On sparring with a ‘racist’.

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I used to be silent when people shared ‘Britain First’ etc posts; we all want a quiet life and it is hard to put your head above the parapet. If you don’t believe me, watch your ‘likes’ on Facebook go from a good double figures for a picture of your cat wearing a trilby (and I don’t have a cat) to the digital equivalent of tumbleweed when you share an anti racist post. Most people are just scared.

In recent months I’ve stopped shrugging my shoulders and bemoaning the badness and started posting replies (the one post that really gets my ghost is the one that goes something like ‘Ex servicemen get £26 per month, old people less than that, whilst a family of immigrants get £80k a year, a yacht and a new house’…but I digress) ; particularly to those people who are so stupid/unwitting as to repost things that fuel hate. I hope those replies are graceful and irenic, but I’m not sure; I have little tolerance for the ‘I’m not a racist, but…’ kind of post.

Alongside that, I’ve been trying to keep following people on Twitter with whom I would not necessarily agree with; I’m getting tired of virtue signalling and living in a silo- social media seems to encourage this. My urge to ‘flame’ at targets grows. however. It happened last week: a photoshopped picture of a woman in a hijab and some asinine comment and I was off.

I thought no more about it until the person got back to me and he wasn’t complementary. I was just about to repost something equally vitriolic when I paused: I’d never met this person before and I didn’t know what they were like. I posted a more measured reply and a hope that the person had a nice day. He posted back that he hoped I didn’t so I posted again saying that was a genuine wish, posted something ‘fly’ about his football team and hoped he had a lovely evening.

A dialogue of sorts began; he opened up a bit more and a human story began to emerge about why he posted what he did (which I still disagree with). I think I learned the following:-

-Virtue signalling in your own silo is a waste of energy; it persuades no one of anything and largely confirms your own prejudices.

-Calling someone a ‘racist’ does not initiate a dialogue and stops you seeing the other as a human being (don’t call me a ‘snowflake’ a ‘Remainer’ etc etc: I am so much more and it just annoys): it mostly just makes you feel better.

-Sharing posts that just demonise or stereotype your opponents does little to move anyone forward. I struggle with this (Particularly with Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt etc), but I’ve tried to stop sharing posts which do this.

-Life is too short: disagree with the issues by all means, but your opponent will live, love, struggle, laugh and eventually die- just like you.

In short, just being angry or disrespectful about your opponents makes your feed monotonous and joyless: never forget that the sun still shines, nature is still glorious and there are plenty of good things as well.

 

Trumpery

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I am not qualified or knowledgeable enough to talk coherently about Donald Trump as President of the United States or the growing rightwards trend in Western politics. Here are some random polemical observations though:-

(1) Hate, talk of the other with fear and casual racism have now crept into the mainstream and they won’t go away. For example, just try and say ‘asylum seeker’ to the average Brit and observe the reaction that you often get.

(2) There is much vilification of ‘Political correctness’. I have no idea what ‘political correctness’ means, but if it means trying to be kind and sympathetic, when people around you are hating,  I don’t mind being ‘politically correct’.

(3) Most people are silent in the face of (1) and (2) even if they are sympathetic. Most of us just like a quiet life and do not wish to be seen as ‘political’. Now might be a good time not to be quiet.

(4) The liberal disconnect. Much was made of Clinton and her ilk failing to spot or react to the tide that swept Trump into power. Similar points were made about the tide that bought in Brexit. I think that this has something to do with wealthy, educated people not picking up or ignoring the angst of those who felt ‘left out’.

A few months ago, I stopped buying  ‘The Observer’; some of that was to do with a left wing/liberal paper being so metropolitan and wealth obsessed (I never understood fashion pages showcasing items that cost more than the average weekly wage or Home pages showing people who had an excessively wealthy life) that it was disconnected with life as it was lived. All your liberal ideas count for naught if you live in a wealth bubble.

(5) Maybe I should stop being angry with the numbers of American evangelicals who voted Trump. I got angry as I couldn’t see how they applied ‘gospel values’ to this choice. I didn’t recognise anything ‘gospel’ about it. Perhaps I should apply the principles of interfaith dialogue to that choice- you just worship a different God to mine and I should just respect that. I’m being flippant….

#Brexit:3

Ok I lied. I promised only 2 posts on Brexit and this is the 3rd. In my defence, I plead that lying seemed to be de rigeur in the campaign, but also that this post is not really about Brexit.

This post is about language.

I think that Brexit was the wrong choice, that the idea of a referendum was ill conceived & that we have been thrown into a chaos that was unnecessary, but I am not going to call those who voted for it ‘ignorant’, ‘uneducated’or ‘racist’. I might make observations about racism or that many of us did not know enough or voted through a whole host of mixed motives, but that is different.

