No moral compass, quite a bit of prejudice

From a very early age I recall wanting to know facts so I could make my mind up about things. I’ve never been one to take what is said to me as anything but one side of a story and possibly it’s utterly wrong and even prejudiced nonsense.

I’ve mentioned before that antisemitism was sadly an issue within my family with both my Dad and his mother being prone to make anti-Jewish statements/remarks. I’m not sure when on hearing these remarks I became curious about them but I was probably subject to them all my childhood. Did we know any Jewish people? Had they done my family some wrong? What was it all about? Not content with being antisemitic my grandmother was also anti-Catholic too and would not go into a Catholic church.

It was only later in life that it dawned on me that there were no credible reasons for some of my family being antisemitic and anti-catholic – they were simply prejudices handed down from one generation to another but not spoken of in polite company in case others thought them prejudiced!

It makes you wonder what on earth those of my grandparents and parents generations, who held such appalling views, thought they were doing fighting against Hitler when they seemed to hold some views of a similar nature!

I had been discussing such matters with my independently thinking feminist daughter who seemed a little surprised that I’d been asking some people I know if antisemitism had been an issue in their families and that I was interested in getting people to tell me what their prejudices are, why they hold them and who handed the prejudices on to them. Her point was that most people never think about their prejudices they just hold them and repeat them when they think the occasion requires.

I think antisemitism and anti-Catholic were the two big prejudices that I picked up on in my Dad’s family who were working class Tories. I think you could also include supporting the Tories and indeed the Church of England as family prejudices as they seemed to be handed down generation to generation too. They all stopped with me though.

I first realised that I was an atheist by not being able to get my head around why on earth I was being sent to Sunday School and Church as a child and young teenager. Of course I was being sent because of my Dad’s religious prejudices – he was a C of E protestant so he thought I should be too. I thought otherwise and having looked at religion decided it was not for me at all. However, at the same time I realised it was for some people and that they held many differing religious views which they were quite entitled to hold. I don’t hold prejudices against religions.

And what about politics? Well having realised that I wanted to get involved in it which party should I join or more precisely what do I believe in? Together with an old friend, who has since died, we found it interesting that he came from a Labour working class background and I came from a Tory working class background but we were both looking to form our own political views. What we did was to get hold of the party political manifestos of Labour, Liberals and Conservatives from the 1979 General Election and we read them. When we’d done that we both had decided that we were in fact Liberals and we’d come to that decision separately. We both joined the old Liberal Party in 1980 and via it, the SDP/Liberal Alliance and then the Lib Dems we perused socially progressive radical liberalism. My friend died in 1999 but I’m still a Liberal. I hope that does not mean I’m prejudiced in favour of the Lib Dems as I try not to be too loyal to them as they are simply a vehicle for delivering Liberalism. If a better vehicle comes along who knows……

To me religion, like politics is something we should all be confident about choosing for ourselves. I don’t think either are for passing down through the generations. You won’t be surprised therefore that I oppose state support/funding for religions and religious schools/education. For our Head of State to be the leader of one particular religion is frankly ridiculous to me in our multi-cultural society.

And what about that phrase ‘moral compass’ which is normally used when talking about politicians/political parties when there is a question about their ethics? There’s probably always been questionable ethics when it comes to political parties because they are tribal and some politicians will stop at nothing to either gain or retain power. The phrase moral compass is used quite often these days as our politics goes through a particularly rough patch. The lies and misrepresentations over Brexit are a clear example where many politicians have been accused of losing their moral compass. And here’s the rub, politicians with no moral compass will delight in playing to voters prejudices. In other words when voters have fixed, you might say ill-informed views, over a hugely complex issue like the EU that will be exploited by politicians who will feed them messages that they will want to hear. The complex issues don’t really get an airing at all as it suits both the some voters and politicians to stick to talking about and building on the prejudices.

Prejudices are learned; we are not born with them. Young children are not bothered by other children with different coloured skin. However, as they get older and if they come from families who hold racial prejudices then the racist behaviour of their family can and often will be picked up by their children who will think it normal to hold such appalling views.

Let’s face it I could have grown up to be antisemitic based on my family prejudices. Makes you think does it not………

Free speech trumps being offended

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.