Saturday, 2 March 2013

Did You Hear?

Amateur performance because I couldn't find the original up on You Tube. Never mind. Bless him.

Today's topic is gossip, and I am here to tell you this bothers me.

I dislike gossip, I try to avoid it, and I can. I live in the middle of nowhere, I work from home, and my social circles are decent people who also tend to avoid it. It's not really an issue in my life right now.

BUT...I have lived in a village, and I know how it works. I didn't like it, but I found it unavoidable, and that was only a mild version.

In many places, in many parts of the world, in rural situations especially, but not only, there is an aspect of culture where gossip is normal and expected. It is only considered bad when it becomes really harmful, and sometimes not even then.

I'm not sure I'm even explaining the importance of it here.

Some years ago a friend bequeathed his book collection to my family, and he had studied sociology in college, so there were a number of books on culture, in various parts of the world. Because I enjoyed these I've frequently bought more. These are deeper than travel guides, you understand, they are serious studies of culture. One of the aspects you just can't miss is how so often they are literally driven by gossip. In some cases there really isn't much else to do, there's no other entertainment. There is work, and there is gossip. Life revolves around this combination. It seems to be enjoyed.

So, while I find it distasteful, I am obliged to acknowledge that I can't pass judgement on those for whom it's a natural, normal, and pleasurable part of life.

And this is where the modern world and the old world crash head-on, isn't it? I am in a situation where I don't need that entertainment, I don't need the support network of the traditional village. I am not part of a vital local and/or ancient culture, which doesn't see gossip as bad, but

I am very uncomfortable about this. All sorts of conflicts between personal taste and trying to be open-minded, and not judgemental, and,'s a real mess, actually.

Look, what if I wanted to move to a Southern European village. Which is in the back of my mind. I can remain aloof, keep myself to myself, never assimilate. It's easy enough. Just be a snob. But to get any real benefit from such a move, you're better off mixing, meeting the people whose families have been there hundreds of years, and not being the full-time tourist than so many ex-pats become.

However, the moment you dive in and try to actually be a resident (even if you will never be fully accepted, another simple fact) you are expected to take part in all aspects of local culture, and that includes gossip. There's no escape, because if you don't "play along" I can absolutely guarantee 100% that you will be a pariah, and the next victim of the gossips. So you have three choices:

1. Not mix.
2. Mix, but never be accepted because you don't take part in the gossip.
3. Take part in the gossip.

What choice is that?

The choice I have made where I live is to not mix. I have managed to make friends from other non-mixers, but it took a long time. But despite living here almost 15 years, I am still not part of the community, because of that choice. Yes, it was my choice. But I couldn't see any other way. The first year or so here taught me that. And in this area, the gossip isn't so bad, because the local culture exists within a broader modern western culture that has decided gossip is bad. Not everyone agrees, obviously, but the idea exists.

Whereas in these more traditional places, that idea is hardly known. It's a wacky new idea, a city idea. It's that awful political correctness, you know.


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