A letter from Richard Armitage on Stop Cyberbullying Day
Author: SCD Team
June 17, 2016
Hi everyone, it’s Stop Cyberbullying Day 2016.
I’m honoured to once again be an ambassador for this organisation which helps so many people young and old navigate the web and social media with ease and confidence.
I was recently in conversation with a friend; an ex actor who has since become a psychologist and counsellor. We were discussing the path between the two professions. The ‘tools’ which made her so competent were ’empathy’ and ‘observation’. We talked at length about patterns which we fall into, narratives which we give ourselves and the idea of ‘leaving yourself alone’.
It’s one of the big lessons in life, to leave yourself alone. Meaning, just stopping those inner voices, mainly the negative ones, which turn up and on, like ‘clock work’. When we have this critical inner dialogue with ourselves, we do lean towards turning that outwards, towards the world at large.
We all do it, we have expectations not just for ourselves but for how others should behave and function around us, face to face and in cyberspace. When we start to free ourselves from those expectations we allow ourselves to be surprised without judgement.
Much of my work as an actor is stimulated by empathy and observation. I’m acutely aware of the kinds of characters that I play and how I play them and what I’m putting out into the universe. Earlier in my career I was very much focused on ‘hero’ or ‘anti hero’, good and bad. As I’ve grown older the pursuit has grown far more complicated. I’m sometimes berated for depicting violence or much deeper, darker, complex characteristics of the human condition. My choices really reflect my views on humanity. I believe every human being deserves empathy. That word is often misconstrued; to me it means ‘to put oneself in the shoes of another in the attempt to understand them’. It’s key to my work, and perhaps, as my friend the psychologist suggested, key to functioning harmoniously in society. Its a good word. It’s not easy to practice.
I think one of the problems we are all facing at the moment is the desire to over simplify society into the good guys and the bad guys. Right and wrong. The problem with this is ‘intention’. We believe we are good, and ‘they’ are bad, but what if the bad guys believe they are the good guys and vice versa? What if we are both right and both wrong? And what if we both have an arsenal of weapons that apparently proves who is right or wrong in the final showdown.
Make no mistake, there are ‘actions’ in this world which are inconceivable and abhorrent, but it takes a human being to make ‘intention’, action. It made be a damaged human being, a damaged society but we do all spring from the same place and return there ultimately, wherever or whatever you believe that place to be.
On the web our words are our weapons and we must try to temper them. We must consider the other persons feelings before we express our own, consider how our words wound. There is a much more dangerous undercurrent ‘cooking’ on the web also fuelled by words. It scaremongers, it rouses, it radicalises. In our own small way we can champion harmony, tolerance, balance and forgiveness.
Never underestimate your words. Use them carefully and for the better; if, like me, it’s the kind of society you believe in.