There are no good ends to those who like to gossip with unconstrained conversation about other people without confirming if they are true, writes Ruta Mave.
Game of thrones Lord Varys with his bald head and
flowing robes roamed through the hidden corridors of the House of Targaryen. He
was the master of whispers known as the Spider for the webs of lies and deceit
he weaved to foster division amongst the enemies of the Iron Throne. He had a
skill at providing information to all sides, pitting enemies against each other
and of manipulation to achieve his own ends. His reputation is unworthy even
though he claimed to value order and loyalty. He died for treason by the fiery
breath of his master’s dragon.
There are no good ends to those who like to gossip
with unconstrained conversation about other people without confirming if they
are true. The emotional attraction of gossip to the human psyche is to hurt.
Gossip was a powerful tool for the powerless in
ancient Greece and remains the same today. A master would worry that a slave
might see or hear something which could end up being used against them in a
court of law or public opinion.
Greek goddess Pheme or fame or rumor was a horrible
winged creature who delighted in ruffling her feathers, beneath which lay a
prying eye, a pricked ear and a wagging tongue. She flew quickly from place-to-place
gabbling and screeching lies and half-truths to anyone who would listen.
Slaves and low status women could use gossip as their
only weapon against their enemies. This propensity to gossip by members of
society opened up conduits between the weak and the strong, the rich and the
poor, the master and the servant. A juicy story was the entertainment of the
day back then.
The fascination with idle gossip is still a favourite
past time with people from all walks of life. Day time dramas like Coronation
St, Eastenders, Shortland St, Days of our Lives, and General Hospital thrive on
Aristotle saw it as trivial and enjoyable pastime but
also saw that it could have malicious intent. Malicious gossip could damage a
person’s reputation and irreparably hurt them. Ancient Athens court decisions
were made on character evaluation and less on hard evidence. Lynch mobs were
often driven by a damaging gossip than from pure truth. The Trump Clinton
election campaign 2016 was a fine example.
Socrates, the Greek philosopher, shunned gossip by asking
three questions. He would first ask “Have you made absolutely sure that what
you are about to tell me is true? – No? Then you don’t know if it is true or
not”. Secondly, “Is it something good?” No? So, you want to say something bad
about the person even though you don’t know if it is true. Third “Will this
information be useful to me?” No? Then, “If
what you are about to tell me, is neither True nor Good or of any use to me,
why tell me at all?”
The entertainment factor of gossip is too ‘juicy’ to
ignore and with social media, harsh gossip used to assassinate and defame an
opponent’s character, for one’s own advantage, can go viral and be taken at
face value before it’s possible to check it out.
In the quest for land, one may try to win advantage by
spreading gossip of the other saying how they are evil or how they mistreat the
gossiper. When laying the groundwork of deceit, the gossiper adding a little
‘Hollywood’ acting to the mix, can appear the victim. With little to no proof
to such whispers they throw doubt on the character of the other.
Gossip has a way of convincing people that the person
they met or knew is not what they first thought – if it comes from someone of
higher status like an employer. Justifying wrongful dismissals can be done by
spreading rumors about the employee they had done something bad when no
evidence is presented.
Spoken with conviction susceptible crowds are easily
led with misinformation they physically shun the victim of gossip as if they
have been tried and convicted.
Truth should prevail, the stains on one’s reputation,
should all come out in the wash of either ‘time will tell’ or simply by going
to ask ‘the other side of the story’, and ‘hear it from the horse’s mouth’.
Once you have the words of both, observe how they act
around others. Check your gut feelings and decide who you believe and does it
really concern you. If you feel someone is being wrongly accused by gossip then
say I don’t believe it.
The power of the word is strong and many victims of
malicious rumours have chosen to take their own lives rather than live with
being ostracised from society. Next time someone says ‘Did you hear about?’ Ask
them and yourself – is it true, is it kind, is it useful?