Should I carry the burden of being a racist because previous generations of my family were racists?

I’ve posted before about my Dad and Grandmother, on his side of the family, being openly antisemitic and how I put a stop to racism in my generation. I’m also proud of the fact that our daughter Jen will have nothing what so ever to do with racism either.

But the other day my mate Phil said to me, in relation to the BLM campaign and a debate we were having about it, that he feared that some folks could end up being blamed for the ‘sins of their fathers’. Not surprisingly having had racism present in my own family it made me wonder whether I carried their racism with me. The thought horrified me.

Of course some things do get passed down from generation to generation in many families such as – support for a football team, support for a political party, belief in a religion. Indeed, there’s often an expectation that such family habits are carried on and older generations will take their youngsters to see the football team they want their children to support. They’ll take their children to partake in ‘their’ particular religion and even send them to a school which which promotes the parental religious beliefs. And yes politics too. I once heard an elderly lady say to me that she was going to vote Lib Dem for the first time in her life but she could not afford for her family to know that! I did not ask if the family was Tory or Labour but it certainly made me think.

So if we can pass on sporting team support, religion and politics what else is being passed on? Sadly, I suspect that racism can often be such a hand me down and that’s why our education system should be set up in such a way to challenge generational racism.

Surely we want young people to be free thinking individuals who are happy to challenge long held family views on many things. That’s why I oppose religious schools as my view is that having a religion, or indeed not having one, is a decision for the individual not one to be directed by family expectations.

I rejected my Dad’s religion (CofE), politics (Conservative) and racism but I bought into his love of cricket and support for the same 2 football teams. You’ll notice I only made reference to my Dad there as Mum and I shared what I think are similar political views. I rarely had any political discussions with her but I’m pretty sure she was a Chapel Liberal at heart whereas I’m a Social Liberal without any religion.

The football slogan ‘No room for Racism’ is very apt but for it to really mean anything young people need to have the confidence to reject it when it’s present in their own families.

Tribalism leads to Racism

Tribalism is deeply set in our lives and the more insular our lives have been and the less alternative cultural experiences we have been involved in the greater the danger we see our tribe as being right about everything and other tribes as being wrong, or even a threat.

But what’s tribalism like in Britain in 2020? A community, a football team, a religion, a political party? Well all of those and more. Just think of the casual everyday remarks Liverpool and Manchester people for example make about each other with the aim of demonstrating one is superior/less worthy than the other. On one level this is often harmless yet it is a product of underlying tribalism.

Problems arise when perceived cultural differences are raised in an irrational way as can be seen from the unfortunate history of football supporters fighting in the streets just because they back differing football teams; again this is tribalism and it can lead to hatred.

Religions have fought for centuries and countless deaths have flowed from religious tribalism despite the vast majority of religions saying they espouse peace! But it’s nothing but tribalism.

Tribalism at it’s most basic is ‘what my tribe does is right what your tribe does is wrong’ or ‘what your tribe thinks I fear, what my tribe thinks comforts me’. Of course tribal leaders need to keep their disciples on side and loyal so they invent and distort stories about other tribes which disgust or frighten their own followers making them want to defend their territory from ‘the others’, ‘the outsiders’, ‘the enemy’……

Racism sadly flows directly from tribalism – Antisemitism, Islamophobia etc. But what really helps tribalism stay ingrained in our fractured society and feeds irrational racism is when people look or sound different to those in ‘our tribe’. The colour of skin and the language spoken can and is seen as a threat to other cultures, even the food eaten can be rejected because it belongs to that of other cultures, tribes etc…..

Political tribalism can be rough and political parties can change their beliefs quite considerably but the devoted followers/members will often back those changes even if they condemned them when they had been favoured by another political tribe! They will gladly slag off a previous policy of their own party as though it had never been supported at all even if it was one they actually campaigned for.

A good way of keep your tribe on side is to tell them they are being done down. What’s more the allegation does not even have to be true in any way at all; all you need is for your tribal loyalists to want to believe it and to enthusiastically pass it on as being true. So if I’m a racist who wants white folk to think they are being swamped by immigrants with different coloured skin and/or who speak a different language I start with two distinct advantages. Firstly, the ‘others’ look different and they sound different. My tribe are already wary but if I then say something like – the government gives more benefits/money to the other folks whilst taking it out of the taxes you’ve paid throughout your working life – I’m hoping to get my tribe angry and I will probably succeed.

You see my tribe won’t check out what I’ve said because they are loyal to their leaders and what their leaders say must be true. And even if they did their social media friends will usually be of similar beliefs and will be passing on the same fake news/lies/misinformation – If Joe or Jane believes it then it must be true. But, I’ve also conditioned my loyalists to both expect such messages and to want to hear them!

