I was on the tube over the weekend and a man who I would guess to be in his 60s sat next to me. He was reading a mini newspaper - a newsletter if you will - of around 10 pages and from what I could see, it was written by what I can only hope is someone with extremist views. The quotations which caught my eye included "Multiculturalism has no place in Britain" and "Multiculturalism is a Liberal/Marxist idea which has failed".
Now, I don't know about you, but this shocked me so much. How could this man sit next to me (I identify myself as British but I am not English) in a carriage full of more people from different ethnic backgrounds, and actually believe those types of mantras? Was this his form of protest against everybody else in the carriage? What was he trying to achieve by reading something like that, let alone in public?
I toyed with the idea of confronting him, but didn't because I didn't know how he would respond. It was suggested to me later that he probably would have liked seeing me angry about it and it isn't possible to reason with such people. Whilst this is probably true, I can't help but think that this sort of attitude needs to be confronted. Should we be stunned into silence? Does this defy the Shouting Back principle I echoed recently?
Someone else suggested that it is through educating younger generations that we can wipe out xenophobic attitudes. I think that this will help but it makes me sad that there seems to be difficulty addressing people who already hold such views.
Living in a multicultural society is such a splendid thing. I have been brought up not caring one jot whether somebody is from a different country to the one I am from or live in, or of a different race. I have found it nothing but enriching to learn from one another, as you would to learn from anybody regardless of their background. That is by no means to say that our differences should not be recognised for the purpose of celebration.
All I mean is that, at the end of the day, we are all just people. My favourite lyrics come from a line in a Regina Spektor song - "People are just people like you" - and I always thought they were so true. The lines I noticed from the rubbish this narrow-minded man was reading were juxtaposed with more lyrics streaming through my headphones at the time - "underneath his skin there's a human" (Human by Daughter)- and I couldn't help but think "Really?" We are all the same underneath - we are just flesh and bones with a mind and soul, so is this man just a victim of brainwashing or is his flaw just more shocking than a flaw of another?