This morning I shared a Facebook posting of two young women singing a very rude song. It showed evidence of hours of diligent research using the Urban Dictionary. It was funny. It neatly encapsulated some of the reasons why those of us who hold liberal values feel that the world has been turned upside down. Above all, it made me think.
Has the world been turned upside down in 2016?
No, of course it hasn’t. The election of Donald Trump, the farce that is Brexit, the rise in far-right political parties in mainland Europe, the tragic reality of hate crime, these are trends that were already present. They have always been there in our society. The reasons for them have always existed. The political events of 2016 have merely made them more visible. More people are prepared to speak out, and to act, because they have role models legitimising their feelings; but they had the feelings before they had the role models.
What can we do?
Above all we mustn’t give up our advocacy of liberal ideals. Looked at in the long term, liberal ideals have made great progress. Slavery is no longer legal. Genocide, while far from eliminated, is widely recognised as an abhorrent crime. Minorities have greater rights, and are better tolerated.
We have lost a few skirmishes, not the war.
Nobody said that holding liberal ideals is easy. It isn’t. We are all going to need to gather our courage to maintain them in the immediate future.
Then we must make a very clear distinction between rejecting people’s political views and rejecting people. There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, if we are offensive to people, they will not listen to our arguments. If you shout at someone, what do they do? Shout back – or thump you. And who can blame them?
Secondly, if we reject people, or ridicule them, we are not listening to them. Millions and millions of people voted for Brexit, voted for Trump, will vote for far right parties. We believe that they have the wrong answers, but what questions are they posing? What grievances are they holding? What is wrong with our society that they feel as they do?
It is not good enough for us to ignore their opinions.