If you’ve been following UK politics in the news, you’ll have been hearing far too much about the ‘success’ of the far right party, UKIP, and very little about how well the Greens have been doing. The media bias makes me very uncomfortable, but that’s an issue for another day. Perhaps in part due to the media hype, a lot of people did vote for UKIP; whose policies include getting rid of maternity pay, making rape in marriage legal, and blaming anyone ‘not from round here’ for just about everything. No doubt some of those votes were in protest against the mainstream, not meant as endorsements.
However, I’ve seen UKIP supporters online. Angry, anti-intellectual, resentful, frustrated, shouty… they do not inspire joy. This is not a party which brings out the best in people, but a party that calls the police to challenge someone who had posted actual UKIP policy statements to twitter. What do we do in face of this?
The temptation is to get angry back. It’s very easy to shout abuse at angry, destructive people who put their fingers in their ears and sing loudly if there’s any risk someone might show them evidence that doesn’t back their claims. I’ve hardly been complimentary in the last few paragraphs, but I’m also terribly aware that these are people. Somewhere in there, they have feelings, and there’s a good chance that for many, beneath the veneer of noisy anger is a deep seam of terror. Life is scary just now. Climate change is terrifying. How much easier it is to be able to blame all the big economic problems on powerless immigrants! It would be even more alarming if we had to look at how those with power are screwing us over. And all the while, those with power are no doubt rubbing their hands with glee as those of us who should have been working together for change are mired in fighting each other.
Getting angry does not cause angry people to magically become compassionate. It doesn’t get rid of hate, but entrenches it. Shouting at people and calling them bloody stupid, does not get many of them to engage productively. I suspect people are going to UKIP under the mistaken impression that this party cares, and is listening. These are people who have every reason to feel that the mainstream doesn’t care and isn’t listening. That needs to change.
In the normal scheme of things we hate people who have personally wronged us, and where we can see a direct causal link between them and the specific wrong. What we’re getting is a truly irrational mass hatred of whole groups of people. That’s not hard wired into any of us but is being constructed, and fed. It would be all too easy to make UKIPpers another hate group for smug people to look down on. Another vast generalisation and condemnation to feed the division and keep us all harassing each other.
Hug a UKIPper. They probably need it. We need hope, not hate. We need to co-operate, not tear each other down. We need to recognise and respect each other’s fundamental humanity – it’s fine not to like each other and not to agree, but that doesn’t entitle us to strip others of rights and dignity. There are some large and real problems out there just now – wealth distribution, climate change, human rights, our viability and future as a species… the more people there are working together to tackle that, the better. Hope not hate means having to work out how not to hate the haters – and that’s going to be really hard. We will not build a better world by chucking shit at each other, we have to inspire each other to do better. There is no other way.
(and, while the media silence is curious, the Greens actually did very well in the local elections).