mid-15c., humain, humaigne, from Old French humain, umain (adj.) “of or belonging to man” (12c.), from Latin humanus “of man, human,” also “humane, philanthropic, kind, gentle, polite; learned, refined, civilised.”*
Yesterday morning at my fave local hangout (Cafe Posto No.19 in Rushcutters), as I was greedily downing my “wake-up-brain” long black and scanning the papers, people around me were of course talking Charlotte Dawson. The owner of Posto asked if, being in the media, I knew her (which I didn’t) and we proceeded to have a brief chat about how sad her death was, how her life seemed plagued with issues etc etc.
When I got back to my computer to do some work, I read Helen Razer’s Bad Hostess entry on Dawson’s death and I was moved. In her no-apologies-and-that’s-why-I-love-her manner, Razer made some really powerful points on the issue – if you haven’t read it, you should. I knew we had a piece by Tanya Levin on Dawson’s death going live mid-morning, and yet after reading Razer’s piece I felt a momentary pang of “should we run this?”
Why? Not because it’s not worthy of coverage or because the piece wasn’t good. Not because I’m a prude and scared to cover issues.
It was out of respect for Charlotte and because I didn’t want TBS to be part of a media game around her death. But knowing what Tanya’s piece was about, and ruminating more on Helen’s, I felt confident this was exactly what Tanya was doing – treating both Dawson’s death and the broader issues around it with respect by trying to make people THINK about what lies behind it all.
As mentioned above, I didn’t know Charlotte, and to be honest I wasn’t even really across most of the really bad shit that was going down in her life. But I know from some of the appalling behaviour I’ve seen (and personally experienced) online that there is now an infinite and ever-unfolding digital landscape where the ugly side of human nature can expose itself and unleash its filthy, hate-spewing, cowardly power over people in an effort to in some way harm them or break their spirit.
My business partner and buddy Alexandra Tselios is only too aware of this – she has been the repeated subject of a hate campaign via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and text – these feral MOFO haters got all their bases covered. And we both find it particularly distasteful that women seem unfairly subjected to this kind of bullying and the mean-spirited bile being vomited out by certain elements of the digital commentariat.
(I could mention “that speech” by a certain former female Australian ex-PM who seemed to cop it quite a bit for being a member of “the fairer sex”, but I don’t need to, right…?)
Cyber bullying is a weak term for this. It is harassment, plain and simple, and although it’s in the digital space its effects are real with even the strongest, most resilient potentially damaged by such.
Let me make it clear.
I’m not moralising. I’m not telling anyone how to live their lives. I’m not even suggesting anything specific about Dawson’s death (although if you read the tweet from her as mentioned in Tanya’s article, it’s hard not to take some inference from how powerful misuse of social media has become.)
I’m just saying treat each other a little better people. Is that so hard?
Think before you take any action that could have spill-on effects you might never have envisaged.
And let’s try and live up to our title as “humans” and instil some sense of humanity in the way we live our lives.
PB*(from online etymology dictionary)