I wrote this column last week, pre-Brexit, and emailed it off to my editors, wondering what would have occurred in the world by the time it went to print. The answer is, a lot, and of particular interest today is the leavers’ wish to ‘shut-up the moaning losers’, and the bandying around of the word ‘bigot’. The first two paragraphs are therefore in addition to my original article.
Firstly, this is a monumental decision that’s barely a day old. Why should people stay quiet about it? Opinions are something to which we are all entitled, and social media is a way in which to share those. If it winds you up, don’t log on. More importantly, when has anything in history – or, life in general – been made better by people being unable to express their views? In fact, isn’t the danger of the mass ‘shutting up’ of groups of individuals EXACTLY one of the lessons learnt from WW2? Or, more accurately, supposedly learnt. Is it not this intolerant attitude to others, and the wish to shut them down, that completely sums up many remainers’ opinions of Farage et al – thereby resulting only in the leave supporters proving the very point of those who wished to stay in the EU?
Secondly, many of the leavers have been throwing the word ‘bigot’ around at those damn pesky remainers who are daring to express their disappointment at an historical decision that, for better or worse, will affect their lives hereafter. ‘Bigot’ does not actually mean, as one Facebook definition suggests, to simply disagree with people and have a bit of a rant. A more accurate definition is of a person with intolerant beliefs who does not like those whose opinions differ to their own, or who judges them solely on those opinions. That is very different to being free to express your views, still liking your mates despite their vote, and trying to respect one another’s opinion whilst still being able to voice your own. If you investigated every aspect of the referendum and still decided to vote leave/stay, and you can provide an educated argument in favour of your personal decision, then fair play – plus, you’ll presumably be able to clearly state your argument to anyone who disagrees with you, expect to be listened to, and engage in debate with your friends if necessary. As opposed to simply telling everyone to shut-up.
It seems to have been one of those weeks that makes you wonder what has happened to humanity, particularly following the meaningless death of Jo Cox. Or, perhaps humanity has always been this way, and each new generation simply becomes aware as they grow older of just how barbaric we really are as a race.
In the coming days, we shall vote for whether or not to stay in the EU and, in or out, at least women are allowed to vote. Given that we have lost our lives in the past during the fight for this right, it seems obvious that yes, throughout history, humanity has proven itself to be an animal at heart.
It was fascinating to see Britain First posts in the wake of Jo Cox’s death and, especially, their inability to see the irony in their sense of injustice at being judged because of the actions of a minority. The boot was well and truly on the other foot, and their eyes, as ever, were wide shut.
It is often our jumping to judge that leads to the troubles within our society. We are quick to make our minds up and perhaps this is due, in part, to a certain laziness. There is less thought needed and we can leap upon a bandwagon, waving our pitchforks of judgment, and dismissing anyone that disagrees. Debate and conversation are lost, and rather than be listened to, we shut people down.
This behaviour begins in infancy, as early as the playground, where cliques and groups form initially, and we hone our millennia-old pack mentality. It simply depends upon which directions we then take this in, and where our personal biases reside as we get older.
For the two tiny daughters of Jo Cox, none of this really matters. However their mummy died, she remains gone from their lives forever, at an age where even their memories may not make it through to adulthood. But we never seem to get it as a race, do we? We never seem to understand that whatever colour, whatever creed, whatever age, we feel loss and pain and horror just the same as one another. How very, very heartbreaking.
First published in The Portsmouth News 25th June 2016