Fashion Designers

Is John Galliano worthy of your empathy?

Charlie Rose Interview of John Galliano

“But, in the end, it’s not the fashion establishment who will have the last say on whether Mr Galliano’s tentative comeback will be accepted. That will come down to the end consumer, most of whom were witness to the video of Mr Galliano’s drunken, drug-fueled rant which exploded online and which has been played over and over again in the aftermath of Mr Galliano’s final meltdown. Indeed, no matter how many of the biggest names in the fashion establishment welcome him back, no global fashion business will risk having themselves associated with someone who may still cast a pallor on their sparkling brand identities.” —Imran Amed, Editor of “The Business of Fashion”

The continuous ostracization of John Galliano reveals how empathy has become quaint in popular American culture. You would think we are a nation filled with infallible people based on the amount of personal attacks you see in social media when a person falls from grace. The media, who seem more concerned about sensationalizing scandals than producing balanced reporting, seem to thrive on these types of public lashings. Then profit a little more based on the comeback story.

Do I condone what Galliano did? Absolutely not, but I do believe in cases like this people deserve second chances. He did not commit murder. He didn’t embezzle millions of dollars from peoples’ retirement funds. My goodness, if someone recorded something offensive your friends or family members said in an intoxicated state would you want that to be held against them for the rest of their lives? If you don’t believe that people can change, then I suggest you talk to your parents about your childhood. Chances are they’ll be able to remind you how you behaved in elementary school, versus high school, versus college and so on. Unless you’re living in vacuum, your brain is constantly reacting to external stimuli—establishing, pruning and strengthening neuronal connections. If you want others to believe you can change, then be open to others changing as well.

In this interview it looks as if Galliano is genuinely trying to atone for his statements. And if you’re not convinced then what would convince you? Is his 2 years and 3 months of ostracization not long enough? What is long enough then? 10 years? Would you be fine with being ostracized for 10 years for saying something despicable while you were drunk? Are you being harsh on him because of his fame or wealth?

I have put my foot in my mouth enough times to realize the importance of forgiveness. I’m grateful that I have people in my life who won’t define me based on some stupid statements I’ve made. I really admire the friends who stuck by Galliano during his scandal. Them supporting him as a person does not mean they supported his statements. It means that they understood one of the hallmarks of a being a true friend, being there for someone even when the world turns against him or her. (To be fair though, everyone one has a breaking point for loyalty. I find controversial statements forgivable, but violent behavior is another story).

I’ve realized that a good way to test if you’re being hypocritical or too rigid in your judgments of a person embroiled in scandal is to imagine that person as someone you love (a lover, a friend or a family member), then ask yourself would you feel the same way? Would you want your loved one to be given a second chance?