A half baked theory

Sorry it’s a letting off steam post.
We’ve got to the stage where aggressive, nasty behaviour abounds and people can be attacked for being nice. The Gary Lineaker débâcle a few weeks ago, where he was savaged for being a nice, compassionate guy a while back was a low point for me.
Here’s my theory:
We can be quick to blame politicians and the media for the state we are in, and they certainly have power and influence. I certainly wouldn’t claim they are *not* culpable.
It’s depressing to hear all the anti-immigrant, anti-thoughtful, anti-clued-up-person anti-“do-goooder” rhetoric that is out there, but maybe it isn’t a sentiment that has spread, but a noisy minority who has been encouraged by the current climate to get nastier and noisier.
The Daily Mail has had the same business model for over a century, an Andrew Marr history programme showed how they were doing similar things in 1911. They engage their readership by playing on their negative emotions. In this respect the Mail (and to a lesser extent the Express) are not *pushing* an ideology, they are reactive creations who take the existing hate of their readership and publish news in a way that legitimises the hate, bigotry and fear of their readers. In that way it is not the press publishing *their* lies, but just telling their readers “you are right, you know.”
In recent years political movements have evolved to do pretty much the same thing, and one of their targets is nice people. By which I mean the thoughtful, considered people who disagree with bigotry and ignorance. We now even have a Prime minister who says being thoughtful, compassionate and, well, nice is a bad thing and makes you “the elite”, and prejudice and ignorance is just another opinion. I mean of course you shouldn’t be mean or cruel when you disagree with people who aren’t as informed or tolerant as they could be, but there seems to be a view that an reasonable person standing up to prejudice is treated as a harridan screaming, “RACIST, RACIST!”
I’m not saying the press and political class aren’t terrible at the moment- they are, and that they aren’t culpable- they are, but the agenda they are forcing on society isn’t their own, and the whole of society shares the shame and blame. Why they are choosing to endorse that agenda in such a way is another question.
Where do we go from here- who knows. But thoughtful people should not just agree and say “I am part of the problem, I should shut up.”
If you’ve read this far, apologies for taking up your time and thank you for helping me get my head round a world that terrifies me.

Demonising the positive

I am a courier for a living. I would rather put my skills to better use, but in the current climate finding work relating to my knowledge of renewable energy is proving tougher than I would have hoped.

One of the places I visit is the local further education college. In the stairwell is a notice saying (and I’m sorry I paraphrase) “Don’t allow your own self esteem to rely on putting down others.”

In the UK we, sad to say, have a problem with this. Particularly on an intellectual level. There is a need to vale everyone for their skills, abilities and qualities, and, well, just as human beings. But there is a tendency in society that instead of praising and valuing everyone, seeks to remove respect for and actively devalue knowledge, learning and technical ability.

He’s got tons of qualifications, but no common sense.

I looked for guidance but all I found was technobabble.

People are fed up of experts.

Huh? Speak English mate!

Let’s be clear, these attitudes are bullying, plain and simple. You don’t need to bring skilled and knowledgeable people down in order to value what others can bring to the table. You don’t need to make people’s skills and abilities seem pointless and worthless in order to give comfort to those who are not as strong or confident in those areas.

We need a society that values everyone, but we don’t achieve that by belittling and devaluing people we think have more respect than others, we do it by raising up others.

I’ve been here before. I’m still proud of the positive stand I took, but saddened at the lack of open support for my positive actions. And since then it’s got worse.

It’s not just learning and skills that raise the ire, general social attitudes do as well. The use of the term “do-gooder” by a person to put down someone who is being kind, positive or open-minded sums up the attitude. Over the past few years there has been a fightback from the spiteful and mildly xenophobic to paint those that stand up to them as the real problem. It’s worked and it’s poisonous.

These attitudes have even worked up to the top of government. People standing up for positive values are derided as sneering, people with an open attitude to nationality are sneered at. By the Prime Minister herself!

