Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How do you respond to hateful opinions?

From here
I really don't want my blog to become somewhere I complain but there are certain things that are less than cheery which I really would like your opinions on. What do you think of the following?

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?

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  1. I really wish I had an answer for you, sadly I think xenophobia is rising in the UK due to perceptions that are being pushed out through newspapers like the Daily Mail and the rise of UKIP. They just have this one view opinion that multiculturalism is killing the UK, that immigrants are all bad and contribute nothing. They fail to realise and remember British history that there isn't really true British culture because of how many times we've been invaded and such.

    Having moved out of the UK, because of the assumptions of immigrants, I'm really against (at least at the moment) of moving back with my American husband. I mentioned this on twitter once, about the Tories immigration changes and were met with a tonne of comments that multiculturalism is evil, Britain is an island people should keep out. And these were from people of our age. It's shocking.


  2. +JMJ+

    I'm looking at this issue from the other end: that of a country which has produced many emigrants for others but tends to attract mostly disaffected Westerners as expats. So about a month ago, when I saw a video called "Young and Unemployed", which is about young people in Britain who can't find jobs and are being subsidised by the government, I was struck by the fact that the great majority of them were the children of immigrants. As someone who has heard many people, including my own relatives, justify their decision to emigrate by saying that it will give their children better economic opportunities, I was floored to learn that some "greener pastures" dry up after as little as one generation.

    On the other hand, it makes some economic sense. Immigrant workers are usually welcomed because there are certain jobs that the locals no longer want to do . . . but what happens when the immigrants' children grow up not wanting to do those jobs, either? You'll have high unemployment and many job vacancies at the same time. My theory is that the man in the carriage who was targeting multiculturalism is mostly upset at immigration.