Two days ago I was brought up short by two unexpected pieces of print. The first was a headline in the Guardian, which made me laugh until I was spluttering into my Grape Nuts. ”PM stakes reputation on £12bn health plan.” Reputation?? What reputation were they thinking about? Certainly not a respected one. The man is a compulsive liar, a careless parent, a racist and a fascist. He is jumped up, greedy, lazy, conceited, incompetent and totally self-centred. Wherever he goes, he has to be the centre of attention, even clowning about with an umbrella at a serious public ceremony. We have never had a Prime Minister who was so totally and dangerously unsuited to the job. And if this mistake unseats him, there are lots of us who will thank God for it, even though we know his replacement will be just as bad.
However that was trivial compared to the next thing that made me stop in my tracks. It was written by a group of mid-list romantic writers whom I knew vaguely through twitter. They usually talk shop in a kindly sort of way and tell one another about their books but yesterday they suddenly turned venomous. It was a very nasty shock.
They were furious because they had heard about Johnson’s proposed new ‘social care’ tax and knew that that would mean paying another 1.25% on their National Insurance contributions. Fair enough. It’s a cruel burden to impose on all of us and especially on those who are the poorest in our society and can afford it least, especially when a small wealth tax on his billionaire friends would cover the cost of the NHS and social care and then some. But this was not what was rousing the fury of this particular group.
They were enraged because they ‘knew’ – I wonder what newspaper they read – that the money would be used to support the hordes of ‘foreigners’ from Afghanistan who would soon be ‘swarming’ here across the Channel. They should be stopped, they wrote. It wasn’t right or fair. We don’t want our money given away to foreigners. On and on and on, one after the other. One of them mentioned Farage with obvious admiration – probably remembering his obnoxious description of the RNLI as ”a taxi service for migrants” and said she would like him to be the next PM.
Photograph: Andrew Fosker/REX/Shutterstock
And the more I read, the more clearly I saw Hitler’s ranting face and the swastika marked arms of the Blackshirts, the cattle trucks heading to the concentration camps, the obscene heaps of skeletal dead bodies.
Which made me wonder – not for the first time – How is it that people can be roused so easily to such an appalling hatred of others? And even more importantly, what can the rest of us do, if anything, to help them to see how wrong they are?
There were lots of possible answers on Twitter yesterday morning. One man listed the huge sums of money the Tories have given away to their friends during the pandemic. ”The Tories gave £2 billion of government contracts to ‘friends and donors’ during the pandemic, spent £37 billion on Test and Trace, wasted 3.1 billion on PPE that was useless, and paid Serco 50 million a month.”
RD Hale wrote ”When Tories vote to make people poorer it’s called ‘sensible economics’ but when the poor object to poverty, newspapers accuse them of ‘waging class warfare’ and blame refugees for our falling living standards. And just enough people fall for this.
But that still leaves me with my original questions.
How is it possible for ordinary people to explain to their friends and neighbours, who believe the propaganda that now surrounds us that what they are being told is totally wrong and to do it in a way that will be acceptable. When you’re trying to talk to somebody who is in the throes of a deliberately contrived anger, you are playing with a dangerous fire. When people hate, they find targets everywhere and unless you’re extremely careful in what you say, you could be the next recipient of it. Which is an absolutely horrible situation to be in. Believe me.
Photo credit – https://www.aljazeera.com
I think we all have to hang on to the knowledge that there are gentle and kindly people in every society. We see the ugly and vociferous bellowing in the streets on far too many screens, but they are still – please God – a loud minority.
Currently watching How To Make A Tyrant series on Netflix. I can’t say enjoying – it is a sobering series. From Hitler’s whipped up fury of Jews to Idi Amin’s expulsion of the Asians, it is a direct line to Farage, Johnson’s and Patel’s crusade against immigrants. I do tackle racism whenever I see it, I have lost and alienated friends because of it. But, do you know what? I don’t want to be friends with the sort of people who can dismiss most of humanity for being “funny-tinged” and not having the luck to have been born here. I will rail against their inhumanity to others and question where they are getting their “facts” from. Too often it is the same culprits: The Daily Mail, Express, and Sun, etc. Tellingly, my mother stopped buying the Daily Fail after many years due to her failing eyesight. Her humanity to others has returned – “you can’t help what colour you are born” – being her new mantra. Not a phrase she ever read in her favoured rag…
Very interesting jmacwriter and spot on. I expect you know that The Daily Mail sponsored Oswald Moseley’s Fascists, whom I saw on the streets when I was a child and remember to this day,
Beryl, I agree. Johnson is absolutely appalling, and what is even more appalling – and depressing – is that people still vote for him.
And as regards those writers – one of the (very many) things that has shocked me over the past months is the realisation that some of the people I thought I knew – had indeed known, often for many years – I really didn’t know at all. One friend turned out to be an (almost) anti-vaxxer. Another – who works in a senior position at the NHS frontline – thought they ‘wouldn’t bother’ with the vaccine (though did in the end). Just recently a friend told me they’d not only voted for Brexit but would do so again ‘because you don’t know what the French are like’.
I also agree about the increase in NI contributions. There were so very many fairer ways in which this could’ve been achieved, but to blame it all on ‘immigrants’ is unforgivable. How anyone could see what is happening in Afghanistan and begrudge assistance to those poor people is shocking.
I don’t know how to have a sensible conversation with such people. I find that if I try, they just treat me as naive and gullible.
People are becoming more and more entrenched. It’s frightening. But as you say, there are still lots and lots of good people around, they just don’t shout as loudly. I’ve met some lovely friends on Twitter. Stay strong.
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Thank you for that Rosemary. You’ve given me a real lift. xxx
I’m so glad Beryl!
I do enjoy your blog very much, I just don’t seem to find the time to respond very often. I’m going to try to do better!
Not to worry Rosemary. It’s lovely to know you’re there