The Wikipedia definition of bleeding heart liberal describes me pretty well.
I eat organically, and ethically. I make purchases (or don’t make them) based on whether or not it’s kind to the environment to do so. I am one of the least materialistic people you are likely to meet, and couldn’t care less how much money someone has. If I’m talking to you at a party, I won’t be looking over your shoulder seeing who else I might be able to chat to instead.
I’m open minded, non-judgemental and always try and consider the impact of my words and actions on others. I hate seeing people suffer, and if I can find a way of helping someone less fortunate than myself I will.
Overall I consider myself to be a decent human being. I don’t think that’s aiming too high.
Here’s the thing though.
My moral compass wasn’t set through having an early life of privilege. I wasn’t handed anything on a platter nor was I fed with a silver spoon.
Quite the opposite.
I grew up in a house where ignorance was rife, racism par for the course, and words like F*** and C*** every day language. I couldn’t tell you how many times our phone and electricity was cut off when I was a kid, and my mother had some choice friends. One woman sticks in my mind – she openly bragged about ‘keeping’ her downs syndrome child for the extra benefits, and regularly told one of her other sons that he should have been an abortion.
After a (thankfully) rare punch in the face one morning from my step-father, I left home. Education-less and with £50 in my pocket, I emerged into adulthood at fifteen. I struggled for many years to come to terms with the hand that I had been dealt, and spent no less than a full decade in self-destruct mode. I drank and partied my sorrows away, and at one point wrote myself off as too messed up.
I had almost a year to wait until I was legally able to work, and spent that time sleeping on floors, doing £2 an hour cash in hand jobs. Mostly I worked for men three times my age, who routinely encouraged getting ‘their girls’ absolutely plastered to try and shag them.
Thankfully I foresaw where it was going early enough for it to not end up being a complete tragedy. Once my national insurance number came through I applied to work for a department store, and my aspirations started to grow.
Don’t get me wrong, I still had to dodge unwanted advances from older people. I was always the youngest, and there were many who tried to take advantage in some way or other. I had more near-misses than I care to recall during those years.
I’m thankful that nothing awful happened to me. Even though I know how absurd that sounds saying it out loud.
After working in retail for several years I got a job locally in a small office to get some computer experience. Those six months gave me the confidence to take myself, and my over-inflated CV off to the City where I knocked on doors of recruitment agencies until someone gave me a temp job.
The two week position led to a permanent placement, and I stayed at the firm for three years. After that, until I stopped working just last year, I worked in decent companies and got paid well for my efforts.
I joked with a friend on Facebook recently that I was glad I grew up in the days before background checks.
I wasn’t even joking. You’d need a degree nowadays just to man the reception desk of the companies I’ve worked at, let alone do some of my previous jobs. If fifteen year old me was emerging in today’s world, she wouldn’t stand a chance. Social mobility is almost non-existent already, and that is surely only going to get worse.
It bothers me.
Not for me, because at thirty seven I’m now okay. I married up, I have a lovely middle class life. My kids will be okay, and their kids will no doubt also be okay.
I’m a success story apparently. My friend said that I’m one of those rare people you meet who makes you stop in your tracks and think ‘how did she get from there to here?’
We are living through some seriously dark times, and ultimately the best thing we can do is behave like decent human beings.
That means walking away from pointless Facebook fights, and not tearing ourselves into shreds worrying over the state of the world at the detriment of what’s going on inside our own four walls.
Check out this post for ways to help others who are needier than us, without it taking over our own lives. It might not seem like much, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.
I’ve come to the conclusion that if caring about others makes me a bleeding heart liberal, then I’ll own the title with pride.
Don’t assume that we’re all completely out of touch, and don’t have a clue how the other half have to live though.
The reason some of us care so much is because we’ve lived it ourselves.