Monday 27 January 2020

Debate, Not Hate - #Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

As we remember the holocaust today, I have been struck afresh these past few days by Prince Charles's erudite and sensitive speech, delivered recently  at the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020. This part in particular seems most pertinent:
"All too often, language is used which turns disagreement into dehumanisation. Words are used as badges of shame to mark others as enemies, to brand those who are different as somehow deviant. All too often, virtue seems to be sought through verbal violence. All too often, real violence ensues, and acts of unspeakable cruelty are still perpetrated around the world against people for reasons of their religion, their race or their beliefs. Knowing, as we do, the darkness to which such behaviour leads, we must be vigilant in discerning these ever-changing threats; we must be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence. And we must never rest in seeking to create mutual understanding and respect. We must tend the earth of our societies so that the seeds of division cannot take root and grow. And we must never forget that every human being is be-tselem Elokim, “in the image of God,” and even a single human life is ke-olam malei, “like an entire universe."

Since the referendum on the EU in 2016, our society, if social media is a temperature gauge, has become increasingly bigoted and intolerant of those who hold differing political beliefs. People, human beings made in the image of God, are decried in the most appalling terms. Those who voted for Brexit are condemned as migrant hating racists, on the kinder end of the scale and far, far worse on the other end of it. There is reported hatred on the ‘other’ side too, though on social media I have not personally seen it. Moral high grounders many of whom have likely never seen the inside of a council flat, much less been on an estate, had a free school dinner nor seen a food bank, but nevertheless speak on behalf of 'the poor' dole out hatred to those very poor who might well have voted for Brexit, or anyone else who does not agree with them. Such ironies are beyond those who litter social media with their propaganda sites while, immune to their own bile, they ignorantly and shamelessly use the kind of bigoted hate speech that they label and accuse voters from 'the other side' of.

Out there in the real world, beyond media bubbles and cushdie town houses (guilty!), the people that those who hold the 'correct' view, seek to protect as they loftily espouse their righteous ideals, often, I suspect, for effect, are struggling to get their children adequately educated in a system that is failing them (they can't afford private) or are battling illness, divorce, poverty, the NHS, the social care system and so much else. They don't have time for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (blogging even!) or any other forum on which to carefully craft their tribalised thinking (often not usually their ideas at all) and their lives. In this world of facade, let us all remember living and dying, tolerating and loving, and seeking change in debate rather than strengthening hate.