We need to rescue public discourse in the UK, and make it clear that hate and xenophobia have no place in our country.
The UK is about to make a major decision about its future, but the atmosphere is poisonous. There is a lot of talk about “taking back our country” from the leave campaign, but the country they want back is not one I’ve ever seen, or would ever want to live in.
For years now, many Conservative politicians, far-right parties and the right-wing media have pushed a xenophobic campaign against anyone they see as different, finding them a useful scapegoat for everything wrong in our society. NHS underfunded? Housing crisis? Benefit cuts? Immigration has been squarely blamed for all of these, despite being nowhere near the cause. We’ve built up a culture of othering, of blaming the weak and vulnerable for things they didn’t do, and of blaming some overarching EU conspiracy for forcing us to do things we don’t want to. The leave campaign has stoked this atmosphere of fear, hate and suspicion for political ends.
On Thursday, we hit a low point. Nigel Farage, the most hateful man in British politics, unveiled UKIP’s “Breaking Point” banner showing hundreds of refugees. My immediate thought when seeing it was that it was the people in the picture who were at breaking point, not us. Even if it wasn’t exactly the same as a Nazi propaganda film, it would still be odious, stupid, spiteful and xenophobic. It made me feel sick, and angry about what we’re letting our country become.
And then it got worse. Jo Cox MP was attacked on the street, and soon after we heard she had been killed. There is no question that the killer had strong links to far-right groups, given the name he gave when asked in court today. I felt sick with anger and grief. Grief for Jo, for her family, and for what the country I love has become.
Because we allowed this to happen. We’ve allowed our public discourse to be captured by fear, hate, and mistrust. We’ve allowed our politics to pander to the worst impulses in our society, and embolden hate-filled xenophobes so much that they feel they are justified in attacking an elected representative of the people.
I (and many others) place blame squarely at the feet of the Mail, Express, Sun and other right-wing rags; on UKIP and their nasty bring-back-the-empire politics; and on those in our political parties who exploit national issues for cynical power grabs.
They want their country back? Well I want mine back. The Britain I love is a place of decency, of understanding, of safety. It’s a place where we look after the weak and needy, where we don’t accept oppression or hate.
Their vision of a Britain-that-was is a myth, it was never true. My vision is probably a myth as well, but mine is better. I want to live in my world, not theirs.
We formed Something New to work on building new ways of doing politics, with trust, empathy, and collaboration, and it seems like we need it more than ever. Our old institutions and methods cannot continue; they are morally bankrupt. We need new choices that understand that if we don’t learn to trust each other and work towards common goals on a global scale, we are completely screwed.
If you believe the same, here are a few ideas to help:
Then when you’ve done all that, let’s get out there and build the future we want with optimism and love, and send fear and hate back where they came from.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://somethingnew.org.uk/news/2016/06/18/hate-has-no-place-here.html