A call for civilized discourse!
I’m not going to attempt to review the whole of Glastonbury Festival 2019 for you, it’s only ever possible to see a tiny fraction of it. I spent a lot of my time at the Glasto Latino tent where I was working, where I got to hang out with a lovely crew entertaining thousands of people with Latin dance workshops and bands. Michael Eavis popped in for a dance on the stage on Thursday night, which felt a bit like opening my eyes on Christmas morning to see Santa himself hiding my presents under the tree. I didn’t actually watch anything on the Pyramid Stage and I missed David Attenborough’s brief appearance by 45 minutes! I did see some fantastic circus and walkabout acts, including a rather impertinent gnome who squirted my boobs with a water pistol so I ended up walking around looking like a contestant in a middle-aged wet t-shirt contest. The vibe on site was fantastic, fun and friendly, although everyone looked slightly red and wilting in the blistering sun on Saturday afternoon.
Glastonbury Festival’s Green Fields
There were several big changes at the festival that I found heartening this year. I didn’t go up into the Green Fields until the event had opened on the Wednesday. Normally I pop up there to see my mates – Glastonbury townspeople and friends who from the festival scene, demonstrating green technology or running craft workshops, playing music on the smaller stages, selling candle powered steam boats and eco-friendly fashion. Early on in the event, before the main stages open, the Green Fields are full, of young people trudging up to the Stone Circle, hoping to be entertained in passing by the sight of some naked hippies or a random pianist. This year however I realised that the vegan stalls, the permaculture garden and the eco talks were absolutely ‘on trend’, there was a palpable buzz in the air. It felt like people had come to the Green Fields wanting to learn more, to meet and engage with those who have been banging on about all this stuff for years.
Glastonbury’s Plastics Ban – Burgeoning Green Consciousness?
Another thing that gladdened my heart was the festival’s ‘ban’ on plastic water bottles. Judging by how much cleaner the site was throughout the event and particularly on the Monday afterwards I think there was not only a massive decrease in the amount of plastic littering the site, but also a knock-on effect with people being a lot more conscious of their responsibility not to leave rubbish. It seems the vast majority of festival goers chose to pack up their camping kit and take it home with them. As I drove and cycled round the site afterwards I did not have to dodge a single pop-up tent rolling like gaily coloured plastic tumbleweed across my path. For the last few years the state of the camping fields has made me want to cry, this year it looked much less like a series of bombs had gone off in 100,000 teenage bedrooms and more like the morning after a dinner party where the hosts have drunk a bit too much and left the tidying up until tomorrow. I note that some sections of the media, determined to bash the festival, had to resort to publishing photos from previous years, so determined where they to fuel the usual indignation at the idea of lots of people enjoying music, art, theatre, circus and each other’s company in a field.
Speaking of righteous indignation, I was saddened to see social media posts from a number of Glastonbury residents who had decided to boycott the festival because of the 5G trial (or as I suspect had no intention of going to the event in the first place) which spread what was quite simply lies. I was incredulous to read posts from people who weren’t there reporting that those of us who were there were all suffering headaches, nosebleeds and stomach upsets as a result of exposure to 5G radiation. I saw absolutely no evidence of this onsite and have heard no reports since from the many people I have spoken to who were there. What I did see was a few people suffering from an overexposure to radiation from the sun who would have been wise to drink more water than beer and wear a big hat.
I don’t know if 5G is hazardous to the health of us humans or the environment and I would welcome more scientific research and informed balanced debate.
I do know that I will not make up my mind based on lies, particularly when some of those spreading the lies can’t conceal their delight at the idea of people being made sick because it confirms their bias. Nor am I likely to be sympathetic to the opinions of people who suggest (or spread the idea) that Michael Eavis is in league with the CIA and MI5 to kill off his ticketbuyers and crew. Also, a small number of those opposed to 5G seem to be confusing things further by using the issue to propagate some rather nasty political views, couched in language which is both vile and divisive. It seems to me that hateful and bilious attitudes, shared without thought on social media, are potentially more harmful to the Glastonbury community, and wider society in general, than any ill effects I am aware of due to the 5G trial at the festival.
