Winter is here. It’s cold outside. Time to sit close to the fire and take a moment to reflect.
This blog is a record of my reflections on a momentous year.
It is not meant to persuade you, to win you over to my point of view.
It is a tool that I will use to work out where to place my Trust. To work out what are my Core Values. So that I might live an authentic life in line with those values.
I hope that it will also be a conversation. Please take the time to comment.
Over the past two days, I have tried to describe how I have felt about two major World events from the past twelve months, namely Brexit and the election of Trump. It has not made for cheery writing. But I don’t think that we are living in a cheery world at the moment. I think that the World is a pretty dark place at the moment. And to pretend otherwise is dangerous. We need to speak what we see.
The Brexit Campaign made the issue of immigration central to its argument. Much was made of a vision of a once Great Britain destroyed by unrestricted immigration. Which was a lie on several fronts: it was a lie that we have free borders – we don’t. Just try and walk through passport control with no passport. It was a lie that being a member of the EU meant that we couldn’t control our own borders – we had always maintained control. It was a lie that immigrants were destroying Britain – in purely economic terms immigrants create wealth rather than take it away. And I think that the cultural richness that immigration brings is pretty obvious to see. As far as I am concerned, the use of immigration as a lever in the Brexit debate was designed to awaken a sleeping racism at the heart of Britain. I think that it was a cynical ploy by callous con-men who would do anything to win power. And, sadly, I think it worked. Racist attitudes in Britain have always been there but now they have the complicit support of those in Power.
Brexit condoned racism. Trump was just out and out, blatantly, straightforwardly, openly racist. And, if the most powerful man in the World says it’s ok to be a racist, than we are in a very dangerous place. A place where the Establishment is racist. A place where racism is normalised. It is not a place I want to be. In Europe, we have been there before, not so long ago. My father fought against it on Sword Beach at D-Day. He opposed it as he sat in a Prisoner of War camp. He was lucky. He made it home. Many of his friends did not. They gave their lives fighting a racist regime. Did they fight because they were all heroically anti-racist? Probably, not. They probably fought because there was a direct threat of invasion. They probably fought to defend their way of life. But I so hate it when that same impulse to defend one’s culture is used to justify racism. It is lazy and cruel. My father’s generation were fighting an invading bully. My father hated bullies. Migrant workers in the UK are not bullies. Syrian refugees are not bullies. These people are victims. Trump is a bully. Farage is a bully. They both systematically pick on weaknesses in their opponents in order to gain an advantage. My father would have hated them.
But it’s not quite that simple. You see, my father himself could be racist at times. But never a bully. If he was racist, it was out of ignorance, lack of experience. Never out of spite or to gain advantage. And we have to be honest and admit to ourselves, in the UK or US or whatever country, that there is and always has been, an element of racism somewhere deep in our cultures. We need to accept that, take ownership of it. And then, having accepted responsibility for it, we have to decide whether we want to keep it that way. Or do we want to move beyond it. Do we think that we would be better off without it? If we do, then we consciously have to fight to get rid of the racism. It won’t just disappear of its own accord. We have to stand up and do something about it.
Which is why, in some weird, roundabout way, Brexit and Trump may turn out to be good things. Because they are going to force people to stand up and declare what they stand for. For a long time, people on all sides have maintained a dignified silence about their political beliefs. Here in the UK, it is considered a little unseemly to talk about one’s politics. There are significant cultural imperatives not to rock the boat. And the quiet progressive middle classes have just assumed that things will continue as normal indefinitely. Just be nice and everyone will be nice back.
Except, now, the bully boys have come along and sunk the boat. And there is no point being nice to them because they’re not going to be nice …. ever. So, we have to learn quickly to be vocal. Give voice to our opposition. Identify where it is you stand. Then …Stand up. This is what Democracy feels like. Democracy is not having a single vote and then shutting up and accepting the result. Democracy is an ongoing discussion. In times like these it becomes a loud argument. It is definitely not the time to be silent. Silence means the bullies have won. Now is the time to Stand Up. And that feels like a good thing.
Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at some examples of people who are Standing Up right now.