I have been shocked-perhaps I should not have been- by people whom I know to be on the compassionate Left (my kind of people) who have been so ready to stereotype and label those who voted differently to them. If we believe in compassion, justice, inclusiveness and tolerance, it has to extend to those we disagree with.

We may violently disagree with someone’s opinions and have a good argument….but the minute you label someone personally….you’ve lost that argument and are worse than those you denigrate.

At least that is my humble opinion….

#Brexit:2

I wrote a post before the Referendum and one of my fears about ‘Brexit’ was that the language used about immigration ran the risk of promoting the fear of the ‘other’.

It was starting to do so and since the result hate crimes have risen against Eastern Europeans and British Asian Muslims. The Prime Minister and leading faith leaders have condemned it: it is not just the fantasy of a biased leftie blogger.

In hindsight, it was sadly easy to see that this would be the case. The official Leave campaign majored on migration and distorted the issue re: Turkey etc. This allowed the UKIP campaign to enter the mainstream and now casual and actual racism has become part of mainstream political discourse.

Attempts by the victorious campaign to distance themselves from this in my opinion are too little and too late: the horse has left the stable and the stable cannot be bolted. I fear that the cause of race relations has gone back many years. If I were an Eastern European or a British Asian, I would be in fear- many are.

Some people should not be given the slogan ‘Taking our country back’- it just adds fuel to an already burning fire. There is also the issue of who ‘our’ is and then ‘our country’: I had thought that this came across as mainly  English and not British (the results largely seem to have shown that).

It makes you weep for Britain: what have we done?

 

#Brexit:1

I am not a political analyst, and I am not a fan of long,windy speeches- there is much I could say about the Referendum, but I will confine myself to two posts.

It seems that now the vote has been cast, that Brexit has no clear plans. Perhaps it was harsh to expect it to be so- they were never a political party with a long history of attempting to formulate ideas. In fact, apart from one the one clear idea; ‘we want to leave the EU’, the rest was a half formed collection of disparate intentions or slogans.

I think that is in the nature of protest movements against something big; an unlikely coalition is formed, united against what they oppose but without a coherent vision outside of that. In some ways it was a protest by disenfranchised ‘have nots’ who are left out of most political calculations. Ignore people long enough and eventually they will rise up; often with incoherent rage against the ‘establishment’

The worst thing for me is that this disparate, unformed group won, there are no clear plans, and so we plough on into stormy and unpredictable seas. It seems that ‘Project Fear’ (something that I was not happy about) seems close to ‘Project Reality’.

I hope as we sail upon these seas, we can look outward , I hope that those who voted Leave out of anger and disenfranchisement are listened to, I hope that ‘Little Englanderism’ does not take over…

I hope…

#Bremain

I am, despite a BA (Hons) in politics, no expert. Today I will vote Remain.

I know of the issues with the EU and the faults therein. I also know of its limitations and how parts of the Remain camp have tended towards exaggerated hyperbole. If I was to point you to articulate articles that say in different ways what I want t say, here are a sample:-

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21700637-vote-leave-european-union-would-diminish-both-britain-and-europe-divided-we-fall?frsc=dg%7Ca

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/20/english-working-class-victims-brexit-vote-false-patriotism

or- from another country http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/19/opinion/sunday/from-great-britain-to-little-england.html?_r=0

There are many, many more, but the above picture says what I want to say better:- -I feel that much of the Leave campaign has majored on fear of the other (the official election communication was appalling) and an unsubtle stoking of xenophobia.

This worries me a lot; once you have stoked it, you cannot back away from it. I think this will alter British politics for the worse.

And then: can I trust people who have advocated cuts and a right wing agenda to suddenly advocate more NHS etc spending if we leave the EU. I can’t.

Do I believe we serve Britain by withdrawing from relationship with other nations? No I don’t. At its worst, the Leave campaign seems to be all about ‘Little Englanderism’ and with little positive vision of the future.

I know there are good arguments against what I have said, but ultimately I want to ‘Vote Love’ and hope, not fear, withdrawal and suspicion of the other. However, I think we will leave and I believe there are dark days ahead for Europe.

Syria and hysteria

I have a degree in politics, but I don’t really do politics on here. My blog is capricious, playful and not consistent. I leave consistent political theorising to those who are wiser.

However, I am saddened that we voted to bomb yet again. I do think Isis/Isil/Daesh is evil and I do think they should be stopped…. but I am sickened by the grandstanding, the unformed strategy and the belief that bombing alone (It really does seem that bombing alone is the strategy) will solve anything. It may be that it will have a real effect, but I fear ‘collateral damage’ (ie civilian deaths- how we try and beautify that ugly truth by euphemisms), increased radicalisation and more fear in the west. The harder ways of talking, finding common ground and isolating those who want to fight rarely get as much effort.

