Everybody has a dark side. But how dark is too dark for you? How far is too far? If you’ve lived in Port Vila long enough, you’ll probably know sordid, personal details about people whom you’ve never even said hello to. You’ll discover that even the most saintly do sinful things. You’ll learn that you can’t tell lies in a small town because eventually you will be found out. But you’ll also realize that if you want to keep up the pretense of being a decent human being, you’ll have plenty of people to support your charade. We live in a town where people would rather avoid the discomfort of creating rifts in social circles or being the person, or being associated with the person, who points out the elephant made of gender inequality or sexual violence or just general disrespectful behavior in the room.
It is a small town after all. Our pickings of friends are slim. It’s easier to accept that we all have a dark side, especially if that person’s dark side doesn’t directly affect us and it really is an issue that’s ‘none of your business’. But when does something stop being none of your business and become everybody’s business? What are your boundaries and what do you do if someone has crossed it?
The consequences of silence in the face of unacceptable practices is evident in the state of our main hospital’s maternity ward, the disorganized public transport system, the looming Mele fish processing plant, our government’s corruption, the reduced sentences of sex offenders – the list is endless. Occasionally some of us will challenge injustice or confront these issues. We may sign a petition, walk in a march, or put our 2vt ting ting in behind the screen of a computer on Facebook. But how many of us consistently call out to create long lasting change? How many of us have the courage to say ‘This is not okay and we will not accept this any longer’ and mean it?
It’s one thing to take a stand against a lack of beds in the maternity ward, but it’s another to pull your tawi aside and tell her you don’t like how she talks to her housegirl and that if we were in a western country, her chastising of her staff would actually be considered a threat.
Too many of us choose to ignore irresponsible or abusive behavior. We all know the friend who’s punched his girlfriend the night before and yet we still sit at Saloon Bar having a drink with him, because he’s a ‘nice guy’ and generous with shouting drinks. Why ‘start drama’? It’s ‘none of your business’ right?
Or what about your dear mate who drinks alcohol while pregnant? Is that too far for you or do you not challenge her, because ‘it is her body’ and of course, ‘it’s none of your business’?
Or how about the bloke who managed a well-known hotel in the center of town and got his mistress pregnant? She was living with him at the hotel where he proudly showed off her bulging belly until he remembered his marital vows and returned to his wife. Did you bid him farewell when his contract finished with no mention of his unborn child? The one that he’s now decided he’s no longer responsible for simply because of a change of mind?
Or how about your male friend who is known to take advantage of drunk girls every time he’s had a bit too much to drink? Do you confront him about his behavior? Or is it ‘none of your business’?
Too many times for the sake of social correctness and comfort, we say nothing. We don’t challenge unacceptable behavior or objectionable practices under the excuse that it’s ‘none of our business’. We become enablers because we choose not to speak up about things we don’t agree with. If we can’t set our boundaries with friends, how can we possibly challenge politics and policies?
It’s not enough to say it once. We must keep saying it over and over again. Most importantly, we must keep saying it together. The more voices there are, the stronger we unite in generating change.
What are your boundaries? How dark is too dark for you? And if it is too dark – are you willing to shine the light on it?
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are by the editor of Sista, Yasmine Bjornum.