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Whataboutery

noun BRITISH

the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue.


As a child, if you said you hated school, were you ever told that school was the best days of your life? How does the child feel, who is bullied and ostracised at school when they are told they should be happy as they are the best days of their life, that people in work have it much tougher. How are they supposed to feel about that? I remember sitting in double maths, the sun glaring through the huge school windows as I squinted at the board thinking this can't be the best, that life after school surely could not be that bad. (spoiler alert - it's had its moments!)


Flippancy aside, whataboutery dismisses real concerns by pointing out another issue that is deemed to be worse. As if by somehow seeing another's pain makes yours less. And people do it because they don't want to face up to what's infront of them. The homeless person in the UK should be happy that they are not in a third world country, or the guy who can't pay his heating bill should feel lucky he's got a house, and so it goes on, never allowing anyone the space to acknowledge that things are tough for them, irrespective of how tough it is for someone else. I guess we see it with the recent strikes, with some denouncing the strikes as they haven't had a pay rise either. As Mick Lynch would say, it's not a race to the bottom.


What are we saying when someone comes to us with a problem and we dismiss it with whataboutery? When we tell them they are lucky for what they have as it is more than someone else has. If one of your children has died, why would being told that someone else has lost two make you feel any better in any way. Surely we should have enough compassion for everyone, not just those we deem to really have it worse, on some arbitrary sliding scale of gloom.


And it's not just others who put this on to us, but we can put it on ourselves too. After Lauren died my friends would struggle to talk to me about their problems, the intonation being that their problems were insignificantcompared with mine. Although I understood their compassion I had to explaion to them that it was unnecessary. That by discussing what was going on for them in no way diminished what was going on for me. In fact by not telling me about their concerns or worries there was a chance that it could cause a distance between us, when what I needed more than ever was their friendship and the normality of everyday life, not to be treated like a fractured delicate being.


I've had my own concerns about whataboutery recently. My work with Sepsis Research Feat led to a media push that was more successful than we imagined, creating stories worldwide and hopefully raising the issue of Sepsis to the forefront of peoples minds. But I was concerned that all the exposure would lead to some negative whataboutery with complaints that stories of Lauren were not important, what about Ukraine, or cost of living crisis, or any other number of things that are important in peoples lives at the minute. But we can be concerned with more than one thing, we do not have to rank them in order of importance, for something to be horrific it does not make something else less horrific, so what about this, what about the fact that 5 people every day die from Sepsis in the UK, that countless others who do survive, struggle with post-sepsis syndrome or life altering conditions.



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