Sunday, 28 September 2014

Pathetic Bigots

Pathos & Bigotry: as the twittersphere trembles to the aftershocks of the Independence Referendum, I find myself reaching for these two words with increasing frequency.  I've just checked to make sure: at the time of writing I have yet to call anybody a pathetic bigot on Twitter.  But I have encountered plenty of pathetic bigots in the last few months. In fact I may have been guilty of some pathetic bigotry myself - I'm certainly willing to contemplate that possibility. What about you?


If - like me - when you hear "Ethos, Logos and Pathos" you have an almost uncontrollable desire to say "don't forget d'Artagnan" then a little definitional refresher might help here;

So we can see that whilst referring to someone as pathetic might be interpreted as suggesting they are contemptible, it is equally valid as a way to describe somebody who's behaviour affects the emotion of pity.

Of course suggesting the position somebody holds makes them deserving of your pity might be seen as condescending (which means talking down to someone). As long as you're appropriately offended by my condescension rather than inappropriately offended by your perception of my contemptuousness then we can move on.


Scotland is a country that suffers from significant level of religious bigotry, a bigotry that is unfortunately deeply ingrained in much of our football culture.  This means that to use the term bigot  can often create an inappropriate knee-jerk response. Let's turn to Chambers again;

I was going to illustrate this point with the example of Brian Souter who was shortlisted for Stonewall's "Bigot of the Year" award in 2011 for bankrolling the "Keep the Clause" campaign that urged Scottish voters not to repeal legislation in Scotland forbidding local authorities to ‘intentionally promote homosexuality’ (known as Section 2A in Scotland and Section 28 across the rest of the UK).

I was going to and then I remembered Mr Souter donated £1m to the SNP and was a vocal supporter of the Yes campaign, so I thought using that example might be seen by some as rather pathetic on my part.

So instead let me test the definition of bigot against my own behaviour. I could certainly be accused of being obstinately devoted to a particular set of ideas.  I hope I'm not blindly so and that my musings on this blog are testament to that - but I'm sure some would disagree. But for me the real kicker in this definition is the phrase dismissive towards others.

I can think of little more dismissive towards others than the position taken by those Yes voters who suggest that the firm majority of people who voted No were tricked into doing so, that the election must have been rigged, that No voters lack patriotic pride or don't care about poverty and inequality in our society.

In my last blog post (The Sovereign Will of the Scottish People) I wrote

  • "false prospectus complaints aside, the absolute size of the Yes vote shows that many in our society feel any change at any cost would be better that their current lot.  That should - that must -  give us pause."
What I hope that statement illustrates is my belief that we mustn't be dismissive towards the concerns of those others who voted Yes.  I would hope that similarly those who voted Yes would not be dismissive of the concerns and convictions of those of us who voted No.

So the easiest way to avoid being a pathetic bigot is to remember that we can disagree strongly with others' opinions, we can argue that some of them may be ill-informed or misled, but we should never dismiss their concerns.

Unless they are simply being pathetic bigots, in which case we should just feel sorry for them. 

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