Did he really say that? we gasp at the television
As we sit around in family bubbles
Comfortable in the knowledge that for now we are safe,
For now we haven’t got to make decisions
Over who can have a breath of air and who will lose
A husband or a wife, or even, God forbid, a child.
It’s pretty easy slouching on the comfy couch
To call out words, incogitant to our senseless ears.
But faced with choices hard as these,
Day after day and week after week
Would we not also slip on words, committing gaffs
And angering the world at large?
Perhaps he isn’t quite as evil as we like to say,
Perhaps he’s just a little out of step?
I went on Twitter this afternoon and our Health Secretary, here in the UK, had written that ‘only 36’ people had died today. It was, of course, trending and people were outraged at his choice of words.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of Mr Hancock so I’m not about to go on a political rant in defence of him, but it did get me thinking a little bit about the words we choose and the effect they have on people, especially in times like these, when just the smallest of things can prove to be explosive.
Most people on Twitter had a problem with the word ‘only’ because it made the statement seem pretty flippant. All of the families of those 36 people will be grieving and Hancock basically made the figure sound like he was counting how many buses had passed by his house this afternoon.
However, I do think that it is really easy to pull somebody apart on one word and I’m sure we’ve all been in that situation where we have said something in haste and only realised a bit too late that it has caused offence.
We have to remember that these politicians have been under a fair amount of stress and a lot of public scrutiny for months now. Whether we like them or not, that is a lot of time to be centre stage and it would be easy to make at least a few slip ups in that time.
The Conservatives can be a little out of step with the rest of us serfs and I think that sometimes that can cause some upset without them realising. When there is any kind of divide, language can be so important in building relations. I sometimes think that politicians (and not just Tories) don’t have a clue that they upset some people so they are being hurtful through ignorance rather than through any maliciousness.
I think that Matt Hancock chose his words pretty badly, but I think that it serves as an example as to how we can all learn to think before we speak and also to give people a bit of slack if they do slip up. If they really don’t understand where they have gone wrong, then perhaps education rather than a berating would be better.