We’re all adults and nobody has any excuses any more. So it’s time to come out and say it: some of you are just arseholes, and I’m done with it
I went to a really, really lovely secondary school. Sixth form was less lovely, but I’d always written that off as inevitable in an all-boys private school. There was an obscene quantity of sexism and downright misogyny – but it was all ‘banter’. I blamed it on myself, or attributed it to their being products of a ‘laddish’ environment.
It’s only over the last year that I’ve finally come to realise something. There are some people whom I actively do not like. More than that – there are some people whom I actually think are bad. And (bear with me) this has literally been the most revelatory, empowering, liberating revelation.
The thing about Oxford is that people lose their excuses. This is a place of ideas, freedom, and small but fascinating revolutions. Obviously, that’s romanticising things. There’s a whole load of horrible in this city too. But I do contest that almost nobody here has an excuse for social ignorance. So that means that now, when people behave like shitheads, I’m not inclined to be so forgiving.
There are a lot of people whom I think have fairly awful views, but with whom I am friends and whom I respect – because they are also kind, sensitive, thoughtful, altruistic individuals. Similarly, there are some people whose beliefs I agree with entirely, whose world views are ostensibly bursting with nothing but compassion, who are also – and I do choose my words carefully – utter fucks. Emotionally and physically manipulative, abusive, cruel, and violently hypocritical. Like, I don’t care how much you support feminism on Facebook if you’re awful to the women around you. I don’t care how good your politics are if you privately neglect those in need.
I used to blame everything other people did wrong on myself. At the very least, I told myself that I deserved it. I would forgive without a second thought. I thought every single person in the world was sunshine, and beautiful, and people who were unkind were just unhappy. I was fierce about that. I was, I think, quite a good moral person. I was also deeply, profoundly miserable.
I have a much worse view of people now. I am also a lot happier. I’ve learnt, for the most part, that I’m not totally worthless (n.b. my tutors may not agree). Nobody is worthless, but not everybody is good. Not everybody is kind.
Oxford is obviously full of very bright people (again, my tutors may reasonably contest this). So coming here, and having expectations as high as the stars, it was a real shock to learn that intelligent people aren’t always nice. Everyone here is well-educated, at the very least — and some of them are still kind of douchebags. I mean, let’s be reasonable; we all have off-days. But some people here consistently screw others over to get what they want, and threaten and intimidate their ‘enemies’ like tiny, ill-mannered children.
It’s largely tragic and pathetic, but it’s also really distressing. I so wanted everybody to be full of kindness and love. And some people are! They so are! I’ve made the most wonderful, perfect friends here, and I’d do pretty much anything for them*. It’s just that I no longer have the wide-eyed, naïve idealism that kept me beaten into the ground. I have Oxford to thank for that.
Like it or not, this city shapes us all. And I want to be a much better person than I am, but it will no longer come at the cost of accommodating cruelty or manipulation. There are very, very few people I think of as actually bad. As in, I could count them on one hand. But they do exist. And I will no longer apologise for believing that.
*this is a figure of speech and I’m not killing anyone or eating meat for any of you. I will, however, buy you chocolate when you are ill and maybe a McDonald’s but don’t push it