were immediately nicknamed ‘Daz’ and ‘Omo’, the names of two popular detergents at the time. The implication being that they would wash ‘Whiter than White. Even now the thought of people being treated in this way makes me cringe.
After leaving the Navy I joined another male dominated macho culture where despite being in a position of authority I continued to be the butt of Irish jokes and so on. In this job I saw at first hand how badly women were treated in the workplace. it was always assumed that they should be ‘looked after’ by male colleagues. To this day I will never forget the treatment of one female colleague by other members of staff. This lady was in her late 20’s and was jaw droopingly beautiful. One day in the office she was leaning across a desk when a senior colleague came up behind her, grabbed her by the hips and ground his groin against her rear simulating having sex. As you can imagine she was horrified. She stood up to the bully and made a complaint against him. As a result she and her partner were totally ostracised and subject to the most horrific abuse by other colleagues. despite their being numerous witnesses to the actions of the male colleague the complaint was not upheld and the lady eventually had to leave the job because she was so badly treated.
These are just a few examples of how I have witnessed prejudice in action over the years. I have seen people passed over for promotion and be subject of discrimination and bullying as a result of the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexuality, their ethnic origin, their appearance and just about anything else you could imagine.
I spent much of my working life in training roles and spent a lot of time helping colleagues to identify inequality, to stand up against it and to support others who were subject to it. I genuinely believe that I have been able to use my own experiences to raise awareness of inequality issues and as a result have done as much as possible to combat the blight on society.
One issue I often talked about openly was my own mental illness. I am a big guy, 6’2″ tall, even after 37 years of living in England I have a broad Northern Irish accent and I am both forthright and confident. people see me as very strong minded and I guess a little brash. I was always amused to see students reactions when I told them I suffered from mental illness. They seemed unable to grasp the fact that someone strange and confident could suffer so badly from depressive illness. Unfortunately for me my organisation was not great at dealing with mental illness and on many occasions they were unable to support me effectively. This eventually lead to my being retired early as a result of my illness.
Talking about inequality, discrimination and prejudice openly is the only way to widen understanding of it and (in my vision of Utopia) to eradicate it. I hope that through the vast majority of my life I have done this and I hope others will to. It is about understanding the effect your actions have on others. It is not always possible to know that you have offended other peoples sensitivities. Only by raising issues and talking about them in a calm, rational, non-judgemental and supportive way can we educate others and make life in general better for everyone we come into contact with.
So thats my story. Have you faced similar issues? How did you deal with them? Did you feel you were adequately supported? please let me know, I would really like to hear your story.