A few too many drinks and Invercargill’s newest anti-celebrity has found his prejudice broadcast to the world.
I watched that video in which Invercargill man Greg Shuttleworth abuses Tariq Humayan, a taxi driver who deserves a medal for professionalism and patience under fire. In a booze-heavy rant, Shuttleworth tells Humayan that he has no right to be living in New Zealand. I bet Shuttleworth has had a bad week since the video was published.
I lived in Invercargill for four years and loved it. It’s a warm hearted place. The only prejudice I ever saw was aimed at Aucklanders.
We sat in a restaurant at the very end of the very last highway, in Bluff, where a crazed Southland woman cackled with increasing hysteria at the foolishness of Aucklanders who wait in traffic all day. She seemed slightly unhinged, but probably had a point from her own perspective.
It’s human nature to assume that you are normal and that everyone else is weird. It’s natural to be a bit fearful of people who inhabit different spheres of life than your own.
I harbour loads of secret fear and suspicion myself. For instance, I am secretly fearful of people who are taller than me, which is pretty much everyone.
I am secretly suspicious of men who wear moustaches. It’s not the 80s anymore. I judge them accordingly.
I am secretly fearful of restaurants and everyone in them. As a weary parent I have forgotten how to go out for dinner. Choosing a new place to eat should be fun but it’s out of my comfort zone. I feel like someone who doesn’t belong there.
I am secretly fearful of surfers who invade the Mount over summer. They’re all cooler than me and they look like they’re taking over the place. I want them to go back to wherever it was they came from.
I am secretly fearful of teenagers. I don’t understand them at all. I recognise my own teenaged self in their cocky obliviousness, but their world has moved far beyond my ability to relate to it. I’d prefer them to disappear until they are ready to be more like me.
I am secretly fearful of mechanics. They spend all day with grease rubbed in to their fingers and they talk about things like carburettors that I don’t really understand. I am sure they secretly judge me when I turn up with my soft little hands and my inability to diagnose a simple car problem. I secretly judge them back.
I am secretly fearful of aging tradesmen who drink a lot of beer. The kind of guy Greg Shuttleworth seems to be, the kind of guy who is probably at home at the TAB or the golf club bar, but who doesn’t know much about Star Wars or poetry. I immediately make assumptions about that kind of person.
Whenever I encounter someone else’s world, if it is not in my own comfort zone I usually start with a modicum of fear. From there I have to work my way up to acceptance. Ultimately I have to find a way to enjoy the difference.
I don’t actually want to live in a carbon copied Me world. Life is much more interesting with all these other people in it.
Last year blogger Jeff Scalzi wrote that straight white males get to live life on the lowest difficulty setting.
If the taxi driver had been a white male, Greg Shuttleworth’s drunk finger might not have gotten so pointy and rude. Shuttleworth has maybe spent too much time in his comfy white male world. He is suspicious of people who live different lives to him and his fear spilled out with his booze.
Prejudice of any flavour boils down to this: You’re different to me; go away.
We are all a bit fearful of other people at times. It’s a normal feeling. There are grown up ways of dealing with it. Potty mouthed disrespect is not one of them.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times 2 August 2013. Reproduced with permission.