For those earnest riders to the rescue.
My, what a busy life you’ve got. You haven’t been able to keep up on the goings-on amongst people you hang out with, not for years. Always something, innit? You’ve exchanged hellos, and occasionally caught a little bit of the ne ws. You’ve heard there’s been some bad shit going down, but you’re not quite sure what it is – just seems to be upsetting a lot of people. Well, y’know, it’ll probably sort itself out. You all go to the same university, so it’s not like disagreements could get that serious, amirite?
So there you are, some free time at last, and just in time for a party! Well, you’re gonna be late, but you’ll totally be there. Fun times ahead!
But when you get there long after it started, you don’t find people partying so much.
There’s a few of your friends doing their best to dance, and a group of strangers at the opposite end of the room, drinking heavily and jeering the dancers. Wow, they’re loud.
More of your friends are gathered in a huddle by the sofa, looking upset, and a couple of friends who said they’d be there are missing. Weird.
You go over to the huddled group to say hi, and walk into the middle of a tense discussion about what to do with the loud drinky group. They’re trying to figure out how to make them leave. Apparently, they’ve been pretty disruptive, and that same group has been showing up at every party lately, drinking everyone’s booze, bothering people even after they’ve been told to stop, and basically being as mean and disruptive as they can. You catch a few of the things they’re saying, calling your friends ugly and fat and whores and worse. Your friends are obviously distressed, and you want to help.
“Just ignore them,” you say. “All they want is attention. If you just have fun and pretend like they’re not here, they’ll give up and go away.”
Won’t work, you’re told. Been tried. When that bunch first started crashing parties, almost everyone tried to ignore them, but all it did was make them louder and more obnoxious, and they even started to come to office parties where one or two of their targets were, causing trouble for them in their professional lives.
“Well, you need to talk to them,” you say. “Tell them what they’re doing is upsetting you.”
That’s been tried too, you’re told. It made the harassers laugh all the harder. And they still show up at every party, and still torment everyone they can.
“Well, if they’re always at parties, you should just stop going to parties,” you say. “That way, you won’t be a target.”
So what, your friends say, we’re supposed to spend the rest of our lives at home? No parties for us, because of them? Anyway, so-and-so and a few others tried that. Stopped going to parties altogether. Rarely joined us when we gathered informally on the quad from time to time. And all it did was make the harassers go after them on the quad, in class, and basically anywhere they could get to them.
“Well, if they’re behaving that way, you should just call the police,” you say.
We did that, you’re told. All the police did was tell us they’re too busy to deal with harassment at parties, even if it is illegal, and we should stop going to parties like that if we don’t want to be harassed.
“Okay, then, go to the dean of students,” you say. “Let him know what’s going on. He can tell them their behavior isn’t acceptable.”
We did, your friends say. We’ve gone to the dean and everyone else in authority. They issued blanket statements saying that harassment at parties is unacceptable, but it didn’t stop, and now a lot of them are saying we should be careful how we talk about harassers crashing our parties, because it makes people uncomfortable. And they’ve specially welcomed the harassers to university events. The dean even hugged one of the worst of our harassers at a university event that was supposed to be about us and our concerns. So we’re not getting any support from most of them, and it’s just made the harassment worse, because the harassers realize they can get away with it.
“Something’s got to be done,” you say. “Have you ever asked the harassers why they’re crashing your parties to harass you? Have you sat down with them on neutral ground and talked over your differences?”
It’s useless to do that, you’re told. All they want to do is crash parties and make us feel so uncomfortable we’ll stop coming. But so-and-so tried anyway. It went nowhere.
“Surely,” you say, “all this needs is a little diplomacy. No one’s asking you to agree with your harassers. Nations negotiate peace all the time without agreeing on everything. It would be best for you if you negotiated peace with your harassers.”
Now your friends are becoming upset. It won’t work, they nearly shout. Haven’t you heard anything we’re saying? The harassers don’t want peace – they enjoy crashing parties and making people feel awful, and they won’t stop no matter what we do.
“Something’s got to be done,” you say again.
All that’s left is for the whole campus to come together and isolate these crashers, your friends say. Everyone needs to stand firm against this kind of behavior, and show it won’t be tolerated. When enough people do that, even though some harassers will still be around, some of them will stop, and the rest of them will know they don’t have the university’s support for what they’re doing.
“That’s not very civil,” you say as the party crashers knock the china cabinet over and break everything inside, howling with laughter as they do. “We all have common interests. We’re all attending the same university. Surely, something can be worked out!”
Well, it can’t, your friends say. And this isn’t up for debate anymore. We’re tired of arguing over the same failed tactics. We need to move on to discussions on how we’re going to get the university to not only condemn this behavior, but do something to ensure those few crashers who like to destroy every party are subject to social sanctions whenever they do crap like this. Even if it means being a little ‘uncivil.’
By now, the crashers have set the couch on fire and are laughing at your friends’ distressed reactions. “It’s just a couch!” they shout. “We’re just joking. Can’t you take a joke?”
Maybe you join your friends’ chorus of voices, then, speaking out forcefully against party-crashing and china-cabinet-breaking and couch-burning, rather than standing on the sidelines wringing your hands and asking both sides to be nice to each other for the common good of the university. But just when you’ve decided your friends are right, another old friend who hasn’t been to parties lately walks in. “Party crashers, huh?” he says. “They kinda suck. Hey, have you considered ignoring them? If you ignore them, they’ll probably go away….”
Moral: Been there, done that, heard all the solutions a thousand trillion times. Maybe instead of thinking you’re the only genius on earth who coulda possibly thunkit, stop before you pontificate and ask what you can do to help instead. Your assistance will be valued and of far better quality if you do that one thing.