And please don’t get me started on the growth of ‘either/or’ politics (Labour activists trying to bully those who would vote for the resolution or our Prime Minister behaving like a public school bully in saying that those who vote against him are ‘terrorist sympathisers’ and being so psychologically weak that he cannot say ‘sorry)…..

A sad week.

Worse still- I think we will be back in the mass terrorist bombing/ refugee crisis/ western bombing/ propping up oppressive regimes (Syria, Saudi Arabia etc) ‘game’ for many years to come.

I hope I am proved wrong….

 

Corbyn v The Pope

 

I have long given up trying to pontificate on politics- I am too much of a hypocritical inconsistency- and I loathe those political animals that don’t listen and caricature: ‘You say you want to nationalise the railways, well Stalin did that- communist!’, ‘You have reservations about same sex marriage: you fascist homophobe- you are just like Hitler’ etc. Boring. And annoying.

I confess to being excited by Jeremy Corbyn’s election (‘so you support his views on Nicaragua, you communist’…. boring...). It is refreshing to see someone challenge the dominant political consensus in such a way and make the ‘have nots’ a centre part of their message. Also, as someone noted in the Observer:-

‘It was the first time many of our young readers felt anything like relevance to, let alone empowerment within, a political system that has alienated them utterly’.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/20/ed-vulliamy-jeremy-corbyn-observer-editorial

I don’t claim he is the Messiah (or a very naughty boy) and I want to watch and see. It is good to see Government faced with real opposition.

I wish certain sections of the media would also do so rather than rushing to fill column inches with froth and bile. It has struck me that the attraction of Jeremy Corbyn to many is close to the attraction that many have to the current Pope:-

  • He seems to live by what he believes in: not just parrot the right words.
  • He has not deviated from his principles.
  • The underdog/those who haven’t have centre position in his philosophy. I am sure that somewhere in scripture we have something about the hungry being fed, the humble being lifted high and the stranger and refugee being welcomed.
  • He is graceful to his opponents and does not seem to stoop to the depth of the worst of them.
  • Dissent to the established order/way of seeing things with an attempt to present a radically different way of seeing things.

I am not claiming he is godlike (or even consistent)- just different. I hope…almost against hope… that British politics may change….

Christians and politics

 

Thankfully by and large we don’t get the whipping up of fear among Christians in the UK that seems to happen in the USA whenever politics is mentioned. However, I do chose to still receive emails from a Christian  group in Britain whose sole agenda is a narrow understanding of personal morality. I do this just to be aware of a point of view that is not my own.

I like this approach to political engagement in the 2nd century AD though as voiced by a Greek statesman named Aristides:-

“It is the Christians, O Emperor, who have sought and found the truth, for they acknowledge God. They do not keep for themselves the goods entrusted to them. They do not covet what belongs to others. They show love to their neighbours. They do not do to another what they would not wish to have done to themselves. They speak gently to those who oppress them, and in this way they make them their friends. It has become their passion to do good to their enemies.

They live in the awareness of their smallness.

Every one of them who has anything gives ungrudgingly to the one who has nothing. If they see a travelling stranger, they bring him under their roof. They rejoice over him as over a real brother, for they do not call one another brothers after the flesh, but they know they are brothers in the Spirit and in God. If they hear that one of them is imprisoned or oppressed for the sake of Christ, they take care of all his needs. If possible they set him free. If anyone among them is poor or comes into want while they themselves have nothing to spare, they fast two or three days for him. In this way they can supply any poor man with the food he needs. This, O Emperor, is the rule of life of the Christians, and this is their manner of life.”
                                                                                                                                                                                         – Aristides, 137 AD

Election manifesto: a guest blog.

I hadn’t realised until a couple of weeks ago when I listened in to my children debating what was in the Labour manifesto just how politically aware they are at ages 11 &13.

Last week, my youngest son wrote a manifesto for a new party; the ‘Well Fare Party’. He is becoming interested in Left wing politics. This is it: bear in mind that he is 11 & £10 is a huge amount to him.

Our party provides many excellent attributes, including affordable housing, focus on environmental situation and abolishment of bedroom tax. Our aim is to make everyone feel they are special and we feel that our party will help achieve this supreme goal.

We will also focus on the well-being of the NHS. As we all know, the NHS is the camelot of health care. We will do this by encouraging fundraising events and fund the money to the NHS.

As you have noticed, job employment is on a decline. If the Conservatives stay in Parliament this decline will become steeper. We will open up more businesses and make the minimum wage a day £10.00.

Therefore, I propose you vote well-fair party, as we will achieve  all these goals and benefit everyone’.

I am curiously proud of this: concern for those who have not, a welfare system and inclusiveness. He would like to be a politician: I hope he continues!