I read something that really disturbed and upset me last night. It was a blog post by a food blogger I really admire, Shauna James Ahern, better known as Gluten Free Girl. Diagnosed as suffering from celiac disease, she has to live gluten free. This is completely different to the “I’m gluten intolerant” brigade, she is actually allergic to it and even small amounts of gluten can make her really quite ill, actually damaging her small intestine. But what Shauna has done is turn something that many would see as a disability or an impediment to normal life and used her talents as a writer to publicise her gluten-free life and become a best selling author (the cookbook she wrote with her chef husband, Danny, was named by the New York Times as among the best cookbooks of 2010).
I admire the way Shauna lives her life. She is unapologetic about her gluten-free stance (as she should be, this is not optional for her) and I was truely horrified to read her most recent post. Titled simply “warm brown rice and grilled vegetable salad” I was expecting a salad recipe and some of Shauna’s normal wonderful prose, perhaps about her recent flying trip to New Orleans to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference where she was a guest speaker. What she wrote about was her trip but also about some of the things she and her husband experience on a regular basis as a consequence of their life online.
Shauna is the victim (although I hate that word) of what are known in the online community as “trolls”. Trolls are hard to explain but they are the people who, seemingly for the sheer pleasure of being evil to people, post horrible, vile comments to bloggers. I’m lucky to have avoided them to date (a blog with 14 posts doesn’t really attract trolls) but it is something that I am prepared for. But when you are being called fat and ugly, your husband is being called retarded and that these trolls hope paedophiles get your children, you start to question, is it worth it and who are these people?
This is something Shauna faces everyday both on Twitter and through her e-mail account associated with her blog and these comments, and worse, are from this blog post I mentioned and I’m still in shock that people could actually say these things. As a general rule I believe that people are inherently good although I’m beginning to think I might be wrong in this assumption. Between this and the recent rioting and destruction that occurred in both London and Birmingham, a lot of which seemed to be due to no other reason than they could, there seems to be a lot more darkness in the current population than I can fathom.
That’s not to say there aren’t moments that restore my faith in humanity. When my Dad lost his wallet in the States a couple of years back, he cancelled the cards and wrote off the cash as lost but some weeks after he returned to the UK he received an e-mail from a woman in the town where he had left his wallet. She had traced him through his golf membership card, contacting the golf club who sent her his e-mail address. She sent the wallet back with the same amount of cash in as when he lost it less as my Dad had instructed, enough to cover the postage. She even included the receipt. She was also truely amazed when Dad sent her flowers to say thank you. They exchange Christmas cards now.
But it is so difficult to reconcile the fact that we, as a species, are capable of such extremes of behaviour. And unfortunately most of the time it is the bad that we remember the most. So do you agree with me that people are inherently good or do you think that it is a bit more ambiguous than that?
Please feel free to leave your comments below.
Average Josephine x