This is an open letter to one of my sister’s friends, typed from a net cafe, and is in fact not related to free and open source software, open standards or something fun and silly.

It’s often said that it’s during times of crisis that people’s true colours shine through, and you learn who your friends really are. When my mum passed on at the end of last year after her epic 12 year battle with cancer, every single one of my friends were supportive, warm, friendly and knew exactly what to say. It didn’t matter if they were in Singapore, posting through Facebook from Australia, or even if I had met them face to face in the US, the UK or the Netherlands. You all know who you are, and you’re all great people for putting up with me through those tough times.

Unfortunately, my sister wasn’t so fortunate. As I posted about a few months ago, instead of supporting her and cutting her some slack during the worst time of her life, many of her friends chose instead to attack her character, calling her in as many words an "attention seeking bitch". Well last night in true soap opera fashion one of her so called "friends" in particular was exposed for continuing to make such remarks, the earliest of which were made less than a month after the disaster happened. When my sister read about this last night, she burst into tears.

Given such circumstances, I thought it would be useful and constructive to post some comments here to voice my concerns and to address some of these cruel, unjust accusations being leveled against my sister.

The Boeing 737-200 is not a widebody commercial jet.
The Boeing 737-200 is not a widebody commercial jet!

I’ll be the first person to admit I have no idea what would motivate someone to make such cruel, petty comments against a young women going through the toughest time of her life, but I suspect it could be partly explained through several factors including personality, upbringing and experience.

It is true that many of our thoughts and actions result from our own experiences; it’s the reason why we have cliche phrases such as "learning it the hard way". For most people being told that something is wrong, inappropriate or will result in harm to themselves or others is an inadequate, and ineffective, substitute for real life experience.

In the case of my sister’s so-called friend, she has never lost a significant person in her life before. It could be that she is just so confused or unable to imagine what that experience would feel like that she doesn’t know how to react. One would think though that even if such a person didn’t know, she would still have enough empathy, respect and intelligence to at least cut a person going through the experience some slack and provide emotional support rather than backstabbing her.

Upbringing would also no doubt affect a person’s ability to a certain degree to be empathetic and supportive towards someone who has just lost her mother before she turned 20. In this case of this friend, she was raised in a conservative Christian environment. I’ve made no effort to conceal my own Atheism and the reasons why I chose to be (logic, respect for women and the human condition, morals…) but I also know that much of Christian teaching (in its current contemporary interpretation) is about instilling the love of thy neighbour and he who is without sin casting the first stone. Why did this friend find it so difficult to adopt these doctrines towards her friend when she needed her the most? Does she not see the connection or is she unwittingly being a hypocrite?

A South Australian high road
A South Australian high road!

No, as much as I try to reconcile external influences and reasons for why someone would be so childish during such tough times, I keep coming back to personality. Even if she had been taught that her friend was the devil, even if she could not relate to the loss of a close loved one, I can’t help but think she could have at least tried to be supportive, or at the very least pretending to give a rat’s arse.

We can learn a lot about the reasons why she labelled my sister with such insults by looking at the words themselves. She referred to my sister firstly as an "attention seeker". Could this friend in fact be so childish that she became jealous at the attention my sister was getting from others – attention not bestowed upon herself – that she would accuse her of intentionally stealing her thunder? Could she be so shallow as to assume that my sister in fact didn’t care as much about her mother’s premature death as her social standing?

These are all possibilities. Perhaps though her reasons, personality and character can all be explained by the crude, tacky, uninspired final insult she slung at my sister: "Bitch". One would think that given the circumstances, she could have been a bit more original with her insults too.

So to my sister’s friend, and all those who agreed and sided with her over this abhorrent behaviour, please grow up and start acting your ages. You’re not little kiddies in a playground anymore, you’re in the real world now. Save yourselves.

Oh and by the way…