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The World We live in

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I’ve been the thinking about the world I want to live in. I’m reminded of when I went on holiday this summer with my family. It was a few weeks after the Brexit vote and there was an atmosphere of tense uncertainty. I sat with my mother on a bench at Heathrow and watched the other travellers milling around the terminal. As one would expect, it was a multi-cultural, diverse group of people, most of whom looked like they were off on their summer holiday. Mum commented that this ethnically diverse place is representative of the country she wanted to live in. A nation strengthened by diversity and tolerance, not sullied with distrust and discrimination.

Of course, I realise that I’m very fortunate to be able to afford to go on holiday in the first place. In fact, all of us in terminal 5 were the lucky ones. Ignored, demoralised industrial communities in both the UK and the US, have seen their employment and prosperity dwindle away to nothing. After years of degradation at the hands of Thatcher and Reagan, followed by globalisation, once strong communities have been ripped apart and left to rot. Many voted for Brexit and Trump because it seemed as though finally, there was someone speaking to them and offering answers. Blaming foreigners for problems created by politicians is a demagogic tactic that is as old as politics itself. Irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric, blaming immigration for a litany of woes, was created by the wealthy elite who claimed to be speaking on behalf of ‘the people’. This photo of Trump and Nigel Farage standing in a gold lift encapsulates the absurd irony of two rich white men, who’ve claimed to have beaten the ‘establishment’.

It’s clear that Donald Trump is a raving narcissist; the whole presidential bid was an exercise in flexing his megalomaniacal ego. He would have pushed any populist, authoritarian buttons to get the mass affirmation he craved. Now he’s actually faced with the business of being President, he appears somewhat chastened. In yet another Brexit parallel, it seems Trump won’t be delivering on his big promises. The Mexican wall has been downgraded to a fence and Obamacare is going nowhere. However, Trump has cherry picked a bunch of extremely right-wing Republicans to populate his Cabinet. He unleashed an ugly side of American culture and incidences of hate crime in the US have sky-rocketed. Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, sexist, homophobic bigot, the same applies for those who voted to leave the EU. However, bigots who voted for Trump and Brexit will regard their victory as a mandate for their hateful opinions.

There’s also a wave of aggressive nationalism sweeping Europe; Marine Le Pen is now saying her French National Front party has a chance of winning the French presidency. Greece’s far right party, Golden Dawn, has proclaimed the US election as a victory against “illegal immigration” and a triumph for ethnically “clean” nations. In the UK, the high court judges who ruled that parliament would need to trigger Article 50, were called ‘Enemies of the People’ and ‘traitors’ by the mainstream press. This is the language of a totalitarian state and it’s profoundly worrying. For years the media has told us that Islamic Fundamentalists are the sinister enemy who endanger our way of life. In reality, far right, authoritarianism is more of a threat to the democratic values most people hold dear.

This is not the world I want to live in. I’m 14 weeks pregnant and I want to bring my kid into a place where minorities do not have to live in fear, where multiculturalism is regarded positively and the rights of LGBT people and women are respected. I’m reminded yet again of sitting in the airport terminal on that sunny day in August. As we watched the families, groups of friends and individuals checking the departure boards and buying oversized bars of Toblerone, I realised what every traveller had in common. I propose that beyond our career ambitions and other temporal concerns, all anyone really wants is to spend some quality time with the people they love, and a safe, peaceful world in which to do this. If you value liberalism and democracy, I urge you to take a stand and be counted. Make your voice heard and do all you can to oppose hatred and bigotry; it has never been more important.

Feature image found here.



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