Does it feel depressing when you check the news? Does it feel like the world is full of fear, pent up hate and negativity? Do you feel frustrated hearing your workmates talk about ‘the other’ in a negative light? You’re like me then, I was always a bit of an idealist and I don’t have a problem with that. No, I wouldn’t change it for the world and here’s why…
I grew up in an era of populist nationalism back in the 80’s when the ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher was in charge. Being born to an English Mother and a Scottish Father gave me what I believe is a unique outlook. I was able to glimpse into the culture of the Southern English often referred to as ‘Middle Englanders’. I also experienced the thoughts and views of my working class Glaswegian relatives, they were salt of the earth diehard Glasgow Rangers fans, some spoke horrifying tales of the ‘Old Firm derbys’ and clashes with the ‘Fenians’ (Celtic supporters) but other than that, they were very warm nice people.
I love my family dearly but I always sensed a bit of an insular vibe when it came to their socio political views. After all, things were changing even back in the 80’s. After the dark days of the racially violent 70’s, Black people made important strides in the public sphere. You could see prominent Black football players, TV presenters, actors and politicians. Some of my favourite TV shows growing up were the Channel 4 sitcom ‘Desmonds’
and The Lenny Henry Show
and I was a big fan of Andy Peters and Edd The Duck!!!
I always wanted to reach out to people and not to judge them which made it all the more upsetting when the kids at school were often racist and held derogatory views of women. They also jeered and mocked my taste in music at the time. I was a fan of The Prodigy and ‘rave music’, a counter culture that has it’s roots in pluralism and unity, the much repeated phrase in rave culture is ‘PLUR’ (Peace, Love & Unity), it’s just a shame that a lot of the 40 somethings that once went ‘raving’ are now supporters of Nigel Farage who ‘want their country back’.
Then came the 90’s and the world felt more like a caring and unified place. The Berlin wall came down,The Good Friday agreement happened and a new generation was born with more of a worldview or so it seemed. Within a few short years we descended into a post 9/11 nightmare. The far right began to resurface again in UK politics starting with the BNP and by 2010 UKIP became a major political player, all that goodwill had gone replaced by the same old fear and hatemongering.
But why is this still happening? I put it down to the following
- We let the actions of a few define the actions of many
- We expect people to be perfect but don’t apply this to ourselves
- We lack positive role models in society who are willing to focus on the goodness in mankind
- We seek blame for unfavourable situations we find ourselves in
- The negative effects of hate and fear cause a spiral into depression and anxiety
Despite many people succumbing to the rampant populist nationalism splattered across our media, these very same people are by no means ‘bad’, they take care of their loved ones and do regular acts of kindness. I believe they would extend that kindness beyond their own social sphere if the media stopped throwing up images of ‘the other’ as antagonists and threats to society.
Most importantly is the part that relates to me, if I show goodwill and kindness then all the propaganda in the world won’t stick to me. At least in my very own limited social circle I hope people will recognise through my actions that I’m not the ogre that Rupert Murdoch paints me out to be in his red top papers. And this brings me back to my original point, it is disheartening to see and hear this constant outpour of manipulative hate rhetoric, it gets to that point where the urge to rant is almost uncontrollable, here’s the moment to take a long deep breath and sit back. Let it go for a moment, take the time to collect your thoughts.
In the philosophy of mindfulness there is a common phrase “Be kind to yourself and be kind to others” In other words, don’t let those feelings of frustration, desperation and anger harm you. There is a danger that we take on the very traits we dislike, we begin to imagine everyone in a certain group as a racist or a xenophobe and forget that even if some are indeed racist, their views and outlook can change.
If the opportunity presents itself to repel hate with an act of kindness, never miss that opportunity. Be like the worshippers in a mosque in York who when confronted by a group of EDL supporters, invited them in to play football and have some tea and biscuits.
When I feel hurt and enraged by Nigel Farage’s visual depiction of Syrian refugees likened to Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ I think of these great words written by ex England and Liverpool FC footballer John Barnes
I also think of my absolute favourite poem by Rudyard Kipling
These are difficult times but if you hold dear to the ideals of love for your fellow man, be patient even with those that hate you. It’s not easy but when that pain goes away you will still experience those wholesome feelings of compassion and empathy that kept you going for so long. Don’t let that light extinguish, use it for positive action, sign a petition, go and help some people in need or say hello to a stranger and show some solidarity. Keep up the good fight.
Rudyard Kipling https://www.flickr.com/photos/archivesnz/11440215616