For once I’ve been at an impasse when I’ve tried to type my blog.
Over the last few days I’ve sat with my phone, tablet or laptop, started typing and then abruptly stopped again a few moments later.
Everything I’ve created has been almost instantly deleted. Normally I don’t suffer from writer’s block. I haven’t since I started my blog – nor have I had this problem in the past.
I’ve been trying to write since Saturday on topics I’m clearly not that concerned about because the subject that has fully occupied my mind – the thing that I really want to talk about – makes me feel intensely uneasy. Consequently nothing I’ve written has seemed ‘honest’ and instead came across as ‘forced’ when I read it back.
So, like everything else in my life I’m going to try and put what I’m REALLY thinking in print and get rid of the feelings that have been building up.
Firstly I have to point out that although I have a strong sense of right, wrong and of social justice that I’m not a political or religious person. I try whenever possible to avoid displaying strong opinions on either of these subjects – although from time to time I do have them, just like anyone else.
If I can I try to apply a live and let live policy to everything and everyone in my life.
I’m someone that relishes diversity. It’s immaterial to me whether that manifests itself in a social class, whether it’s gender specific, based in ethnicity, sexual preference, religious following, or in someone’s idealogical beliefs.
People are people – and I try hard not to discriminate.
The chances are that I will like you – whoever you are. It’s often my default position. This is only modified if you’re a complete ass to me or people I love – and then I’ll decide I don’t like you based on ignorant things that you say or do.
It has nothing to do with where you come from or what God you believe in.
The UK however seems to have hit something of a crisis point with the recent ‘Brexit’ vote to leave the EU, and it has resulted in upset and ugliness in places that I didn’t expect to see it.
I personally think that a lot of the underlying problems this vote is exposing have always been present in the UK.
There has for a long time been an undercurrent of ill feeling about immigration and its impact on jobs, public services and housing. Some of the fears seem to have a basis in fact – others appear rooted in a more fundamental distrust of other cultures and faiths.
People have seen very real changes in their communities and lifestyles in the last decade, and in my view there has been little political will to acknowledge why that has been the case – or any real work done to resolve the often negative and stereotypical feelings that have arisen because of this.
It’s been all to comfortable to label people as intolerant and move on. We’ve ignored this fault line in our society for a long time.
Unfortunately the Donald Trumps and Nigel Farages of this world build much of their (often very charismatic) political capital upon these foundations. They mix some truth and some fiction with real and imagined fears and target people who often feel they have already lost more than they feel they can afford.
In times of economic hardship such people’s feelings of disenfranchisement can quickly become something altogether more ugly. Before long they begin to see others who are ‘alien’ as the cause of their problems, and those seeking power continue to fan the flames.
In the UK the rhetoric used on both sides of the Brexit campaign has (in my view) sought to scare people either into staying in the EU because of the financial consequences of withdrawl or terrify them into leaving for strikingly similar reasons.
It has left a toxic stew of raw emotion in its wake and magnified many already intolerant views held by a very vocal minority.
This is bad enough – but the tone of the campaign has also managed to simultaneously categorise the public perception of other ‘leave’ voters with the same racist and intolerant labels as people on the far right fringe of politics.
It’s dividing the country in a way I’ve not seen before in my lifetime, and honestly it’s making me fear for what will be left behind in the months and years to come.
People I know directly and indirectly have been abused in public – targeted because the colour of their skin or their accent and have been told they will be expected to ‘go home’ or be forced to leave.
Others have implied on social media or in person that anyone who voted for Brexit has in effect supported or agreed with the positions of those in the BNP or Britain First. They have branded those that want separation from the EU as both stupid and racist.
Many who have made these sweeping generalisations were previously considered friends (and in some cases are relatives) of the people they are now accusing.
I know from speaking to many who voted leave (this is just my circle of friends and colleagues) that their motivations were rooted in economics and a feeling that the EU in its current form was not what people in the UK originally voted for. They felt that we had lost our voice in Europe and that we were ruled effectively by unelected officials.
I know others (from watching the media, rather than personal experience) frustratingly voted with bigotry in mind and it saddens me that this is still a part of our society.
Our country is clearly divided like never before.
For my part in this sorry fiasco I became aware very early on that I’m not an economist, politician, lawyer, sociologist, banker, employer or indeed anything that would give me a good enough understanding of the consequences of staying or leaving. Whilst initially thinking I wanted to go I realised I couldn’t support my view with any solid reasoning and it was probably an opinion based on what I’d heard from others rather than my own choice.
I just didn’t know enough. I decided therefore not to vote at all.
This seemed to make some people even madder – and I have a friend that has experienced a similar backlash. I now find myself facing individuals annoyed that I don’t agree with their politics in the first place and also outraged that I didn’t use my vote.
Everyone just seems angry.
Except me. I just feel sad. Really sad, and I want everyone to get along.
People who are friends and family to eachother are saying things that I fear they will not be able to easily take back – and I sense that the divisions this is highlighting and creating will have repercussions for a long time.
If ever there was a need for political reconciliation and compassionate leadership in the UK it’s now – yet our PM (love him or hate him) has decided that it’s the perfect time to step down.
He leaves the country divided completely down the middle. 52% vs 48%.
I’m not sure how any politician will gain popular support in an environment like this but I genuinely hope one rises to the challenge that’s capable and compassionate. They will need to repair a lot of wounds.
In the meantime – people should remember we have laws regarding intolerance and racist abuse. If someone is racist to another person or incites racial hatred then report it.
Don’t just sit there and shake your head. Phone the police.
By the same token please don’t apply this label to people that don’t deserve it. The vast majority of the 52% of this country that voted for Brexit weren’t racists before the referendum and I’m pretty damn sure that they aren’t today.
Finally – the pro-exit people that ‘won’ in this vote (if indeed anyone can be counted as a winner at the moment) need to be magnanimous and courteous to people that wanted to remain. Watching Nigel Farage on television today shamelessly gloating in the EU assembly and acting as a mouthpiece for the UK made me feel like I was watching a drunken British football hooligan fighting in another country.
If we are to get anywhere in the short and long term we need to do it with humility, tolerance and mutual respect.
If you want me internet I’ll be here trying my level best not to fall out with anyone.