I’ve been chatting to this guy online for a couple of weeks now. It’s interesting to chat to these various random international people of whom I’d never actually cross paths with if it weren’t for the medium of online chatting. Such a medium poses an alternative for me to be further analytical about who I am, how I react to certain people, in what ways I seek attention, and how other people communicate too, past the typical parading of their schlong.
The latest guy, called Tom, from Poland, of early thirties, engaged my attention through an immediate depth of intelligent conversation. We haven’t really stopped talking and it’s been quite intense. This is not, for me, a romantic connection, but it’s surely a fascinating one.
He, quite simply, is the opposite of me and no clearer had that been than when the topic of religion arose. Now I’m an open minded guy, I support freedom of speech even if I disagree with the opinion being made – that is a right as a human.
I told Tom about how I offer a homestay, that is a place for international students to stay and be supported and guided in their chosen foreign country of study. When he queried where the student who is staying with me now is from and I replied Saudi Arabia, his face showed a very evident amount of disgust. His lip curled up, like Elvis Presley’s would have done, and snarled, joining his frown and negative body language.
From this started a debate of why he so opposed Muslims. All Muslims. The thing that I’m overly sensitive about in this debate is my own experiences of having been on the receiving end of such stereotypical prejudices because of the colour of my skin. I am not Muslim, I am Sikh, yet I’d still, in my old mining town community, be on the receiving end of racial abuse, at an age where I wasn’t able to understand people’s fears and ignorance and I wasn’t able to understand what was so different about me. I don’t seek sympathy or pity, those experiences made me stronger, I suppose they made me mature a little bit quicker than I should have, ultimately they aroused my interest in dispute and made me seek out a new life in a bigger city where such viewpoints weren’t common.
Tom has really challenged my tolerance of such views. I know that he is a nice guy, he’s sweet and works hard and isn’t racist. I feel like he’s misguided and is following the status quo in his country, Poland, that hasn’t had the same kind of mass immigration as Britain has had. He argued my points and my affinity to unity and one race, but he put across some pretty strong opinions bred by fear. I told him we have two core emotions, fear and love, and that his opinions are bred by fear, possibly from his local media and general use of Muslims to scapegoat wider problems or even worse, cover up what’s really going on.
He didn’t let up and I’m not really sure he understands why I was so opposed. I mean, we are opposites, from his uber structured way of thinking to my flailing, wispy, so called arty mind, to his focus and grit to my dream-like thoughts, to his harsh blunt opinions to my honest but softly approached manner of opinion. None of those things bothered me, it is not the differences that I’m so bothered about, and I respect his honesty. I celebrate difference. I love being able to talk and learn from people different to me, they may have something vital to teach me that I need to acquire to push me through life.
But, he didn’t quite understand that the reason I was so guarded on the issue was that stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, intolerance and ignorance run deep in my past. You never really know how much something shaped you until it’s thrust back in to your consciousness.
It has posed an interesting debate and I have observed my own way of responding to him. I don’t want to change his opinion, that’s not my job to do, but I did want to make clear to him how such opinions could have an affect on somebody else without his conscious knowledge. I think if he’d have known it would have got such a response from me, he would have absolutely steered clear, because he likes my “friendship” or company.
Interesting though, people.