My hypothesis is this: that if you turn people against positive attitudes and behaviours then you create a climate in which aggressive and negative attitudes can flourish. To treat people who stand up for positive values as a problem rather than part of the solution is making matters worse and worse.

Concerns about immigration?

We’re forever told that it’s unfair to be vocal about the strong xenophobic messages from some people in favour of Brexit.

I do accept that not all 17.4M who voted Brexit did so out of xenophobia or paranoia. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that the strong xenophobic message is a fringe voice amongst those advocating Brexit vote one minute and then claim that authoritarian measures against foreigners are fine because “it’s what people voted for.”

Because the vote was “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” not “Do you have a problem with foreigners?”

Friday Morning Coming Down – Was It Ever About EU?

This seems to sum up how I feel.

Robinince's Blog

It is probably an ill-advised gesture to write about feelings that occurred on Friday morning. I have typed it and hastily reread it, but I am sure there will be errors in grammar and logic. I post it rapidly before I lose faith in it. Hopefully this is clearly not about all campaigners on one side or the other, but with so much read into everything on the referendum, I am sure some will take offence where it is not meant. 

I have woken up cross, bothered, bewildered and worried after elections, but I’ve  never had the same sense of confusion as I had when I woke this Friday after the referendum. I was in the same place where I had fallen asleep, but the territory felt utterly changed.

It was the increasingly pungent stench of snake oil that made the last few weeks of the BREXIT campaigning so dizzying.

Not…

View original post 1,170 more words

The next day

I think I’m lucky, I don’t have anyone crowing on my social media feeds. and I don’t have anyone being aggressive or using bad language. A little tetchy, perhaps, but people are understandably bruised by this. Mostly I’ve seen contemplative stuff, interspersed with a little clutching at straws, and a bit of black humour too. I have better taste in friends than I would have expected!

I’ve seen calls for calm. Saying we need to calm down and pull together as a society. But some of us need to lick our wounds. The pain is real, if not physical. We need to accept and move on, but it will take more than 48 hours.

Some of the worst elements of our society were exposed, and the country nearly pulled itself apart. The worst part of it was seeing the thoughtful and caring were at times treated as part of the problem, as if we were just as bad as those yelling “Out! Out! Out!”. We need to be the solution. It’s plain that none of the leave campaigns had a clue as to what happens next, but we can sit back and let the politicians work that out, just keeping a quiet eye on them. For the rest of us we need to work on rebuilding our society.

52% voted to leave. So many have said “It’s not about X, it’s about Y” “It’s not about Y it’s about Z.” If I felt all 52% were raving bigots I would be making plans now to leave the country. I don’t believe all 52% voted out because they have a problem with “mass” immigration, free movement, muslims etc. I don’t believe all 52% are paranoid about “Frau Merkel” wanting to control and dominate us. We need to rebuild our society, not by accepting small mindedness as just another point of view, but by ensuring it has not place in a post-EU Britain.

Sarcastically we amended “vote leave” to “vote love”, just as we need to hold Vote Leave to their promises that we won’t loose jobs and investments and they will spend more on the NHS, we need to try and live by that one.
 

 

No, it isn’t honesty, it is problem behaviour.

OK, the moment has passed for this post too, but I’d better write it anyway.

A couple of months ago there was an incident on the internet. Someone upset someone with their behaviour, and were banned from participating in a particular forum until they apologised. So far, so commonplace, so dull.

It’s the fall-out that was particularly worrying. The thread surrounding this trivial incident spiralled out to over 100 contributions. Two things struck me- one was someone trying to claim that bluntness and abrasiveness isn’t rudeness, and another describing bluntness and abrasiveness as “honesty”. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that being nice, measured and thoughtful is dishonesty, but it does feel like a slight to reasonable, kind people to describe it as such.

