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Norwich fur furore proves that if we all said less the world would be a better place

PUBLISHED: 17:18 15 January 2019

We've all got a right to express our opinions, like telling a shop to stop selling fur, but James says maybe it would be better if we didnt . Picture: Abigail Nicholson

We've all got a right to express our opinions, like telling a shop to stop selling fur, but James says maybe it would be better if we didnt . Picture: Abigail Nicholson

Archant

Everyone seems to have an opinion about everything - but if we all piped down a bit and said less, the world would be a better place, argues James Marston

I’m not going to mention Brexit – I daren’t these days anyway – but as my grandmother used to say, “I can think what I like”, and I don’t know about you but I’m getting heartily fed up of it all.

Instead I’m going to talk about something different – fur.

The question of whether it is right or wrong to buy and wear has raised its head in Norfolk this week with a protester wrote in chalk “stop selling fur” a shop in Norwich’s Bedford Street.

I don’t have particularly strong feelings on this issue – but I suppose if pressed I think wearing fur probably isn’t all that bad. Where I do take exception is when someone decides they cannot agree to disagree and take matters into their own hands. Writing in chalk on someone’s property – making a protest in this way isn’t well-mannered. The staff at the store have been gracious and said quite sensibly: “As a business we are very respectful of people and their views; we understand that not everybody is going to have the same opinion and that is just how the world works.

“We’re hoping that people will give the same respect to our store as we are giving to them.”

The right way to make a protest is to do so by persuading people not to buy fur – not blame the messenger or the retailer who are just going about their lawful business. I don’t much like the precedence it sets, and history shows us that from small chalk slogans, a slippery path lies ahead.

In Suffolk this week it was also reported that some swans in Sudbury have been chased around by dogs which are off the lead.

A spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary said: “Officers are aware of reports of dogs worrying wildlife in the vicinity of Sudbury Common Land and have spoken to the local ranger to discuss the way forward. Ideally dogs should be kept on a lead and legal owners have a duty to keep their dogs under control in a public place.”

This too, I think, is bad manners on the part of the dog owners – why shouldn’t they keep their dogs under proper control when out and about? It’s bad enough when they worry swans but worse when they run up and worry people who don’t much like dogs in the first place.

We all disagree with each other all the time. We all have to live together too. Our so called “needs” and insistence on the right to express, in more and more strident terms, our inability to consider the other, is creating a community where bad manners thrive.

This is at its most stark in our national political life, as everyone blames with increasing noise the other. It’s as if no-one can listen anymore, change their mind, back down, put others first, or concede their rights or opinions might be wrong, might need to alter, or not get their own way.

Once in a while it is probably a good idea for all of us to to admit we are wrong – at least occasionally, accept the criticism, and not take it all so personally. By the law of averages we won’t be right all the time.

Of course behind the reluctance to admit we might be wrong or the inability to accept we might not deserve our own way is the fear of humiliation. Humiliation is something we all cannot bear. It makes us angry, makes us think about revenge, hushes us up, holds us back... humiliation is a public failure of our perceived self-status, it strikes uncomfortably close to our sense of self-esteem.

So close to our send of self-worth in fact that we let the fear of it close our minds and ears, we allow it to make us lose perspective, we eventually lose our way, and then the very humiliation we fear happens anyway.

I said I wouldn’t mention it but if only we listened in the first place and said a bit less, in chalk or otherwise, then maybe Brexit wouldn’t have happened in the first place, and a way through the mire we have created might be a little easier.

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