But what are my own tribal instincts? How about where I was born? Surely I must be loyal to that Nottinghamshire mining town and maybe I should have a key ring with ‘I Love Kirkby In Ashfield’ on it and a union flag too to announce my nationalism. I don’t but you can buy them for any town quite easily. Yes I’m interested in the place of my birth but why on earth would I want to be loyal to it, whatever ‘it’ is? How about the football club I support or the cricket team I back? Yes they are both from the same part of my once East Midlands world but I’d never fight for them in the street after a skinful just because I’m a part of their tribe. And yes as a football supporter I probably fall for the near universal dislike (amongst other supporters) of Manchester United and I admit to having a similar dislike of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. BUT I know these childlike likes and dislikes are nothing more than that. Yes I’ll be over the moon if the Stags win (that’s a rare thing) and crying in my beer when they lose, which is regularly. I’ll even wear football or cricket shirts to show the tribes I belong too but I don’t take my tribalism too seriously.

Tribalism > Prejudice > Racism they are all linked by ignorance and fear & they are exploited by those wanting to divide and rule our society

Merseytravel – Are they delivering?

Well according to their Chairperson, Liam Robinson, they are.

I reported on OPSTA’s (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers assn) public meeting a few days ago which was actually held in the community room of Southport Fire Station of all places. That posting was about the utterly appalling train service, or indeed the complete lack of a train service last week, on the Ormskirk Preston Line and here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/11/23/northern-trains-could-the-ormskirk-preston-line-be-the-most-poorly-performing-in-the-uk/

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming Liam Robinson in any way for Northern’s terrible performance but he listened to stories of Northern’s Failures at the meeting (he was our guest speaker) and because he has an influence on Rail North those sad stories were heard and you never know……….

I quite like Liam’s handling of transport issues on Merseyside and I feel he has been a positive influence on what to me seemed to be struggling public sector organisation before he took the chair of it. Yes, I know we live it terribly tribal party political times and I’m expected to hate anyone who is not a Lib Dem; well I don’t think in traditional British political tribal terms………

Stadler Class 777 – The new Merseyrail trains that will soon replace the Class 507/508 EMU’s

Cllr. Robinson presented his vision of how bus services could be improved in the Liverpool City Region (beyond the present Bus Alliance with Arriva and Stagecoach) and he talked in very enthusiastic terms about the Class 777 Stadler trains that Merseytravel have ordered for the Merseyrail network. Without being prompted he also made reference to the potential to extend Merseyrail Northern Line beyond Ormskirk to Burscough and even Preston although he was clear that he was not promising that it would happen. To be honest passengers on that line would welcome it being run using the Titfield Thunderbolt of Ealing Comedy fame as surely no one could run it as badly as Northern have been doing.

The other rail thing that he touched on and which is vital to expanding the Merseyrail system is the lack of capacity at Liverpool Central Station. If that issue is not seriously addressed in the near future there’s every possibility, in my view, that Merseyrail will be stuck with a bottle-neck which will impede the running of our local railway.

So yes I was pleased to sit and listen to Liam at the meeting and readers who have a liking for tribal politics will have to be disappointed with me.

Tribalism – I’m in the tribe so everything the tribal leaders do is OK by me

Politics is full of tribalism and the Labour Party wears its tribal loyalty like a badge of pride as an obvious example. I don’t think I will ever forget MP Andy Burnham making it clear that his party came first in a Labour Leadership hustings interview, only to be shouted down by one of his own (MP Liz Kendal) saying ‘Country first’.

But here in the UK we have always had a sneaking admiration for those who at face value are a part of tribe but who are actually mavericks with a mind of their own. MP Ken Clarke is an obvious non-tribal Tory who will kick out when he thinks his party is in the wrong. Of course Jeremy Corbyn MP made a name for himself by not supporting the Labour Leader of the day when he was a back bencher. It’s ironic that he’s now whipped Labour Remain MP’s to vote for Brexit and that the vast majority of them actually followed him down a Brexit road they do not believe in! That’s taking tribal loyalty far to far in my book.

As a Liberal I take the view that if my Lib Dem party tries to push me a certain way then by instinct my reaction can easily be to refuse. Liberals are by their very nature very hard to whip as they are free thinking individuals who coalesce around a common broad agenda.

But with the advent of Trump and his supporters we start to see a whole new and hugely troubling tribalistic agenda that his supports are fully signed up to. They don’t check whether what he says is right or wrong, they simply back it. They don’t actually care if it is right or wrong/truth or lie, if he says something/anything they want to hear. They will seemingly follow him anywhere he goes like the unthinking have followed despots across the world before. This is of course the road to fascism!

We all like to belong to groups that think like us but we do ourselves a great disservice by blindly following the crowd or the tribe and we believe/support everything our chosen or given leaders tell us.

You can’t be a a Liberal without questioning most things you come across, its a burden at times when siting back and repeating the propaganda of a leader is a lot easier.

Just look at this way who does trump rant against? The media, immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans etc. Who does he put in power? The powerful, the wealthy. people who disrespect our world environment, people who think like him.

Any leader who surrounds themselves with too many like thinking people is facing trouble as leaders need to be challenged by advisors not told they are wonderful.

