There are countless points we try and make about the colossal political upsets of 2016 and any of them would leave large amounts of people reacting in disgust. In fact, ironically enough, pretty much the only thing we as a community can agree on is that both British and American societies are deeply divided.
At the same time as the year’s dramatic political upheavals we have seen the rise of forces on both the left and right, which are increasingly intolerant and unwilling to listen.
We must ask whether the emergence of the alt-right and safe-space culture is completely linked to the vote for Brexit and the triumph of Donald Trump in the Electoral College. I would argue somewhat yes. Of course it is too simple to say this was the reason, indeed I simply see the heavy materialisation of this anti-listening culture as a symptom of what is keeping our communities so split.
More and more in Britain we see groups of protesters clashing in the street. In their mind’s eye, they are either standing up and defending native culture and customs from those outside that seek to undermine it or declaring their tolerance and openness to all ways of life looking to call the UK their home.
Both crowds see themselves as perpetuating the ‘morally just’ argument but what really needs to happen is for everyone involved to take a step back and think just how their actions are looking to the general public.
If your average citizen was just going out for their weekend shop and saw these two sides clashing they may not think that one side was more just than the other. Chances are they would just see two mobs shouting vitriolically at one other with no constructive conclusion. One side may force the other out of town, but nothing is achieved by that.
We need to remember that the point of politics is to listen and try and make a positive case for our vision. That means sometimes being the bigger person, not employing Godwin’s law and branding those who disagree with you as “scum” straight out of the Third Reich.
This expands beyond street protests. In the Daily Mail a recent issue had those who support remaining in the European Union branded as “unpatriotic traitors”, in America we see the Democratic Party selling “I DIDN’T VOTE FOR TRUMP” badges, across social media people who voted one way or another are assumed to have done it out of stupidity.
It’s okay to be angry, it’s fine to feel like your fellow voters have taken something from you, but if you ever want to solve anything and bring about your vision for the country and society as a whole it will never be achieved by shouting down and insulting those who disagree with you.
“If you want to entrench someone’s beliefs and therefore do yourself no favours, call them a bigot or an idiot.”
If we show respect and understand that the concerns of people who vote differently from us are indeed legitimate then we can hope to break through and explain why we disagree with their answers. A common response I hear to this argument is that you can’t win with some people, that any amount of talking is useless. To this I say sure, not everyone is going to listen to you and take on board what you say, but you can’t dispute that you have a hell of a higher chance of leaving them thinking again by listening rather than insulting.
If you want to entrench someone’s beliefs and therefore do yourself no favours, call them a bigot or an idiot.
The safe-space culture, an overreaction born out of brash forces on the right, is still running rampant across university cultures. It ignores the fact that after graduation comes the real world where freedom of speech is (rightly) absolute and so you can’t deal with divisive views by attempting to drive them underground.
You cannot kill an idea and indeed attempts to do this will only empower them and result in the reactionary forces that have created the climate for a Leave vote in Britain and have now got Donald Trump elected in the United States. What is to come next if nothing changes? I dread to imagine.
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