I feel there is a problem, not just on line but in general, where a certain level of background aggression being seen as normal or “having a personality”. I mean I can understand people, get annoyed and passionate, it’s a sign they care, but there seems to be a level of excitableness that people treat as normal, rather than merely understandable. People who write in a mature, reasonable and non-aggressive tone are misjudged to be snotty and condescending.

In politics things need to be done. Abrasiveness and aggression are necessary evils- we need people to achieve things, and that isn’t always going to be achieved by being nice. Tolerance of abrasive personalities, and respect for what they achieve is often blurred to the point that people fail to acknowledge the problem nature of those personalities. Sometimes abrasiveness goes too far and those who either take a stand, or lack the coping skills to deal with it properly are often misdiagnosed as the problem, rather than the person suffering the problem.

Kindness, diplomacy, intelligence and thoughtfulness are also necessary and useful traits, these need to be valued too. We need to recognise these as positive traits, and far too often in politics they are dismissed as mere differences, or even worse weaknesses or negative traits.

Taking a stand

This is a post that I should have written long ago.

About a month or so back, I posted a link to an xkcd cartoon. It was inspired by an incident around that I was going to write about. However every time I tried to write the article another incident came back to my mind, and threatened to swamp the piece I was trying to write. It’s obviously something I need to get out of my system. I keep alluding to this incident time and time again, so I think it’s time I got this off my chest.

I’m going back ten years now. I was a member of an association within the Liberal Democrats aimed at improving the use of information technology and the internet. A key committee member of this group was a problem. The person would respond to any perceived slight against people who lacked IT skills with a level of aggression that was totally inappropriate and out of proportion to what he was responding to. In addition he would be incredibly snide about technically skilled people, seemingly thinking clever people needed taking down a peg or two. I put up with it for a while, but the constant sniping got too much.

Firstly, I tried politeness. I sent a kind and friendly email, pointing out that he was being a bit over the top. I received an unexpected response, “Are you always this nasty”. Shocked that my tone had been so badly misinterpreted, I pointed out, that no, I wasn’t being nasty, I was trying to be helpful. More aggression. I called him publicly on the group mailing list over his behaviour. I was threatened with legal action for standing up to him!

I tried to address the problems directly by writing a philosophical article addressing people’s perspectives toward technology. This was met with public aggression and my conduct was falsely described as abusive.

So I wrote to the chairman of the group, expressing my concerns about the culture of aggression, and disrespect. And was ignored. Friends and acquaintances promised that the problematic behaviour that I was concerned about would be brought up at the next committee meeting. However I never found out if this happened or what action, if any, was taken. I tried to find if there was a complaints procedure for low-level bullying within the Liberal Democrats. There wasn’t.

By now I had a thing about low-level online bullying. I championed the case of a slightly autistic acquaintance who was being given a bad time on a private members forum. Again, the mods I messaged didn’t even acknowledge that I’d contacted them or reassure me that they were on the case.

Things have, thankfully, changed. The Liberal Democrats have introduced new codes of conduct. Not because of me, or anything I have written about here, I hasten to add, but because of more serious incidents of an altogether different nature that have come to light. While the seriousness and the nature of these incidents and complaints was far different to what I was dealing with, the new code of conduct is broad enough to define the sorts of things that I, and those I stood up for, as unacceptable. It also makes it clear that complaints and concerns like mine should not have been simply ignored.

Was the behaviour I stood up to that serious? No, not really. But even though the problem behaviour I experienced wasn’t a serious, it was a real and genuine problem, and I was right to stand up to it. While it was ultimately futile, and has remained with me for far too long, I remain proud of taking a stand.

22/05/2016 Coda:

I had intended this to be “getting the issue out of my system” and to an extent it has. This week I have refreshed my safeguarding training with the Scout Association, and was pleased to see their robust policies regarding bullying. It also confirmed that the behaviours I highlighted in the Lib Dems back in 2005 that went unacknowledged do constitute bullying, at least according to the definitions uses by the Scout Association.