As for Trump’s attacks on the media, yes of course some media outlets are utterly irresponsible. We saw it in the UK over Brexit – There was nothing some media outlets would not stop at to fuel prejudices that they had implanted in the minds of their readers over generations even though their ‘truth’ was obviously lies to anyone who looked behind the ranting headlines. BUT we are supposed to live in a free society with a free press. That means that the press can say things that are not true but they can be challenged by those who know the truth is being distorted. Trump only wants his ‘truth’ to be heard/printed not the ‘truth’ and that’s another step towards fascism.

Give tribalism the boot, it leads to despotism and fascism.

Did the Lib Dems hold back the worst excesses of the Tories?

www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/david-cameron-and-george-osborne-should-not-forget-the-lib-dems-know-where-the-bodies-are-buried-a6952641.html

The Independent has the story on its web site – see link above

I think even the most extreme Coalition hater (I await the rants to start) will concede that the answer to the question is yes especially as those worst Tory excesses are being played out now as there is no brake on the Tory right wing what so ever.

You see you have to try to see past the Clegg hating which for some, after his Tuition Fees U-turn, is all but impossible. To many voters if Nick Clegg said today was Monday they would automatically assume he was lying even if today was indeed Monday! What a legacy Nick has to live with.

But of course this Independent article makes some well informed comments, although it has to be said the electorate actually voted, under our utterly unrepresentative electoral system, for more right wing Tory policies in 2015. Well that was the effect if not really the intention because the Lib Dems were either battered for holding the Tories back or alternatively battered for not holding the Tories back enough. Only our first post the post electoral system (so loved by Tories and Labour) could deliver a new government of the Tory far right when more than 60% of the electorate was seemingly trying to create the opposite.

But to return to the Independent article, I was also taken by this quote from David Laws “The Lib Dem leader thought that a major weakness of both David Cameron and George Osborne was that they had little sympathy with or understanding of people on very low incomes, and were inclined to write them off politically as ‘not our voters’.”

Yes of course it sums up well how many Tories look at those less fortunate in our society but I have also heard Labour folk use a similar turn of phrase when talking about other matters. In other words if you come from a section of society or a place that does not return Labour MP’s/councillors why should we give a stuff about you.

It is of course pure tribalism and both Labour and Tories represent their own tribes and care little and indeed have great hatred for the other tribe. Sadly, UK politics is very much based on such appalling tribalism and that’s why we are in the mess that we are in.

With thanks to my spotter Jen Robertson

The Left – Every sect thinks it’s tribal way is the right way hence the Tories are in power more often than not

The left of British politics has always been factionalised with numerous socialist parties coming and going, the Labour Party often engaged in vicious internal warfare (as they are at present) and the Lib Dems, in recent years, having been pulled towards economic rather than social liberalism. Of course looking back a while the SDP also failed to ‘break the mould’ as it became split by the ‘Owen’ factor amongst other things.

The lack of unity on the left has always been a problem and our warped first past the post electoral system has also helped to put many Tory Governments in power who have nothing like majority popular support; just like the present one.

What beggars belief therefore is why when Labour have grabbed power for the odd short period they have not pursued electoral reform and a fair voting system. I suppose the last Labour government was too arrogant and thought their ‘New Labour’ guise would last and be popular for generations. Well it wasn’t so Labour went further to the right in opposition, even openly bashing the poor along the way. But as they became labeled Red Tories the electorate said stuff that we may as well have proper Tories.

The Lib Dems also discredited themselves by lying about Tuition Fees in 2010. Nick Clegg thought the electorate would forgive him. They didn’t. Indeed, because many of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 thought he was a straight forward chap whom they could trust his backing out of a clear promise caused them to drop him and his party like a stone. They expected other parties to tell porkies but having been persuaded the Lib Dems were trustworthy they turned against them big time. Rebuilding that lack of trust in the Lib Dems is probably Tim Farron’s biggest challenge.

The Greens tried lurching to left after 2010 and were the most socialist of the mainstream parties at the last general election but of course this move set their traditional environmentalist sect against an upstart socialist sect. Socialism and environmentalism have never sat comfortably together in my experience. Socialists on Merseyside that I have come across have always seemed to be very much disinterested in environmental issues.

But within the left there is at the heart of so many of its difficulties one major factor that causes the disunity which the Tories always benefit from. Many left wing sects think they are absolutely right and all other left wing sects are utterly wrong. Such tribalism then sets these sects against each other and the Tories win again whilst the left debates, often viciously, who is right and who is wrong. In differing ways I think that the emergence of the SDP and the rise of Tony Blair were reactions to the self destructive nature of the left.

The SDP failed and despite huge initial success Blair’s New Labour failed because he wandered to far right, got involved in the appalling Iraq war and probably laid the foundations for Labour to be cat called ‘Red Tories’.

The real danger that the left faces now is that we could have a seriously right wing Tory Party in power for a generation with UKIP effectively pulling their levers. Is this not enough of a nightmare to sober up the left of British politics?