When my housemate and I first discovered that he was familiar with the town I live in, one of the first things we discussed was the crazy guy who sells The Big Issue* outside Touchwood. He's kind of a Solihull staple: he yells incoherently at shoppers as they exit through the big glass doors, they try and avoid contact and ignore him. I can't imagine he sold an awful amount of magazines in his time as a seller, although I wish I'd bought one.
Crazy Big Issue Guy died this week days ago, and it's only since his death that I been able to discover there was a lot more to him than I assumed.
"I have worked with Peter for just over 5 years now, I badged him up just after he came back from the States and from then on he was one of the vendors I always referred to when discussing The Big Issue and it’s benefits to other people. Pete simply was an enigmatic and incredible type of person, his conversation was always of interest and his beliefs on the world was of intellect and understanding. He was also, even though I shouldn’t have one, my favourite vendor and I am very saddened to know he has passed away."
You can read the full article about him here.
To me, reading about Peter has really, really kicked a few things into light. The first is what I said right at the beginning of this post: I'm a hideously judgmental person, and it's not fair of me to create this persona of Crazy Big Issue Guy in my head, when it's someone I don't know at all and don't really deserve to have an opinion on.
The second is that it shouldn't matter what the book is about, to abuse the metaphor a little further. Even if the content did match the outer appearance, whatever Peter was like under the (sometimes intimidating) mask, it shouldn't have changed how I felt. I'm a dick for assuming that people with a higher intellect, or who've done stuff in life are somehow more worthy of my approval, or that I can somehow judge that some people deserve my two pounds more than others.
I'm also a dick for assuming my approval is important to anyone's life, when I so vehemently insist that I need no-one's approval to live my own.
And whilst I hate to get all ~tumblr-social-justice-brigade~11!!1! on here, it has kicked a few things into check about my own privilege, both practically as someone who isn't homeless but also on a more abstract level, as someone who thinks she's lofty enough to judge others.
And that rounds up my giant 'Emma is a dick' post. If you'll excuse me, it's 4:15 in the morning, my eyes are burning, and I have a particularly interesting fic to finish reading before my laptop gives out. So I'll conclude by saying RIP Peter Dolan. I'm sorry.
*I'm not sure how international the concept is, but here The Big Issue is a magazine sold only by homeless people, basically giving them a source of income and a chance to earn some money despite having no fixed address.