When The Who sang that they wouldn’t get fooled again, they started it off by saying that there was fighting in the streets.
While I wouldn’t call it a fight (far from it), I was recently driving when I was flagged down by a guy in a car driving in the other direction, his arm waving out the window. I stopped, and he reversed back along the road to tell me that I needed to slow down.
I should have let it go, but I was shocked because I wasn’t going too fast and the shock meant I defended myself. I couldn’t tell you how fast I was going. I genuinely don’t know, but it was no different to the speed I normally enter the car park even when I’m following other cars and there was never any point, even looking back at it, where I felt I was being unsafe in the circumstances.
I was going in to a car park off a roundabout from a standing start in absolutely no rush to get to the petrol station. I’d covered maybe 30 metres, half of which was a right angle bend. I explained that, still taken aback.
Then came the other part of another song related to The Who that riles me. This series of Petty Hates is supposed to be for silly embuggerances, those little things that aren’t a big deal. This one is different, because it does genuinely bother me.
The guy responded to me defending myself with the line, “Who do you think you are?” (Pete Townshend famously asked “Who are you?” so I’ve taken some liberties with the links and title in this post!)
That was it. There was no prompting of that sort of comment with the conversation going from “slow down” to “I wasn’t going fast” to “Who do you think you are?”
All the explaining of the context here was necessary, because it’s the lack of qualification that annoys me with that phrase. In a witty, sarcastic context including an example or suggestion about who you might think you are, it doesn’t carry much weight while still emphasising the point.
Without contextualising, it’s a comment that moves a discussion from one where one party thinks another has done something wrong and wants to make that known, to one with the sole intention of belittling and subordinating, and that really, really bothers me.
It bothers me because it’s a reflection of everything that is wrong with the world. Simply thinking it during a discussion shows an innate sense of superiority, of being better, that your challenge is worthy but others’ aren’t because you are better despite the fact that they know absolutely nothing about the other person other than something that has, rightly or wrongly, bothered them. It’s an attitude that perpetuates abuse and, to the person uttering it, shows a lack of openness to betterment.