Friday, November 13, 2015

Festering Ooze

There is a lot of talk around Safe Spaces at the moment, but two very different ideas of what that means. My understanding of the first way, is that we need to choose our words very carefully. Words are powerful and trigger emotional responses. We may be unaware of the effect of what we are saying because other people have had different experiences. A Safe Space is an area where someone will not feel judged, and will not be made to feel uncomfortable. Some describe it as a place that feels like home.

The second idea of a Safe Space is quite the opposite. It is similar to the idea of 'holding space'. Heather Plett wrote a wonderful post suggesting ways to be there for people you care about. Holding space for them. An awareness that people are processing all sorts of rubbish. We don't really know what we think or feel. We try things out. We get angry. We say things we don't mean. We say things we know we don't mean just to see what happens. We test boundaries. We scream. We fall apart. A Safe Space is one where this can happen and we know the people will still be there afterwards. We will have gone to the toilet to get rid of our rubbish feelings.

For me school was a very controlled bubble. At one stage a group of us started pushing the boundaries in a school newspaper. We were quickly reined back in by the censors. University on the other hand was a place where we were (mostly) the censors. We tested the boundaries of everything we held dear. There is a difference between things said in jest and things that are malicious. The Free Speech Board was often silent, but would burst into reams of debate. There were songs that were all sorts of bad. Not everyone agreed with pushing boundaries, and there were vocal supporters of both sides.

Rational, considerate, patient, inclusive discussion is clearly the aim. The ooze I was moaning about yesterday does get in the way. As Stuart said, if you never Ooze because you have developed super powers of control, you may be a super villain. Occasional ooze is very human. I am also all for opinions I find offensive being given a little air time. It means I know where they are. We should encourage crazies to speak. We can only tease out our own craziness in the open. Otherwise it just festers.

Don't Let Our Crazies Fester

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