• Max Burt

What use is calling you 'ignorant' while you're punching my friend?

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

How can I say to a radical pro-lifer that I understand their reasoning? That I can in some way empathise with their verbal abuse of women entering abortion clinics?

If you've read my about page, then you can see how this dilemma arises. We need to fix our split societies and vitriolic public discourse with understanding and tackling the root causes like wealth inequality and alienation of the populace from politics, but there are some divisions that unequivocally boil blood - on both sides. Abortion, LGBTQ rights, tax cuts for the richest, all emotive issues that we instinctively express outrage over.

And we do so justifiably. These are matters that directly impact the mental and physical wellbeing of millions in our democratic societies, often those that we personally know and love. To exercise restraint against the far-Right when abortion is banned Georgia or Alabama, or when gay couples are viciously beaten on public transport, takes a level of emotional restraint that the vast majority of us do not possess.

The 'understanding' that I refer to can help us combat post-truth and fake news in our societies, mainly in regards to issues like climate change, immigration and globalisation. In 2017, Sheila Jasanoff and Hilton R. Simmet wrote that factual evidence of, for example, global warming, doesn't resonate with much of the West's poor because it diverts attention away from their most immediate worries.

They need to work multiple jobs, their parents do not have adequate social care, their children are at risk of rising knife crime.

So the roots of climate change denial, mistrust of immigrants and opposition to global trade are actually that those matters are irrelevant to these people, and they understandably want 'America First' and 'Take Back Control' style policy that addresses issues close-to-home. That is why we need to address post-truth and the far-Right with understanding, not barking facts and numbers at them.

But I, nor anyone else, can ask you to 'understand' when a woman's rights to her own body are taken away. Nor when an MP is repeatedly threatened with rape and murder, nor when gay people and immigrants are attacked in public. Because I cannot understand that either.

What we can recognise though, is the core belief systems that have legitimised such hateful attitudes. In doing that, we can realise that reciting 'facts' to those people is, likewise to climate change deniers, completely useless.

I should preface this by saying that all religions have a place in our societies, and their organisations do invaluable work for those in need of help - but the extreme religious Right hold a conviction against common human decency that is virtually impossible to be swayed. These are the individuals that you will find outside abortion clinics, threatening women who enter with the fury of Hell for murdering their child. The same goes for the radical patriots (let's not mince words here - the fascists) that threaten, abuse and murder anyone who isn't white, male, and socially conservative.

I suppose the recognition we must hold here is that these individuals' convictions mean they are just as furious with us as we are with them. Seeing a gay pride parade boils their blood in the same manner that their attack on such a parade boils ours.

The unfortunate result of that means there is an extremely small scope for reconciliation between the extreme far-Right and the rest of us.

So how do we deal with such people? If we can't convince them with patronising and elitist 'facts' and 'evidence', if emotive human nature means we can't understand their beliefs, and assuming we'd all prefer to avoid violence, what methods are left?

Since we can't address the issues with the perpetrators themselves, the only answer is a long-term one: the shrinking of the wealth inequality gap.

All of these issues - post-truth, populism, the rise of the far-Right and public acts of hate - stem from our democratic societies seeing exorbitant wealth inequality. As the poor become poorer they become increasingly alienated from politics, as well as society in general, and some inspired by opportunistic politicians, seek to carve their way back into relevance under the pretense of patriotism or hardline religious belief. Don't get me wrong - any acts of hate must be followed by absolute justice, but we also need to recognise it's human nature to want to be relevant, and to the desperate, hateful practices can be an appealing method regain societal influence.

Or, we can just keep calling everyone we disagree with 'ignorant', and hope that mends things.

I reckon we're still allowed to say 'fuck Boris' though

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