Today felt like Brexit day all over again. Going to bed, convinced that sense would prevail, and waking up to find that once again, I’d underestimated the power of fear, hatred and deep-rooted prejudice.
I’m genuinely scared for the future, but that’s for another entry. Right now, I’m trying to understand how we’ve reached this place where extreme right-wing rhetoric reigns supreme. For all of our claims to learn from the past; for all of the poppies currently on coats assuring people we’ll never repeat past mistakes, in honour of those who fought for our freedom; for all of our claims of progress; it’s impossible not to see the parallels between recent headlines and voting patterns, and fascist regimes of the past.
Many of us who voted to remain in the EU, and many who so hoped Hillary Clinton would make it to the White House, did so because of a desire to be a part of a global society, and a gut-feeling that putting up (literal or metaphorical) walls would only unleash the darker parts of society, or encourage feelings of native superiority; because of a belief that everyone deserves the same opportunities, and that change was possible without withdrawing into our individual fiefdoms.
Many of those who voted to leave the EU, or saw the opportunity offered by a Trump presidency, didn’t like where the world, or more specifically their country, was going. Whether that was a perceived lack of influence over their own destinies, a dislike of increasing multiculturalism, a fear of what a world would look like with fewer boundaries or changing priorities, or a feeling of being forgotten by an establishment full of people whose lives looked nothing like theirs (even if their faces did) – it adds up to a shout out to be heard, to be seen, and to be acknowledged.
(I’ll address the sexism issue another time.)
For many of us, this is our first time in the minority. The gradual shift of the last few years from the centre over to the right, accompanied by the onslaught faced by the most vulnerable in our society as a result of austerity, has shaken our comfortable foundations in which we (at least claim to) look after each other and our world, and this year has finally toppled things over. I’ve gone from feeling surrounded by liberals and centrists, from feeling safe and a part of my country, to feeling bombarded by hate. I’m increasingly on the wrong side of the decisions being taken and the statements being made in my name; this is how many have felt for a long time.
I find it incomprehensible that people would choose fear or prejudice over compassion. Some of those who feel threatened by or just plain dislike the changes in the world find it incomprehensible that people would risk what they have, to give others the same opportunities. I’m doing a lot of soul-searching and reading opposing views and listening to different opinions to try to understand that other side. It isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Being in a bubble where everyone agrees with your views doesn’t move things forward.
Many of us on the more liberal side of the fence will be familiar with the accusation of being “naïve”. I think there’s a big difference between striving for a peaceful world built on compassion, and being naïve.
I’m not stupid, and I’m more informed than many who’d call me naïve. I understand that power is an incredible motivator; that money is an incredible motivator. I know that opening every border and letting people settle wherever they want – while ideal, in my opinion (borders being manmade and arbitrary) – isn’t workable. I know that people need to feel secure; I understand the hierarchy of needs.
All the time people strive for more and more power, and all the time people want more money than the next person, and all the time we’re told people who are ‘different’ threaten our stability, and all the time those are the factors that shape decision-making globally, rather than what’s in the interests of the many, reaching that peaceful and compassionate world is going to be difficult, if not impossible.
Striving for it, and supporting those causes that work towards it, however, isn’t naïve. It’s hopeful, and it’s human, and I for one would always rather be on the side of compassion than division. I’m going to be spending the foreseeable future finding ways to make that happen.