I’ve been reflecting on this binary thing I wrote about last time… the world is suddenly different now, and most of the voices I have heard trying to explain why seem somewhat hysterical, apart from a couple (read on… no… please do… 🙂 ).
I had a ‘moment’ this week. I stomped away from a local argument before saying anything else that I’d later regret. For the record, my own view on that issue is unchanged, but on reflection, I over-reacted and trampled on the free expression of others’ views. It was another scorching hot day, a cold-and-dead issue (as I thought) and I was feeling a little ganged-up-on… anyway… I over-reacted… and it kick-started this train of thought…
Ploughing through the trash on Facebook this week, I read endless items about Donald Trump, including a fascinating commentary on what has made him so popular with his supporters. This was after watching a brilliant Vlog by Melody Fletcher which resonated hugely for me, too.
These two articles work to address why the world seems to be making some curious choices which fly in the face of the accumulated wisdom of decent liberal people. I’m sharing my reflections (for what they’re worth) because, like many I guess, I’m trying to find some understanding, and maybe you are too… I hope this offers an additional perspective.
In my own life journey, decent liberalism probably knocked on the door of my awareness in the then fresh form of political correctness. I was a 23 year-old fresher at the University of Warwick when the knock came. For the first time in my life my contemporaries began to view gender, and ethnicity issues in a new, enlightened way. In those heady early ’80’s days, it was a very exciting and liberating thing to feel informed, and develop awareness of serious issues disadvantaging large sections of my world.
Inevitably, I got into trouble and made loads of mistakes, like routinely holding open a door for a woman, who informed me angrily that she was, “perfectly capable of opening a door for myself, THANK-you!” I still make that mistake (yeah, it wasn’t a single occurrence 😀 ) because I was brought up to hold a door open for people of whatever gender, age, or ethnicity… even though I have been told since it is wrong.
One of my most memorable mistakes in this new world was a conversation with a senior member of the feminist society at Warwick. It went something like this…
Me: So, when do you all meet?
Her: Every Thursday in the Student’s Union.
Me: Can I come?
Her: Absolutely not, it’s women only.
Me: But, if I came, I’m sure I’d understand more about why all men are b*stards…
Her: It’s women only.
Me: How can us men learn what we’re doing wrong, if you won’t share that with us?
Her: It’s women ONLY.
Apologies if I misremembered the meeting night.
I have to say this baffled me at the time, young innocent that I was. Happily, I had some women friends who were willing to educate me, and I have tried over the years to be more aware, because, frankly, I don’t want to be a bullying male, and prefer to live harmoniously with the other half of the human race…
So… as politically correct hot potatoes have come and gone, I have alternately consumed some for their correctness and wisdom, and rejected others for their downright (in my opinion) sheer weirdness/silliness… At the risk of alienating you, I am going to share a rejection with you, because it’s kinda my overall point in this blog…
About twelve years (OMG – THAT long!!!) ago, I found myself working alone with a female colleague in a small meeting room. We were working on a ‘stuck’ project, and had been tasked with unsticking it, and moving it on.
Having been unsuccessful in improving the process we already had, I proposed a brainstorming session to try and spark something useful that we could use. The meeting closed shortly after my colleague tore several strips off me for my use of the word brainstorm, which, she informed me, was highly offensive to sufferers of epilepsy. She insisted that I revert to the term thought-shower, and I refused, because I felt that I was being stupidly bullied. (Note – Subsequent conversations with epilepsy sufferers have expressed the view that they find it is as ridiculous as I did. One person shared my view that this was another example of someone looking for something to be offended about, by creating an unnecessary word to spare the feelings of the uninjured! I haven’t heard alternative views form epilepsy sufferers on this, but I do acknowledge they are likely out there.)
I have to be honest here, and admit to having had a real desire to behave badly and p*ss off the ‘thought-shower-police’ at all costs. I suspect that this is much of what informs the behaviours of people like Jeremy Clarkson, too! Yes, I am “morally-challenged” (is that the correct term??? Actually… I don’t really care about the correct term, sorry…).
I’m beginning to empathise more with what is happening out there… I feel. A final extreme (and half-remembered) example for you…
Many years ago, I read in The Sunday Times a review of an art exhibition in New York. The white male correspondent, confronted with a box of badges in the reception area, saying “Thank God I’m not White and Male” told the seller he thought the badges were hilarious, and asked for one of the “Thank God I’m not Black and Female” badges. He was escorted from the building.
What is my point? It is simply this: strong views meant to liberate excluded groups are often set in stone as the only correct, or exclusive, view. In my (undoubtedly contentious) view, brilliant initiatives that were designed to encourage equality, were often hi-jacked by elitists who then worked overtime to create additional moral sticks to beat the unenlightened with. Oddly enough, this created another minority, those with alternate views to those who were ‘right’. What about their rights? Don’t they have any? Who’s looking after them whilst they are foraging for comfort in the moral low-ground? Is it a toupee-d American Presidential Candidate??? Will they support him? What do you think?
Here is what I think is happening…
I think there are a great many people in the world right now who have spent years being told they are wrong, and that their views are unacceptable. I suspect, they have become tired of being wrong, and being continually bullied for views which don’t agree with those of the liberally enlightened. I believe they might be looking for a spokesperson. Before you tell me I’m wrong on this, consider why Donald Trump is attracting such huge support. Years of hearing the strong views that Britain is better off in the EU are bound to have provided loads of free opposition from those whose alternate views were ignored back in the 70’s (and yes, I do recognise that the issues with Brexit are more complex than this).
I was very struck by Melody Fletcher’s view, which, as I interpreted (and borrowed!) some of it, proposed that listening to opposing views, and having a dialogue about them, can diffuse much of the anger in a situation, and hopefully inform both parties moving forward. After all, if you are being ignored, or having your beliefs constantly criticised, my guess would be that your frustration will build to a critical point, and you’ll look for more and more extreme ways of ensuring you are heard. Yes?
I share that view, usually, although failed epically to live up to it recently on a very hot day… So, I guess we’re all human, huh?
Encebras – July 2016
PS – If it is important for you to know where I personally stand after the above (and assuming you haven’t already left me in disgust!) I find Donald Trump, and what the media tells me he stands for terrifying. Brexit… hmmm… can’t separate my views about what is best for the UK from my own very personal interest in the future of my family as recent UK immigrants in Spain, so I don’t have a definitive response… yet…
And, yes, I like to think of myself as one of those decent liberals 🙂