I’ve heard it said that the ill effects of 5G are more detectable by those who are ‘sensitive’, the implication being that anyone who doesn’t feel them is ‘insensitive’. I think frequently ‘sensitive’ is being used as cosmic shorthand for ‘spiritual’, another word that is often used in Glastonbury to mean “better than you”. This really doesn’t wash with me. Too often I hear the words ‘spiritual’ and ‘sacred’ used in a way which serves to exclude others. We are all spiritual beings and the whole earth is sacred.
I’m using anti 5G as an example here, and I know that many people manage to raise their concerns about it online in a balanced and non-inflammatory manner,without vilifying those who do not share their opinions. I am also aware that there are other issues debated online which are also causing division within the actual community in town. In fact it seems to me that there is a veritable bitch fest going on in some quarters with the spreading of gossip and malice. It’s so easy on social media to attack and snipe, to snarkily question someone’s intelligence or morals because they are expressing an opinion you don’t agree with. Yes, I’ve done it myself, but I feel a responsibility (partly because i know you lot are watching!) to moderate my behaviour and try and make my corner of the world wide web a kinder, more courteous space.
Don’t Feed the Trolls and Don’t Become One Either
I’ve developed a few loose ‘rules’ to govern my own behaviour online when I encounter a point of view from an individual that contradicts my own beliefs:
- I try not to write anything online that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face in the street. This is quite easy for me, as a mate observed I am unusual in being the only person he knows whose online persona is much nicer than their offline one.
- I consider whether my assumption about the tone of someone’s post might be incorrect, are they really saying something massively out of order or am I just looking for an argument? Does feeling indignant make me feel better about myself? Might they have a perspective that I lack? Could they even be right?!
- Does it really matter if we disagree? If other people are putting a counter argument do I really need to? Am I presenting new evidence that might change their minds or just virtue signalling to everyone else who agrees with me? Jumping on the bandwagon stifles the kind of informed debate that actually resolves things, by intimidating people from expressing a contrary point of view.
- Even if I think they are massively wrong and I have something to say that I honestly believe they need to hear, would it be better to private message them in a polite and respectful manner than publicly shaming them?
- I try not to spread gossip, no matter how tempting, or criticize named individuals.
- I ask myself “Might that troll have stuff going on in their lives that is making them feel angry and lash out?” I was recently tempted to block a stranger for being quite outrageously rude to me, instead I private messaged them asking if they were OK, turns out they were having a hard time and I was able to suggest some avenues for help for them.
I am delighted to say there is very little trolling on Normal For Glastonbury, you are a respectful and kind bunch whom I really appreciate. When someone uses my page to abuse someone else I tend to have a quiet word by private message or in person. I don’t count a bit of gentle piss taking as trolling either, I think it is vital to our health as individuals and as a community that we have a sense of humour about ourselves. I also reserve the right to criticize organisations, businesses, the media, etc in quite harsh terms, but having upset a local journalist I do try and remember that the individuals within these are people too.
This isn’t an invitation to have a debate about Glastonbury Festival or 5G, it’s definitely not an invitation to express your own personal gripe with Michael Eavis because you used to get a free ticket and now you don’t. It is a call for all of us to think about our online behaviour, however deeply held our opinions or beliefs, if you are expressing them in a way that is turning people off from listening you are doing your cause a disservice.
Let’s remember the strength of the Glastonbury Town Community (and I mean the community in it’s widest sense, not restricted by geography) is our Unity through Diversity, let’s agree to disagree, let’s carry on presenting the world with alternatives to ‘conventional wisdom’ but with positivity, kindness and a little humour. Also, whatever the personal inconvenience, let’s have some pride in the fact that so many local people are involved in an event that brings music, creativity, joy and happiness to so many.
Sorry about the lack of photos, I was busy working at the festival and sometimes feeling I have to take photos gets in the way of me enjoying events, so I just don’t take them. The image heading the piece is of the wonderful dance teacher, Glasto Latino compere and all round lovely guy, Nigel May. I felt it encapsulated a lot of the joy, fun and spectacle of the event. The other picture is one I snapped of the sunset on the Wednesday evening of the festival, I saw a lot of small kids wearing these fantastic metallic winged capes, I’m more used to seeing them worn by ‘Glastonbury Goddesses’ in town, so seeing this small boy taking such evident delight in striding around in his made me grin.
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