We need to stop mainstreaming hate and marginalising empathy

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It’s been a bit quiet on the site recently, mainly because I’ve been thinking some recent events over.

I had a few thrifty posts lined up for the run-up to the festive season, and then the USA decided to elect Donald Trump to be their next president. It started to feel wrong to be writing about finishing the shopping, turning old Christmas cards into gift tags and making your own mince pies, and keeping calm and carrying on. It’s an extreme situation the world finds itself in, and it’s definitely not normal. I don’t want to pretend it’s normal either.

There’s going to be a fascist / populist demagogue in the White House. Meanwhile, large sections of the press appear to be normalising some disturbing appointments and proposed policies, calling them nothing more than ‘firebrands’ or ‘controversial’ when a lot of it is straight out of the Nazi playbook.

There’s an old saying, ‘When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold,’ and things are not going so well in the UK either. I don’t like what I’m seeing, and I’ve definitely observed a rise in online harassment, hate speech and threatening behaviour that seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. A few weeks ago I had to report death threats in one of my social media feeds – a colleague in the financial sector who is very non-controversial but happens to be non-white was told that he and his children would be ‘left in a ditch with their throats cut’ when he published stock market data after the EU Referendum. I’ve seen, and reported, a lot more since then.

If you’re a public figure and you express a view online that shows a shred of human compassion or kindness, you’re likely to get shouted down as a ‘leftist’, especially loudly if you’re female. Innocuous comments are being pushed to the far end of a political spectrum, and attacked as something negative, or even extremist. Compassion and empathy are normal, healthy human emotions, and if you don’t feel them then there’s a good chance that there’s something wrong with you.

Basic common decency doesn’t have any party political affiliation attached to it, so why on earth are we collectively allowing it to be politicised and marginalised in this way?┬áCommon decency is common, surely? It should apply across the board.

Expressing kind sentiments mustn’t become something we’re afraid to do. It’s not foolish or something to be ashamed of, it can help, heal and inspire. Let’s keep doing it – they can’t come for all of us.

I’m not saying roll over, play nice and make your nearest neo-Nazi a lovely cup of tea; that’s never worked in the past and it certainly isn’t going to be effective now. It’s perfectly okay to get angry and take positive action, whatever that may need to be at the time. Meanwhile, Christmas in particular is supposed to be a time of sharing and generosity, so I’m going to try to get back into a more festive mood.

Action is required, things won’t get better if we leave them to fester…

A few practical ideas:

  • Do some volunteering
  • Join a local group to tackle an issue
  • Donate to a charity
  • Take regular breaks from social media
  • Check in on people you care about
  • Join in with a Christmas campaign (help homeless, elderly or hungry people, or those fleeing from natural disasters or violence)

Are you doing anything to increase festive cheer? Let us know what you’re getting up to.

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2 Comments

  1. Dear Penny,

    Glad you decided to write again. We were worried about your silence and not knowing why. We missed you very much. This is because you are such a motivated person and inspiring for others. We will try to do some actions in our neighbourhood to try to change mentalities. Love you much and wish you all the best for the Festive season, Please continue to write again, some needs it to get inspired.
    Love, PAt

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