We live in a society where far too many of our political representatives seem to all but promote intolerance and fear. Those two words are often at the heart of what, usually in more deliberately vague language, is being peddled and promoted. Of course, much of our press is on the same regressive agenda. They work with politicians to exploit intolerance and fear which they then manipulate to enable messages to be sold to folk who, to put it bluntly, are being played.
Politicians know that most of us can be tribal in outlook and tribalism is the big brother of intolerance and fear. If you can gauge what sections of the voters are intolerant about and then feed those voters fears which magnify such intolerances then you can lead them by the nose into voting for things that they feel will ‘deal with’ what they fear and can’t tolerate.
Of course, virtually no one will admit to being a racist these days as it’s deemed to be socially unacceptable but that does not mean there are fewer racists about; they’re still there but don’t like being labelled racists. However, you’ll often hear them say ‘I’m not a racist but’ and that ‘but’ often means that in reality, they are a racist. So the fears of racists are there to be exploited by dog-whistle political comments seemingly made to us all but actually aimed at the racists who get the message. Words like immigrants, refugees, illegal immigrants etc. are used in contexts that blame such people for our ills and try to make us think they are from a DIFFERENT tribe, they ARE a threat, they are using scarce resources which OUR OWN poor should be accessing etc. etc.
Think which tribes you are a part of – religion, football team, your colour, the language you speak, straight or gay, the town you live in, the party you vote for, the paper you read, the clubs organisations and societies you’re a member of. Most of us are members of quite a few ‘tribes’ and we can view those who are members of different tribes as ‘not one of us’, or we can exhibit intolerance towards them, indeed we can even fear/hate them. It’s those doubts, worries and fears which unscrupulous politicians are openly exploiting together with a press/media friendly to such agendas.
If you’re being told that ‘we are losing our Britishness’, ‘our way of life is under threat’, that ‘outsiders are taking our jobs’ then our first reaction should be why are we being told that and what’s the agenda of politician or media outlet sending me such messages. But those producing the messages know that the vast majority of the time we don’t act logically, we simply hear messages which seemingly fit with our own often ill-informed perspective and they comfort us because they agree with what we’ve been thinking.
Of course, the less educated and more insular someone may be the more they can be open to being exploited by the unscrupulous. That’s why we need our up and coming generations to be well educated, with open minds rather than them carrying the prejudices and intolerance of previous generations of their families like a weight on their shoulders. I’m firmly of the view that we don’t hate as a matter of course we do it because it’s taught behaviour. Tribalism, prejudice and intolerance are simply the irrational fears of previous generations (anti-Semitism comes to mind) which are passed down as a right of passage. They close down young minds, they create fear where none needs to exist and they lead to racism and manipulation by media and politicians.
If you’ve ever said in front of a child ‘I don’t like the French, Italians, Irish etc.’ what are you trying to do? You’re probably hoping that child will come to hold the same view when logically they’ve no reason to hold that view. Or how about ‘I hate supporters of X football club’, again you’re hoping the child will think likewise; you’re trying to close down a mind because you don’t want them to come to a different view to your own. So what if you keep saying migrants, illegal immigrants? Yes, you’ve guessed it you’ve done it because you think such people are a threat and you want the next generation to think that too. Future generations will be open to being exploited by unscrupulous media and politicians if we don’t open up children’s minds so that they welcome their views being challenged and want to get to the truth rather than what passed for the truth from someone banking on them still carrying their family prejudices on their back.
We can be free of intolerance and fear and the exploitation that comes with it but only if we open our minds up and stop closing the minds of children down.