By Sheona Small
By nature, I am an optimistic glass-half-full without-the-bad-you-wouldn’t-appreciate-the-good kinda gal. I like to look at a dispute from both sides and try to see a situation from the other person’s perspective, figuring there is a reason for their stance and usually a bit of middle ground somewhere. When I’m asked my opinion over a disaster in a friend’s life, my opening gambit will invariably be “Well, it could be worse...” I do get on my mid-height horse sometimes and love a good ‘discussion’ over issues of the day but I’m rarely moved to outrage and it takes a lot to get my dander up. Which makes it all the more unusual that my dander should be hoisted sky-high not once, but three times in the last week. It started last Saturday. I was eating out with some people I hadn’t met before but we were all getting on grand, the wine was flowing and before we knew we were happily flouting the rule over there being three things you shouldn’t discuss in polite company - religion, money and politics. “Well, I won’t be voting yes,” said the girl sitting next to me, “just look at Grangemouth.” This lit my touchpaper because I am weary at the more outlandish arguments put forward by both sides of the independence debate. I tried to explain the background to the Grangemouth dispute and even asked her to consider there might be strings getting pulled and deals being done at a much higher level. “Well, you might know more about it than me but I still won’t be voting yes because of Grangemouth.” The fizzle on the touchpaper was seconds from the explosive when someone intervened and cut me off at the pass. The next day I was listening to an interview with the guy who is in charge of coming up with the campaigns and protests run by Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). I hit pause and rewind because I thought I’d misheard a bit about a slaughterhouse worker who had told about cattle having their hooves cut off while they were alive, blowing the whistle not because of the cruelty but because it was his job to cut off the hooves and he kept getting kicked in the head. I needn’t have worried about missing that horror, there was more to come. To be fair, he was talking about the USA, saying a few times that Europe had much higher welfare standards, and I’m well aware of the consumer demand for cheap meat. In fact, I was quite taken by his pragmatic view that our meat-laden diet will eventually pass as an evolutionary stage that was particularly bad for the human race. No, my outrage was reserved for the fur trade, in general with furriers’ methods of killing to avoid damaging the pelts and in particular with the big fashion houses’ continuing use of skins that always look better on their original owners. And then I come into work on Monday and discover that the good people of my local community have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new footbridge being built over a burn in a nearby Woodland Trust Scotland-owned wood to make it more accessible. A small thing I know and it turned out I was one of the only five per cent who voted against it and was spitting my dummy out because I didn’t want it to be more accessible to anyone else, let alone someone not too steady on their feet who might also want to enjoy the year-round beauty of our local den. Which rather punctures my puffed up idea of myself and put a dampener on my dander when I thought more about it. Turns out that when you scratch below the surface, I’m not quite the liberal, reasonable, fair-minded person I like to think I am.