Google mail is already the bane of my life. I can’t bear it. Now I hate it a little more. Because what is cruelly staring at me from the right side of my webpage is an advert that exclaims, ‘GET ACTIVE! STOP BEING PASSIVE! Boost your self-esteem and get your life moving!’ Now, while I’m sure this was an ad for some awful piece of gym equipment (I didn’t click, couldn’t be bothered, natch.) it really irritated me. Passive aggressively, of course.
Because you see, I have long being derided for my passivity – that is, most people have never seen me shout, or lunge at someone or throw a plate/vase/ornate picture frame at some poor jilting lover. Ergo, passive wet blanket. Don’t tell her you’re annoyed at her, (hushed whisper) she can’t handle arguments, (more hushed) she can’t handle confrontation.
I did a little googling and there are countless guides on the internet to help rid you of your passivity.
“Do you often find yourself wanting to do something, but never having the courage to just do it? Are you tired of feeling too weak to do even the most basic things? Does it seem that something always stops you from doing what you want, or you’re always waiting for someone or something to give you a “push” before you act?”
Great. So I am destined to be too weak to do even the most basic things. Is that, really, where passivity gets you? Too frail to pick your bony carcass off the sofa to get some nourishment in your poor, emaciated, passive body, too flaccid even to change the TV channel, and forced to watch people who are very clearly not passive spill their guts on Jeremy Kyle?
Being passive is, apparently, a very, very bad thing. In writing there are countless exercises for obliterating the passive voice from your writing, apparently using the passive voice is a common way to say less than people want to read or hear. Being passive in finding love or plotting your career path or driving in London is, I admit, probably not a very wise idea. But, I am slightly sick (note to self: always use a modifier, wouldn’t want to be too polemical) of passivity being seen as the domain of shrinking wall flowers, or pale, meek people with squeaky voices and a spectrum of allergies.
What has long annoyed me is not that people have yet to see me go all hulk on their ass and scream the house down, but that my apparent inability to raise my voice in an argument is seen as a weakness. I won’t be dragged into an argument that I don’t care about – if I am, I probably won’t shout. Patronising it may well be, and very annoying for the other person involved, of course (try it, calm voices drive shouters absolutely round the bend) but weak? I don’t think so.
It’s not that I can’t handle confrontation. Mostly, I just don’t really care. People argue about the most inane things. They see it as their right to confront anyone and everyone over the tiniest thing that might have annoyed them. Worse, they’ll wait, and ponder over it and turn it into something they just can’t walk away from. They find you. They need to talk.
And what I find bizarre is that apologising, for whatever insignificant thing you might have done wrong, straight away doesn’t make things better. It makes things worse. They don’t want an apology; they want their ‘right to be heard’. Apologising is seen as the get out of jail free card, but worse, you’re cheating them out of their argument. And that, THAT is the worst thing you could possibly do.
But you see the passive patrol see our ability to walk away from a fight or say sorry when we’re wrong, when it just doesn’t bother us in the tiniest bit, as a great strength. Look at the morons on Big Brother: ‘I always speak my mind me, I’ll let ’em know when they’ve annoyed me… don’t you worry, I’ll just let ’em have it! No holding me back!’ When they get into a fight, over the last piece of loo roll or who peed in the shower or who left rich tea biscuit crumbs on the sofa, they look utterly ridiculous. But speaking your mind obviously equals ridiculous confrontation and that means shouting and shouting obviously equals asserting your authority.
Yes, if someone had punched me in the face, or walked in on my best friend straddling my boyfriend or maliciously set fire to the sole copy of a hand written essay, due to be handed in immediately, then yes, I would probably raise my voice. I would probably get a flash of the mean reds, and because they don’t happen all too often – trust me, they can be quite scary.
But, BUT – not if you’ve annoyed me slightly, or your tone of voice is wrong or you’re a bit late to meet me. And maybe that’s more fool me. But in films, the people that run in with all guns blazing are, inevitably, the people that end up in a big smoosh of ketchup somewhere near the opening credits.
And when, near the end, the calm, collected good guy goes mental because the bombs about to go off and kill thousands of people and WHERE IS IT DAMMIT, WHERE IS IT? That’s when people pay attention. And it’s much scarier.
The same can’t be said for the poor, speak my mind brigade in Big Brother, having a screaming match over who peed in the shower. Now that’s just entertainment.