Mill Road bridge, Cambridge
I am embarrassed to be connected in any genetic way to the piece of human waste I encountered in Cambridge tonight.
I am embarrassed to be part of a human race, a race of which even one feels able to behave as if another was disposable.
I am embarrassed to be predisposed with even the tiniest hint of DNA to connect me to the pathetic excuse for a person who can stand within touching distance of another and behave as he did this evening.
I saw a man sitting, forlornly, in the street. A sleeping bag for warmth, barely, a feeble request for hope in his eyes and his throat.
I’d enjoyed a night of happiness, of warmth, of friendship. I’d enjoyed a night of privilege; an ability to spend thirty or forty quid – I don’t even know – on drink and food, on a Tuesday, and not even consider any blip on my financial radar.
I decided to turn back; to return and drop a pound in his hand. One pound sixty, in fact. Relatively worthless but it was – genuinely – all I had on me at the time.
As I did, a young lady crouched by his side, to ask if he was alright.
And as she did, and as I left, her companion mocked her, mocked him, the man she was helping
“What the f*** are you helping him for?” he laughed. His warm coat, his arrogant smile, his generations of privilege beaming down from his hateful face at another human.
A person as literal, as exact, as real as he was. A person who had apparently, in his – the shitstain’s – mind, had chosen a windy, damp January night to sprawl upon the streets to see another first-month-midnight grace the depths of his bones.
A person whose last resort was that last resort of all: to beg, to cower, to tremble in hope of a proffered penny.
I can’t remember such anger raging inside me. I leant my bike towards him, drifted my shoulder an inch from his face and let him recoil. It sounds pathetic to recount; I did not fight, I did not face-up, but I did not act.
I hope, forever more, that he felt one billionth of the fear as he recoiled as that the one he mocked feels every night. I will regret forever not stopping, not confronting him. Not smearing his nose in the shit he shat. I will regret forever that he may spend his life not knowing who he truly is because one, after another, after another such as I fail to stop and stand, and stand-up and stop. I will regret the inch of my shoulder from his face; that it was not a non-inch; I will regret my neglecting to stop; I will regret the knowledge that he will be allowed – be encouraged – to laugh again.
I regret his youth. As insulting as that may be to any who are older. I regret he is the future. The privileged few the – yes, – the white man, the middle-class man in a coat like mine but with blood and soul as far removed as I dare believe. I regret his future, our future, the future. That such an atrocity to the human spirit could be committed on the genteel (!) streets of what I consider a beautiful city is both an abuse of our privilege and an abuse of our optimism.
People are, I think, good. I meet more people who make me happy than make me sad. Perhaps I’m lucky in that: many encounter the opposite, after all. But overall, despite the naysayers, the haters, the wasp-nest-pokers, the – let’s be honest – Daily Mail. Despite the miserable, angry, negative drain on our society that is perpetuated day-in, day-out by so many: we live in a beautiful world.
We live in a world of sunsets, of nature, of beauty, of people who give-up their time to help one another; people who donate more than just money, people who donate their hours, their days, their spirit, their soul. We live in a world where people come together, work together and grow together. But we live in a world of selfies-with-whales, of comparing the value of different human deaths, of abusing one another for the mere sake of difference in appearance, action or ability.
And yet, despite all that – WE have a say in the world. We have a say in OUR world.
YOU have a say in YOUR world.
Every action you take, every penny you spend, every pound you make: each is a vote for the world you want to inhabit. It is a declaration that this is how you want the world to be. When you buy a plastic water bottle and throw it in the bin, you vote for waste. When you mock another you vote for a world of anguish. When you threaten, when you berate, when you ignore… you vote for exactly what you want, and we are all living through exactly what we’ve voted for, without ticking a single box on a single ballot paper.
What world do you live in? What world do you want? What world will you change?
Photo credit: Davide Taviani
I’ve decided to edit this for language, not because I feel I need to, but because a few people want to share it and didn’t feel they could. I felt it was more powerful and honest before, but would like people to be able to pass it on.