We have more in common than what divides us, I truly believe that. But today we are seeing that the political tactic of ‘divide and conquer’ is succeeding in breaking apart the threads of a compassionate civil society.
We have allowed the likes of the European Union, a body which symbolises unity, to be pushed away in pure hostility; like someone leaving their marriage without trying to fix it.
People made a decision, on behalf of our country, to leave a gateway to mobility and liberty in return for an enforced sense of national identity and a life with more borders. Not only will this diffuse any momentum of tolerance that has been growing, but it will be replaced with a reduction in mobility that future generations will now never benefit from in the same way. But Brexit, like Trump, has forged a sanctuary for an elite who function off of scaremongering and scape-goat-ing which smells too much like an era we hoped would never resurface after the end of the 1940s.
Realising this is the thing that is going to save us from tearing each other apart in what is with great sadness, easily dissolving into a dog eat dog world. The idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’, we are the taxpayers with overburdened public services and they are the predators come to sponge off my hard work, is the perfect set-up for divisiveness.
But without stopping to think, we are being conditioned by the media and by right wing politics to dehumanise those who are seeking to be valued as humans the most. Migrants are facing battles in their homelands, they face unbearable pain journeying to the Mediterranean only to face uncertain death as they board a vessel to cross unknown waters. They face another battle when they reach the other side only be faced with yet more dehumanising behaviour. This is a cycle that perpetuates throughout these people’s journeys, right onto your doorstep.
But what is so interesting about the social climate of today, is that this hostility we are forced to feel towards foreigners is redolent of dehumanisation to all citizens. By instilling an atmosphere of fear towards migrants who have fled indescribable lands, it instils a reactionary rejection of human compassion and empathy. It says apathy is ok, because your life is worth more; your happiness shouldn’t be compromised by people coming to seek safety, coming to seek a life like your own. I worked for this life, what did you do?
What kind of a human are you if you reject a person in pain? These people are visible, they are in their millions. They are the product of the colonialist endeavours of the land within which you call your home. Our country was built off the back of resource exploitation and wars and when we ‘extracted’ our colonialist presence a land that was easy pickings for militant groups to slide on in and assume control. This ‘Great’ Britain made those conditions, and now we must take responsibility to repair the damages done.
We may not have been complicit in our ancestor’s decisions, but we are responsible for how we treat fellow human beings whom are victims of historical plunder. A plunder which we benefit from today.
If you don’t believe that, then what about this. Globalisation is something that, in the 21st century, citizens benefit from the most in their daily lives. We can fly through time-space compression, to get to a holiday destination in a time frame shorter than the time it takes some people to fetch their daily water.
The number of people who have made the perilous journey across their homelands, borders, into trafficking rings, across sea in wooden boats is now over 1 million.
So why is it that globalised movement of goods; of capital, is so damn easy? Yet when people who are real sentient beings begin moving into lands closer to our home, do they face the wrath of hostility and rejection? Vindicated and accused of being economic migrants or worse; with an ulterior motive to spread extremist views.
Is it because it reminds people of the realities of the world, of lands incomprehensibly far away from the daily lives of the comparably privileged? Because guilt leads to anger and accusation to escape blame. It leads to a disconnect, ungrounding oneself from other human beings. Foreign is fear, and this disconnect leads to a scape-goat tendency.
This is the same with the pitching of political differences against eachother. “You’re left wing and we all know communism ends in totalitarian regimes and hippies just want to hug trees.” “You’re right wing therefore you’re a facist and only care about money.” By stigmatising political tendencies and beliefs it becomes just another case of dancing around with no real substance or constructiveness to what you’re saying.
Divisiveness is obviously something that politician’s liberal alternatives are often stigmatised as outlandish, unstable and unrealistic. Meanwhile the status quo perpetuated by the government of the day is familiar, safe, stable, and sensible even. But this approach has so far failed. Few people believe that the current system is perfect; far from it. This is evident in the results across the US and in Europe. People want the system to change. But what they think will do that job is thrown at them in simple, easy to consume, one size fits all packaging. The rise of Trump has shown a rebranding of racism and bigotry in a politically acceptable way. But social unrest is not prevented by people of colour, the LGBTQ community, or those organising for global justice. It’s prevented by those spouting ideologies in a nationalist, fascist, non-constructive fashion.
This is not an issue concerning ‘left’ or ‘right’, Liberal or Conservative. It’s an issue of humanity.
I am because we are. This is the African Ubuntu saying which rings so true. No one person can claim themselves as truly free, whilst there is oppression and injustice happening in the world. But this does not have to appear an illusory, abstract, unsolvable problem. Yes, there are issues of political warfare, climate change, economic turmoil involved but on a local scale, on the scale that matters most, is people with hearts and minds. These are the people who can change other’s lives, because changing a life is changing their world.
Doing something, stops you from feeling the powerlessness which can so easily subsume you if you stop for too long to allow it. Make a small gesture, to your neighbour. Because how can we ever hope to encourage tolerance to migrants if we cannot even spread compassion to people in our immediate environment. Your offering wont stem the tide of loathing disguised as logic. It will not stop the panic on every border or the ongoing migration of so many displaced people. But what I can promise you it will do is connect you to what it is to be human. And today, that is a very rare and valuable thing.