The Liverpool Echo has the article on its web site – see link below
Is it me or have we become more selfish and intolerant in recent times? And why do some people feel the need to make fun of, intimidate and even attack those who look or speak differently to themselves? What fuels all this fear and loathing?
When I was at school in Maghull and there was a large epileptic colony in the Town I recall some youngsters making fun of the epileptics, some of whom had physical disabilities as well. As I grew up I realised it was fear of those who were different that caused the unfortunate reaction. To see an epileptic have an attack in the street can be disturbing if you don’t understand what is happening, so I guess fear of what happened was concealed by childlike mocking.
Then around the age of 17 I started to work with the epileptic residents at the Maghull Homes and I got to know some wonderful people and understand the challenges they faced every day. I guess I became a more rounded person through that experience.
What strikes me is that young people need to interact with people who are different by race, colour, sexual orientation, disability etc. etc. from an early age so that it becomes normal for them to accept such differences and to make friends with ‘different’ people.
But probably the biggest issue is that prejudices and fears of those who are different get passed down through family generations. I have said before in my postings that there was antisemitism in my family for reasons I have never understood but it stopped being passed down as I would not accept it.
Hate and fear is taught, young people don’t have to carry their parent’s prejudices with them.
In a free society we value free speech and that means at times we are going to be offended by our views, beliefs and opinions being challenged and insulted.
The easy answer is to say that so and so should be banned for saying what they have said but if we were banned from saying something how would we feel?
Our religious views or the lack of them is often an area where offence can be intended and indeed taken but that does not mean whose who offend should be stopped from making their views known.
The difficulty we face is our ability to take criticism that challenges our own prejudices but of course those prejudices vary markedly from person to person.
So yes, you have the right to be offended just as you have the right to be the offender. That does not of course excuse bad behaviour which is meant to hurt but some will indeed have intended just that.
For a free society to work we need to be tolerant and considerate when we know that a small minority of us will not be. But the more rules and laws we bring in to stop us being offended the less free we all become.
Growing number of Britons admit to being prejudiced
The British Social Attitudes survey has found that nearly a third of people in Britain admit being racially prejudiced, a return to the level of 30 years ago. Of the 2,000 people polled by social research company NatCen, 30% described themselves as either “very” or “a little” race prejudiced. Chief executive Penny Young said the findings were “troubling”, and cited the 9/11 attacks and an increase in concerns about immigration as two possible reasons for the turnaround. However, Ms Young also admitted self-reported prejudice was “very difficult” to study in detail, and Sunder Katwala, director of the identity and integration think tank British Future, said it was a “difficult measure to use” when attempting to draw conclusions. The Telegraph’s Allison Pearson suggests the findings should not come as a surprise and recalls comments made by Margaret Hodge in 2007 about how issues surrounding the ethnicity of people on council house waiting lists could alienate large numbers of working-class voters.
TODAY – BBC News The Daily Telegraph, Page: 17 Daily Star, Page: 23 Independent i, Page: 24 The Guardian, Page: 34 Daily Mirror, Page: 2 Daily Mail, Page: 14 The Independent, Page: 37
Since I became politically aware, as a teenager, it has struck me that racial and indeed homophobic prejudice in Britain is both significant more widely spread than we may wish to admit. In the round this survey says one third of us may well be racially prejudiced and frankly that sounds about right to me in terms of a proportion of the population.
Of course politicians of the right often play to such prejudices as indeed does the right wing press. It is easy to scare people with stories that spread fear and worry about those of differing ethnicity and the ‘threats’ they may bring to the ‘British way of life’. UKIP very much trade on such fears of course so the rise of this deeply illiberal party in times when polls are showing prejudice levels are high comes as no surprise.
The big problem we face is that the main political parties are slowly being pulled towards intolerant and illiberal policies in an attempt to bring the electorate back on board. And we should not think this is a problem that the Tories are most troubled with as Labour’s ‘working class’ (oh how I hate that phrase) supporters are probably where the greatest challenge sits. But the Lib Dems too could well feel they need to sound tougher on racial issues when in fact they need to sound tough on the racists and the intolerant.