Words by Georgia
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect
those of Lot’s Wife or the MSA.
Eavesdropping, snooping, stickybeaking.
These words undeniably carry a negative connotation, and rightfully so. No one wants to admit that they eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. But sometimes, in certain situations, it is unavoidable. So yesterday, when I found myself sitting on a quiet and desolate bus that had a knack for catching every red light that it came across, I had no choice but to listen to two male university students, only a ruler length away from me, speak about their day. I searched my bag in vain to find my earphones, but with no luck, I resorted to listening to their chatter.
The two men, both tall and lanky looked strikingly similar with mousey brown hair and pale skin. They looked fresh out of school and eager to learn, yet their tone of voice and conversation had a tinge of disbelief and disappointment to it. Thankfully, neither of them looked my way as I was forced to listen to their conversation. Luckily, they seemed unfazed by my presence and amongst the gurgle of the tired bus engine, I found myself surprisingly impressed with their conversation.
As these men were complete strangers, I have named them Lewis and Oscar. Their conversation about their class that day went a little like this.
“But what about what happened in class today.” said Lewis (a made-up name for guy 1). shaking his head
“Yeah, you totally were thrown under the bus by that girl. She kept going on and on. Calling you a racist. It was insane listening to it all.” replied Oscar (another made-up name for guy 2).
“I know right. So unbelievable. I even stated that I didn’t even believe in the argument I was arguing as you’re supposed to argue both sides of a topic. But she kept hounding me, calling me a racist. It felt like I was going insane trying to explain myself. Am I going insane?” said Lewis.
“Yeah. You were completely shut down by her. She would not let it go. You may be a little insane though, but not for what you spoke about today,” laughed Oscar.
“The tutor didn’t intervene either. He probably didn’t want to end up being reported on in the news as a ‘racist tutor in support of the anti-immigration movement’. He was totally silent and then directed the class to discuss another topic. Did not even mention the importance of duality within an argument without emotions getting involved.” said Lewis in disbelief.
The bus came to a screeching halt as dozens of car horns started blaring. All eyes momentarily focused on the front of the bus. When all the commotion died down, their conversation continued…
“I still cannot believe I got called a racist today. I’ll add that title to the ever-growing list.” said Lewis, with a shake of the head.
“Yeah, getting called a racist because you argued for anti-immigration. You even made valid points. You aren’t racist for expressing a point of view. You weren’t harming anyone. Plus, Japan has an immigration rate of about 2%. But yeah, that’s beside the point. It’s scary how silent everyone was while you two just went at it…” said Oscar.
“I’m sorry too man, I should’ve shown some support.” added Oscar after some thought.
“Nah, don’t worry about it. I will tread on eggshells next time we talk about anything remotely ‘confronting’. But then again, if I do that, I am just giving in to the extreme people who label anyone opposing their idea as racist or a bigot. It’s a hard one to navigate. I don’t like being called a racist though. Anti-immigration isn’t always a ‘racist’ policy either. You need to think multilaterally. ” said Lewis.
“Agreed. She got so annoyed at you for saying that she was offending you. It’s like of course you are going to get annoyed, you’re being called a racist when you definitely are not. Imagine if you started calling her a racist because she keeps pointing out people’s skin colour…” said Oscar.
I got lost in their conversation and almost missed my stop. I quickly pressed the red button and monkey vined to the bus door. I was both surprised and comforted to hear their open mindedness towards opposing arguments. It appears there has been a shift in mindset over the last few years around the meaning of being ‘open-minded’, ‘progressive’ and ‘socially aware’. People are scared to voice their opinion in fears of being labelled something they are not. The ability to discuss a controversial topic without calling someone a racist, homophobe, bigot or a misogynist seems to be a disappearing art…
As I started on my short trek home, I wondered about the direction in which the world is headed. The world is a sea of grey, and viewing everything as black and white can harshen the waters. Lewis and Oscar know the distinction between being open minded and progressive. However, will their experience with the extreme left of the world ruin their urge to speak up when they go against the perceived majority?
I opened my freshly painted front door and felt a tinge of disappointment that my eavesdropping session had been cut short. Thank you to “Lewis” and “Oscar” for restoring my faith in independent thought, and providing an entertaining conversation to listen to on the only day I have ever left my earphones at home.