This blog recently turned four, but instead of going from strength to strength, the past year was my quietest yet.
I was all set to put up a hiatus post, as blogging was becoming an unnecessary pressure: I have trouble writing, I rarely publish what I do write, and much of what I end up posting doesn’t feel particularly sparkly.
I have a list of excuses as numerous as the people who didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but I suspect that part of my writer’s block has been trying to work out the best and fairest way to express my thoughts on some of the big political events of the past year.
What I’ve realised is that, when it comes to politics, I might be wasting time worrying about writing a perfectly referenced essay; most people are so set in their ways already – and a large number of people now disregard facts altogether.
I cannot even begin to mention all the issues of the past year, from anti-intellectualism to fake news, so instead I am going to list some of the things that I still believe after all this mess. These aren’t answers to the world’s problems, and they aren’t arguments, but when social media is a cesspit of negativity, it helps to think that many people still believe in treating others kindly.
I believe that many people are braver behind a computer screen and a fake profile picture than they would ever be in real life.
I believe in tolerance. I find it bizarre that this is now considered a negative attribute by millions, but accept that people might interpret the idea differently and have a difference of opinion. Who is to say what’s right or wrong? However…
…if you’re inciting hatred through racism, sexism, homophobia or xenophobia, then I am going to strongly disagree with what you say. (And I’ll wonder if reading Harry Potter might not help you be a little kinder.)
I truly believe that the more people read – perhaps specifically, the more fiction people read – the more empathy they have. Literature can also act as a warning. I have discussed my love of dystopian fiction in the past, but it seems like recent events are leading more and more people to it: sales of 1984 have increased by over 5000%. The reasons might not be positive, but hopefully the fact that people are turning to books is a good sign.
Everybody on this planet has problems. However, if people have to leave their entire lives behind fleeing a war, perhaps you should consider that they’re worse off than you and need any help our governments can offer. If you are feeling helpless, this article has some suggestions on how you might be able to make a difference. It is written about the war in Syria, but many of the principles apply to other situations.
I think some people forget that we had exactly zero say over where we were born. Judging someone by the country that issued their passport is illogical if nothing else. (It is something else.)
In emergency situations, I am more than happy for my taxes to pay for a non-UK resident’s health treatment. I do not believe this should ever be called ‘health tourism’.
I am a feminist. I know some people disagree with the term, but I believe that it breaks down gender stereotypes that are as damaging to men as women. Women do not do their jobs any better simply because they stick on a pair of heels. Men should knit and cry if they so desire. (Related to that last article, we have to be a society in which people feel comfortable discussing their mental health. One in four people experience a mental health problem each year, and suicide is now the biggest cause of death in men under 45.)
I believe that people should have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies. Abortion is a hugely complicated issue, but for a majority of women this would be the single most difficult decision they would ever make. I am also of the opinion that, if this situation is one you will absolutely never be faced with, then you should not be in charge of policy affecting it.
These times are leading to some excellent creativity in protest signage. (If only those who use the word ‘snowflake’, the single most boring insult with a bandwagon hitched to it, could think of equally interesting jibes if nothing else. If you must name-call, exercise your linguistic capabilities like these Scots reacting to Trump’s Brexit gaffe. Warning: swearing, plus other fantastic vocabulary.) [NB: I do not think name-calling is the most effective way to communicate with anybody, but I’d be lying if I said that article didn’t make me laugh.]
Finally, I don’t think politics is a win-or-lose situation; this isn’t The X Factor. (Although even with reality TV I don’t think fans of a contestant consider themselves the winners if they voted for the winner. Do they?!) A candidate might win a vote, but what have you or I won? Politics is an ongoing discussion and process.