From a liberal point of view – Turkeys WILL vote for Christmas

I’d be grateful if you would give a few minutes quiet reflection to the question below, and possibly even write down your answer. It’s quite important.

Why are you going to vote in the onrushing General Election? Not how. Why?

Have you considered it carefully? Are you ready?

Self portrait 150705

I believe that most of you will have answered with something that depends on emotion or personal value judgements, because, ultimately, how we vote comes down to how we see ourselves and the society we live in.

Most people reading this post will have a liberal outlook. We love our values of tolerance, diversity, rationality, and I’m as passionate about them as anybody. But they are personal value judgements, not absolutes. It’s perfectly possible to have a functioning society with autocratic rule and persecution of minorities. You and I wouldn’t like this, but it would work. North Korea is a case in point.

When people vote Conservative on June 8th it will be because they want to.

This is a paradox, because most people are not likely to benefit from a Conservative victory.

Now, it may be that they simply don’t realise the damage that is being done to the NHS and to schools by Conservative policies. It certainly won’t hurt to remind them of this, preferably with local examples. But what are the positive reasons for them to put a cross in the box for a Conservative candidate?

In short, why are turkeys going to vote for Christmas?

The answer, I think, lies in a sense of belonging, of group identity.

Time after time, on the television news, we have heard ordinary people – voters – say (about Brexit), “We’re going to take back control of Britain”. This sense of group national identity is being fostered assiduously by the Conservative Party and the right wing press. They will control migration “to protect British jobs”. They will restrict asylum to a handful of children “to protect the British public against terrorism”. The subliminal message throughout is “You’re in my gang. I’ll take care of you.”

We need an equally compelling emotional narrative if we are to convince these voters. I confess I do not have one. Our vision of a just and caring society needs to be set down persuasively so that people don’t feel threatened or bullied by it, but rather feel cherished and valued.

That is for the future. For this election we can only concentrate on turning out the liberal vote, and building electoral alliances where we can.

Good luck, friends!

From a liberal point of view – February 2017

Yesterday, the House of Commons voted in favour of Brexit. To say that I am angry about Brexit is to massively understate my feelings. I am outraged by a decision that seems so palpably against the national interest.
But what will my anger achieve?
Nothing positive.
In the short term it will make me less happy. If the anger is prolonged (and there’s a real risk of that), it will adversely affect both my mental and physical health. Perhaps worst of all, because angry people usually think less clearly, my anger will make me less effective in opposing the many socially damaging policies that this government wishes to introduce.
So, I shall abandon anger.
Easier said than done. How can I do it?
As an aspiring wordsmith I believe passionately in the power of words. There are many Facebook threads and many journalistic articles that are angry rants. Every one of the angry words that I read (or listen to) is nudging my mental state towards anger and away from tolerance. Recognising this gives me two practical steps that I can take.
Practical step number 1 – I shall only read factual articles about Brexit, and I shall even try not to read too many of those. I shall stop reading, or viewing, angry rants (except – maybe – Jonathan Pie…).
Practical step number 2 – I shall try to remind myself continually that what I must oppose are the policies (Brexit, austerity etc) and the mindsets (racist, misogynist, homophobic) without demonising the people. Many of those who voted for Brexit did so for motives that they thought were right.
That does not mean that I shall be doing nothing. I shall continue to write to my MP about Brexit, the NHS, and the arms trade. I shall sign petitions. I shall attend meetings* and demonstrations. But I shall try to do so effectively and without anger.
Wish me luck!
*For any South Devon readers, there’s a meeting in the Civic Hall, Totnes, at 7:30 p.m. Friday February 10th, to discuss the future of progressive politics. Caroline Lucas should be there!
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