Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Behind The Glass

I saw an advert on the telly the other day. As with most adverts, I can't tell you what it was for, but I remember the essence of the message.

Broadly, the advert in question created a scene of a typical busy walkway where people passed one another, presumably on their way to work etc. They weren't acting normally, however. They were aggressive and violent, abusive and rude: uneccessarily so, caricaturishly so. It was a scene of normal people acting obnoxiously. 

It alluded to the way many people behave when they are driving in their cars, the old road-rage thing. We are all guilty. Well, I am! It is that sense that we have a free hand to say or do things that we perhaps wouln't concieve of doing in person with the person concerned - and all because we are sitting in our cars. I am altogether more impatient when I am driving, even when I am not in a hurry. I do shout more, and I mostly remember to close my window first. Sometimes, I even remember that I am wearing a collar, but have been a couple of times when I have forgotten! Not good ...

The same thing happens with emails and telephone conversations. In my 'last life' in retail, people would talk to me like I was snail ooze, abusive and nasty at times. My wife recieves emails that are like that from others in her profession  which are along the same lines. Once, I had had enough, and a man who had threatened to hit me with a baseball bat once was invited into my store to do just that. He came in with said bat but seeing I was a frowning fairly broad grumpy six-foot man, and he was a tubby little oaf, he suddenly became the model of reconciliation. In the end he apologised, I told him it was fine, and the issues were resolved (like it was my fault the carpet fitters were all snowed in, I ask you!). Another person once offered me the benefit of their wisdom (their sign language was very compelling) behind their steering wheel - until I stopped and got out of my car to ask for clarification. There wasn't one - only an 'well, I was only saying....' type of comment. 

I wonder why we do that. We all do. We are altogether stronger behind the glass. It happens in church life too. The relative 'safety' of a church community means that people feel able to do and say things that outside, they just wouldn't. Learning from this, and in my own level of guilt, I will try to deal with people behind glass in the way I would do so without it.


  1. Perhaps the glass is necessary, like the thin veneer of civilisation that stops us from killing each other in the competition for food etc (see any post-apocalyptic drama).
    I had never thought of the Church Community in that way, though. But it explains a lot. I have always said that the two most thankless jobs in the world are editing the Parish Mag and organising the Summer Fayre. Oh boy, do you get informed of your shortcomings if you do one of those. And if you offer your critics the opportunity to demonstrate how it might be done correctly, then you are the one accused of rudeness.
    Harvest Supper this weekl - that's another one. Hard hats on!

  2. Excellent. Mob behavior under a unique metaphor. Made me think. Thank you.

    As someone else paraphrased Lord Acton's famous quote,
    Lack of consequences corrupts; Absolute lack of consequences corrupts absolutely.



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