I’ll stop with the philosophising soon, but bear with me on this one. Perhaps this is blindingly obvious to everyone else but I’ve only recently worked this out — that people in the UK and perhaps elsewhere are being alienated, across the board.
Not only “them people out there” or “over there” but people all over the country, from all backgrounds. Local people. People in cities. You, me, all of us. People of all classes and all cultures, whose views, fears and concerns are not being taken into account, not by the ‘leaders’ of this country, and increasingly, not by each other.
It starts at the top. Ignore the crises for a moment and there is little from the government that constitutes actually helping anyone outside a rich minority, or scoring political points. Austerity is a broken approach. And the “all in this together” mantra has long ceased to be even slightly funny. They never were “all in”, so why should anyone else be.
I also see little from any party that offers a realistic plan to help the general populace today. Nor people with the necessary charisma to carry it off — we have toffs, shiny suits and schoolteachers according to various representations, none of whom have presented a sustainable vision that includes, engages and inspires anyone outside their own focus groups or party faithful.
No wonder people wonder why they should bother to vote. The country teeters on the brink of recession, and people lack much to get excited about. When they complain, they are ignored. It’s more than tragic. It’s dangerous.
It also creates a situation that’s easy to impact. It’s why people of all political persuasions flocked to Corbyn (temporarily, it appears) but also to UKIP, because people felt they were being heard, their views acknowledged.
It’s also being exploited by the media — whose first concern will always be commercial. News organisations are creating echo chambers, telling people what they want to hear for no other reason than to sell more papers. Even when it plays into the hands of fear mongers, for the media does not trouble itself with a conscience.
The overall consequence is more alienation, as people finally start to think they are listened to but as a result, they become more isolated from views they might disagree with. Which makes the press more forthright, more likely to make outrageous statements. It’s a dubious cycle.
All this would be true without the migrant and refugee crises, without the existence of psychopathic nutters and indoctrinated youths. Add these pieces and we have, in US parlance, a real situation. We see it enacted on social media every day. People are (rightly, in my mind) troubled by the amount of divisive speech that has surfaced online, particularly since the Paris attacks.
But who is presenting a rallying call to make things otherwise? We have a distant government, currently calling for airstrikes that nobody knows will be effective, nor even right. Nowhere is there a clarion call for communities to start building bridges and closing divides. Why?
Because it isn’t politically useful. Leading the country is less of a priority than influencing the converted.
In consequence, society is dividing against itself— not just against minority groups, but with increasing intolerance for other political views or even for the expression of individual compassion. We, the populace, are nailing our own colours to a variety of masts. And in doing so we are fighting, arguing. Tensions are running high.
People are looking for answers. To tell them their thoughts are invalid is alienating.
People are defending others. To tell them they should not is alienating.
People are afraid. To tell them they are being stupid, or that they should care more, is alienating.
People are angry and frustrated. To tell them they should not be is alienating, particularly as their fears, anger and frustration have not just happened overnight.
And, of course, innocent bystanders are being judged because they happen to look like, or come from the same place as those we are afraid of. That one goes without saying.
In other words, we are alienating each other. We can blame the terrorists for this, but in reality they are profiting from and building upon a situation that already existed.
We have so much going for us as a nation, in all its celt/anglo/saxon/dane/norman/european/indian/sub-saharan/moslem/etcetera glory, to be proud of. Our United Kingdom of islands and nations, our fantastic mix of cultures, our sense of fair play, our love of tea and knitting, our spirit of a country that has always punched above its weight, our innovation, our complete inability to be cowed, our good humour, our commitment to each other and to our communities.
It’s all brilliant, it will sustain.
We should be applauding each other, smiling as we say bog off to anyone, within or without, who thinks they can in some way take that away from us. It is notable that the most “shared” people stating such views have been TV commentators, not our political leadership.
We need leaders that can inspire, that seek to unite rather than exploit divisions, that actually want to lead our great nation in all its multifaceted glory, to have it stand tall, as a beacon of light in the world. We need leaders that listen to the concerns of ordinary people of all creeds and persuasions, rather than trotting out terms like “hard working people” as euphemisms for “people that might vote for us”.
Only by standing together can we move forward without fear, and we need leaders that recognise it. We’ve seen it in other troubled periods of our history; we saw it most recently in the 2012 Olympics, and we need it now more than ever.