Monthly Archives: November 2016

Thank you, Mr President

I have been thinking a lot about prejudice. Brexit, and now the election of Donald Trump, have made me really question what prejudice is, what I experience in my life, and what it means for others around the world.

I live in a melting pot of a city. I don’t describe London as a tolerant society; tolerance implies you don’t like something but you’re not going to throw your toys out of the pram about it. It’s a diverse and largely integrated society.

I know for a fact that there are people in London who experience racism; there are women who experience sexism; there are members of the LGBTQ community who experience homophobia or transphobia; there are disabled people who experience discrimination. But in London, a vast and populous city, prejudice pretty much goes down like this:

99% of the population is fine. Doesn’t discriminate. Doesn’t care about something as inconsequential as your skin colour or accent or who you fuck or how you walk. At worst they’re unclear how to help you in a particular circumstance, or speak to you about a particular issue, in case they inadvertently do or say something you find offensive. But confusion is not the same as prejudice.

But every now and then, someone is a dick. You see it, and a lot of other people around you see it too. Sure, what the dick said or did hurts you for a time – but all those other people, they’re on your side. And the person who comes off worst in this scenario is the dick.

That’s my experience of prejudice. I see it happen, but far more often I see it not happen. When it does happen, the vast majority finds it unacceptable. And if we don’t give the words or actions of the dicks amongst us credence, they don’t have all that much of an impact.

Prejudice is something that happens infrequently, and can be shaken off.

In a city as populous as London, ‘infrequently’ can mean fairly frequently in a chronological sense, of course. Someone might experience racism once a day – but in a city where you encounter literally thousands of people every day, that’s a statistically small part of your life. That’s a different subject, for a different time.

Right now I want to talk about the sort of people who elected Donald Trump as president – a man who calls Mexicans rapists and wants to ban Muslims from entering the US. They don’t experience prejudice in the same way as I do. For these people, prejudice is pathological. They are not isolated dicks – they’re the majority. They are not challenged and ignored – they have the popular vote. The people they abuse don’t experience prejudice infrequently – they experience it habitually.

And no one wants to be the only gay (or black, or Muslim, or woman, or disabled person…) in the village, if they can help it.

So the persecuted Muslim man leaves his bigoted home town – leaving no one there to challenge prejudice and show the bigots that there are more similarities than differences between him and them and there’s nothing to be afraid of. The bigots’ lack of experience grows, and turns to a lack of understanding, then fear, then intolerance, then inexplicable anger and violence. Meanwhile the Muslim man has moved to an integrated society such as London – where his existence changes nothing – or to a less diverse community such as a suburb of Birmingham but where he is in the majority – where his existence changes nothing, and the very existence of that community seems to feeds the fears of the society he left.

But on a personal level the Muslim man feels safer and happier. And the bigots in the town he left also feel safer and happier. So it’s win win.

Only it isn’t. It clearly isn’t.

I don’t understand the bigotry of people who don’t live in an integrated society expressly because I do live in an integrated society. And this is why events like Brexit and the US presidential election have taken people like me by surprise. I had no idea how the disenfranchised masses felt. I could not and still really cannot conceive of irrational prejudice on such a massive scale. I am stunned that white middle class men – for they are the astonishing majority here – could ever feel they were being treated like the underdogs. I cannot wrap my brain around the selfish nationalism that has allowed this to happen. Here. In the US. Across Europe.

People have made associations between Donald Trump and Hitler; between Trump and various African dictators; between Trump and Putin. And with pretty good cause, if you listen to their rhetoric.

I understand that some people desperately wanted change. But I cannot grasp a desperation so deep that they would vote for Donald Trump.

But I believe that the key now is not vilifying people for their prejudices, but trying to understand where they’ve come from. Instead of building a wall, Donald Trump should be travelling through Mexico. Instead of banning Muslims, he should be sitting down and talking to Muslims.

Instead of dividing societies we should all be trying to come together.

Not all differences of opinion can be overcome. But the ones born simply of ignorance can.

If anything good comes from the current global political shift, I hope it’s greater communication. I don’t think I am alone in wanting to understand.

 

The Nigel

Ah, Nigel Farage. Call me old-fashioned, but I just can’t think of his smug gurning face without uttering the word “cunt”.

What’s he up to now? He’s only offered to be Donald Trump’s ambassador to the EU, that’s what. Given he’s probably at the very top of the list of people the EU has no desire to see or speak to ever again, if The Donald did offer him the job it would be a rather spectacular own goal.

He must realise he’s literally the world’s worst candidate for that role.

So what’s he playing at? Having divided Britain and decimated the British government with his hatemongering referendum campaign, and then promptly scarpered and left a shocked and shattered land to pick up the pieces… is he now hoping to destroy America and the US presidency?

I wouldn’t put it past the vile megalomaniac. It would certainly be one way to grab Donald Trump by his proverbial pussy.

The Nigel has form. You have been warned.

My fellow Americans

Here’s the thing. If there are a few sub-par teachers at your kid’s school, you don’t get them fired and then replace them with plumbers. Even if those plumbers have proper useful plumbing skills, and they’ve been in the plumbing trade for 30 years, and also they like a laugh a spot of banter (even if their jokes are sometimes a bit “racist”, and their banter is sometimes a bit “locker room”).

You just understand that to be a teacher you need skills and experience as a teacher. You replace the bad teacher, of course. But with another teacher, obviously.

There are many Donald Trump supporters who explain their support as being because they’re sick of politicians. But the solution to bad politicians is to replace them with good politicians. It’s specifically not to replace them with people whose skills lie in totally different areas. You would never want an electrician to do the job of a dolphin trainer. Or a chef to do the job of a wigmaker. Or a dancer to do the job of an interior designer. Well you just wouldn’t, would you?

We in Blighty made a massive gaffe recently, and I for one secretly hoped it might inspire you Americans not to make a ginormous gaffe. We too were a land disillusioned by politicians. And a majority of the population used the EU referendum to voice that disillusionment. They didn’t vote for the good of the county, or the continent, or the world, or their families, or even themselves. They voted against the politicians.

And in doing so they shot the whole country in its national foot.

Is Hillary Clinton perfect? Not even slightly. But you know what, that’s your fault too. If you want excellent politicians you have to fight for excellent politicians, not sit at home whinging about how you’ve had it up to here with politicians. That’s how democracy works – you have a voice.

But look, it’s too late to worry about that now. Today you only have a choice between two people. And since the job description is “politician”, and only one of them is actually a politician, your choice should be pretty astonishingly simple.

And next time round, instead of not getting involved because you’re sick of politicians, maybe you’ll get involved specifically because you’re sick of politicians.