There’s a juxtapositional dissonance that haunts our socio-political atmosphere. Like looking but not noticing how your eyes are taking turns at keeping closed.
David Cameron expects a hundred separate factions in Syria to unite around their complex histories and myriad agenda to make a common cause of peace and civic stability. The Labour Party can’t unite just two basic factions who claim, habitually, to share, in common, nearly every cause.
There are sixty-plus million people in this country, self-identifying with any number of every conceivable tribe and demographic and none. But no matter because nuance and perspective are on extended sabbatical so, if you have no idea where you belong or are more inclined toward the none group, there are plenty of people who will happily supply you with a label or two.
Refugee crisis, climate change, scroungers, terrorist sympathisers, Trident, values, etc, etc. Each, a captured meme, irresponsibly loaded, wound tight and released into the wild as a springboard for an emotionally charged and polarised population, fuelled by paranoia, cognitive dissonance and easy bias.
A great deal of the binary manifests as dumb and lazy stereotyping by vitriolic attention-seekers. It is irritating and unpleasant and it’s hardly conversational or constituting rigorous, healthy debate but, usually, the passion is still understandable, even if the right or reason is questionable. Its real harm is in the incremental traction that degrades us all, albeit slowly and less obviously. Still, over time, if polarisation intensifies because it is being incited, even the most reluctant will be forced to choose a corner.
And, increasingly, many do behave as if it were their very duty to directly harass, de-platform, even intimidate and physically hurt any person, public or private, into ‘correct’ thinking or silence. This is the free speech and free will of self-importance and superiority that mocks Free Speech and Free Will. Acting like and treating each other as enemy contestants on a cheap reality show, editing for outrage and sensationalism, has consequences: groupthink and censorship are in conflict with one-upmanship and hedonism. This, as Britain debates how to deal with the terror of Da’esh, a fascistic conviction of religious hysteria, currently claiming and exacting domination and punishment of others as a duty, gifted from God.
We are told: they hate us, not for what we do but for who we are* – Is not what we do informed by who we are? Are we, then, as a Society, as factions and as individuals: are We** acting genuinely, from within ourselves or are we behaving quite out of character? We are well aware of the authoritarian character of our Government that throws its ill-considered, exploitative weight around the world and meddles at home, to divide us and diminish our freedoms and rights. We know it doesn’t trust us. It probably doesn’t even like us. And our fixed horizon is down to more than Media framing and the fractured state of opposition. It is us, too. If we are our own worst enemy, we are outnumbered.
Perhaps, in the grand scheme, we are undergoing a collective right of passage and Humanity’s psyche is negotiating a higher puberty but I listened to Hilary Benn’s rhetorical turn and I thought: Here We are, not only subject to a Machine that holds our democracy and universal values in contempt but We hold us in contempt. We hold our values in contempt. We hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. Here We are, with our own tide of petty, tribal fascism. The Conservative Government tells us that to thrive in the global race, We must be competitive. At this rate, we will beat Da’esh to it and defeat ourselves.
*Of course they hate us. They’re an anally retentive death cult.
**Pronouns are interchangeable. I use ‘We’ (and ‘you’) to include anyone or everyone, generally and so as to avoid singling out specific individuals.