Saturday, May 26, 2012

Things I hate …

NOTE: I originally wrote this to a friend. But as an environmentalist, I should really recycle whenever possible, and I hope that the chum in question doesn’t mind me posting something I’d sent them.

This rant arose because I was sitting in one of the airport bars watching a guy eat, and his lack of table manners really bugged me, and one thing led to another and I started writing a list of things that I really hate or drive me up the wall.
Starting with:
(1) Bad table manners. I'm British, and we are a bit particular about etiquette and such, but the table manners of some people... yuck. A student on the field trip recently drove me crazy tearing up his food with his fingers and grabbing meat from other people's plates, so much so that I actually moved tables. I used to live in Hong Kong and there it was considered polite to show you were enjoying you food by eating with your mouth open, slurping and gulping loudly and belching. It used to drive me crazy.
(2) This one is probably because I’m a scientist, but this is a pet peeve - equating a belief or an opinion with the same authority as evidence or facts. To some their belief aliens built the Rocky Mountains has the same value that they are formed by geological processes. Not that beliefs or values don't have their place, but there is a reason why trials are supposed to be based on evidence and not on gut feelings. Surely government decisions or, "shudder", high school curricula be based on the same. Too often these days scientific data is overruled by somebody's opinion of what the 'truth' is. For example, someone’s opinion that climate change or evolution is not happening is held with the same authority as overwhelming scientific evidence.
(3) Hypocrisy. John Stewart's Daily Show video vignettes of politicians contradicting their current strongly held opinions just a couple of year ago, well that really gets under my skin. For example, some of the politicians who recently ranted about religious freedoms for Catholic colleges and contraception, were equally vocal in their complaints about Islamic schools having dress codes and practicing their religious beliefs... This country is supposed to have freedom to practice religion, any religion, whether it be Islam, Judaism, or Wicca, not just Christianity. The daily hypocrisy of Fox news talking heads drives me up the wall. But it's not just hypocrisy in politics or on TV that I hate, but it is the most likely to frustrate me at the moment because it's so blatant and widespread.

(4) I’m a vegetarian. I have been the butt of dumbass comments I get whenever I say I'm a vegetarian e.g. "carrots have feelings too", or "humans are adapted to eat meat" (yeah because we have those 4 inch canines like carnivores do...), or anti-veggie things to get a rise out of me. Vegetarianism is a moral and ethical choice for me. It would be considered to be intolerable to make fun of a Jewish or Buddhist person for their dietary restrictions, but it's ok to give the vegetarians shit for their moral choices. Grrrrr.

(5) Cherry picking from the bible. Using biblical quotes to justify intolerance of homosexuality or other activities/ life choices, while conveniently ignoring adjacent text that also says that effectively women who wear pants, men who have their hair cut, anyone who has clothes made from two types of material, touches a pork scratching or even eating shellfish (Lev 19-16; 11:6-8, 12), are abominations. Getting high and mighty about certain Old Testament prohibitions while simultaneously disregarding Jesus's numerous statements about being kind to the poor, the sick and the ostracized, drives me nuts. It particularly irks me when I see (a) millionaire Christian right politicians trying to dismantle Obamacare and welfare, or justifying tax breaks or exclusions for the rich  - remember the bible also says something about rich men, camels and eyes of needles guys, but moreover St Paul says “If you owe taxes, pay taxes” ( Romans 13:5-7) and it doesn’t get much clearer than that; and (b) politicians or preachers who are on their third or fourth wife, talking about the sanctity of marriage being damaged if homosexuals are allowed to marry (this is a double whammy with hypocrisy above).

(6) Illogical, inflexible and incompetent beauracrats (or airline employees). The bane of my existence at the university - staff minions in the Dean's office who arbitrarily deny requests for course substitutions, which means that students don't graduate on time, or minions in the registrar’s office who rather then look up a course code, just delete the course from the student's transcript, and many, many more. I particularly loathe those that lie to cover up their incompetence, or even worse, who imply that they did everything correct and it is fact you who is incompetent. Linked to that, pretty much anyone who drops the ball and then lies to cover it up. If I drop a ball, or mess up, I try to fess up and apologize (if I have actually dropped the ball - I will dig me heels in if I know I did was what I was supposed to/ the right thing and ball droppage was nothing to do with me).

(7) Lack of perspective. Anyone who says we are in difficult times - we're not, we have it pretty damn good. What just within the last 100 years, in the 1910s, close to a quarter of all Scottish men died in World War 1; 1920s: in the US people were eating shoes because they were so hungry, the flu epidemic that killed more people than World War 1 (5% of the population); 1940s - the “Rape of Nanking”, the Blitz, the Holocaust; 1950s: Mississippi racism, Stalin's pogroms; 1960s: "the great leap forwards" and the "cultural revolution" killed millions. We have it pretty damn cushy. Also, anyone who comes in saying they had "the worst day" - really? Did you find a lump that you thought was cancerous and were rushed into hospital? Were you hit by a car? Did you find out the love of your life was cheating on you (thanks to photos you were sent)? Did you find your run over pet? Did one of your parents die? Those were just some of my "bad days". What about the work colleague who is in chemotherapy, or your friend who just lost their baby? Really shit things happen, and you have to deal with them. Be thankful these things aren’t happening to you, and don't make a drama out of the coffee machine running out of coffee or being 15 minutes late to work - to do so is to actually insult those who are really having a bad day. So yes, lack of perspective gets me hot under the collar. It's very frequent with our cosetted, indulged students at the unibversity. Although when I was a high school teacher, some of my students came from backgrounds and circumstances that involved a lot of really bad days, but they tended to be as stoic as anyone could be.
Linked to this, and although this is something that I don't actually hate, it nonetheless does drives me crazy - people who cannot assess risks properly. For example, people will go to crazy extremes to prevent, for example, the minute risk of a coyote or shark attack, or who refuse to let a child be inoculated, but who will gladly drunk-drive, leave a loaded firearm in the house, or who smokes. Linked to that politicians who put huge resources into minuscule threats due to terrorism (e.g. special anti-terrorist training centers in Noplace, Nebraska) but ignore, or even protect, companies dumping known carcinogens that are prematurely ending the lives of orders of magnitude more people than died in the 9/11 attacks.
That was all terribly therapeutic and cathartic … So what do you hate? What are your personal bugbears. Leave comments …

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