Left-Wing Orientalism and Communism

artist_93586Of all the celebrities to die this year, Fidel Castro has to be the most controversial. Why am I calling Castro a celebrity? For all the coverage in much of the western press he might as well have been. In this post-cold war age of re-evaluating an American bias towards history, Castro can often be seen as a sort of David to America’s Goliath. On the day of his death several people not least British Labour Party leader (lol) Jeremy Corbyn came out and named him a great figure of social justice in the world.

Ah yes brilliant. What an excellent way to make that socialist pill easier for the general public to swallow. We think Castro was a pretty swell guy! Ignoring all the totalitarianism, political executions, censorship, and of course the million or so Cubans that left the Island. I will admit there is a certain mystique around his character that many of find attractive, however when you strip away all the mythology I wouldn’t want him running my country.

And this is the problem. Figures such as Castro are viewed with a left-wing brand of Orientalism. He is this mysterious left-wing hero who somehow makes communism work in far off tropical lands. Where is the left going? Is it so out of touch that it admires the theory and ideas behind someone like Castro but ignores the human cost?

I have seen first hand what it is to live in a communist state.

As a child in China I attended a Chinese state school for a few years. The Chinese education system was very rigorous and heavily based upon the memorization of facts. One figure 1487455855_fc4aebb9f6_bloomed over the whole thing. Mao Ze Dong (or Mao Tse Tung depending on how you pronounce it). His picture was in every classroom and the red and yellow of the Chinese flag flew over every school and public place. In the centre of the town where I lived there was a giant statue of the great Leader himself, proclaiming hope and glory over the city. Vast and imposing, he was there, a statement of the power and authority of the Chinese Government in the region.

Guess what? Mao was a pretty awesome socialist leader too! John McDonnell, a high ranking Labour minister, produced his own copy of Mao’s Little Red Book (quotations from Mao Tse Dong, a symbol of the cultural revolution) earlier this year in parliament. The Great Leap Forward? Oh yea that great work of socialist engineering! What an awesome guy. Never mind the tens of millions of people who died! Mao was a pretty decent chap!

Every Monday morning at my old school we would have to dress up in school uniform and line up in the playground. We would face the flag flying high and salute as the Chinese national anthem was sung by all the students. The children of Communist Party leaders were of course the ones at the front doing the honours of the flag raising. When that was done, a student would read out a speech about which class had done the best at their me and dan.pngstudies and who was to receive a red ribbon for their efforts. They might as well have been awarding factory workers for producing more coal.

A system of informing was ingrained into kids early on. Telling on kids who did not do their homework or grassing on a naughty child was encouraged. Being a general tattle tale was not something that was viewed as socially unacceptable, in fact it could make you climb the ranks of social status in the school. It took me a while to get out of this mentality myself after I left.

My point is this, be very careful who or what we trivialize. To all our liberal leaders: understand what exactly communism is before you evoke it in some way. Bashing American political figures over cold war propaganda is fine, but lets remember the Soviet Union wasn’t exactly a paradise. The west seems to have a strange fascination for North Korea like one would have for a weird caged animal, of course ignoring the medieval regime. Albeit relatively benign, I’ve had a little taste of a communist state myself. It is not something to be trivialised.

Figures such as Castro and Mao should not be treated lightly. The left needs to be very careful with who it chooses as it’s main figures. Castro and Mao are not celebrities. They are not trivial stock characters.

The reason I say this is because of this…

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Some figurines of the Chairman in an oriental curiosity shop in North London. Little figurines of a great socialist leader for every North London household. Perfect for all the family. A little symbol of oppression for your own living room.

The Mao statues are surrounded by skulls, Buddhas, and crocodiles, left-wing Orientalism indeed.

Liberals and socialists… we need to tread very carefully…

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Adulting: The Sanctity of Adulthood

“Millennials are all crybabies, all superficial selfie takers who stay at home all the time and feel they deserve a reward for getting a loaf of bread from the cornershop…”

“All millennials want to be treated like special snowflakes, well, they should just get on with life and stop asking for special treatment!”

Non-millennials hating on millennials, in my own words.

I disagree, obviously. The path to adulthood is much less clear cut than it was in the second half of the 20th century. Now we are in the 21st, where economies are squeezed and jobs are scarce for many people. Millennials, the young, the netflix generation, whatever, are at the bottom of the pile. A friend of mine who recently graduated from university said she couldn’t even get a cafe job because she had no experience. How then will any of us get something more than a cafe job if we have no experience?

Housing is squashed and rents are rising. Benefits are harder to get, global warming and economic difficulty looms over our futures.

I would ask of those in their ivory towers of age not to judge us then. Fair enough, everyone has lived through hard times and hard work should not be shied away from. However no one should judge another. Telling millennials to shut up, get off their phones and out of their safe spaces will only create more animosity.

However…

What is a millennial? It’s difficult to tell. Some people say they are those born between 1980 and 1994; other times in conversation the phrase is used to refer to those born AFTER the year 2000. Others have said it is the generation who is coming into young adulthood in the 2010s. It’s all very confusing. However I hope my words will be of help to those between the ages of 18 and 31. I may be wildly inaccurate in my definition of millennial but, to be honest, there is no widely accepted definition.

Anyway, ‘adulting’…

It is a term that we millennials have started using to describe the new (to us) concept of being an adult. It is a tongue in cheek phrase used to explain the doing of ‘adult’ things that are usually not 636028451881153836-1170072345_6358425115121491022038595759_110-750x400particularly fun. It can range from doing your washing on the same day each week to having your career entirely sorted out for the next 10 years. The phrase “ugh I have to adult tomorrow” is a classic use of this word. It is a way of venting about coping with a new form of life away from the comforts of childhood.

Seems irritating, right? When did ‘adulting’ become a thing? It’s surely just young whippersnappers complaining about being away from the cushy, spoiled environment of their parents homes.

I disagree.

The term is a coping mechanism with our future. As I’ve already described, most millennials are not particularly hopeful about the future. A slightly fatalistic attitude seems to pervade most of us who have just entered the world of adulthood. Our situation is not the same as it was for those 20 years ago.

However, I want to posit something new.

Millennials, we need to embrace adulthood. We need to do away with the idea of adulthood as being something that we have spent our whole lives up till now trying to avoid. The weight attached to the ‘university experience’ is a large part of this. The idea that university will be the best times of your life and that everything after that is doom and gloom is monumentally depressing for many millennials. The same could be said for school, but I’m fairly certain most sane groups of humanity agree that school wasn’t heaven for most of us.

In a world that worships youth and pleasure, let’s not be deluded into thinking that the first stage of life is all there is.

Beyond ‘adulting’ our language is full of positivity surrounding the concept of adulthood. Why is ‘maturity’ considered a good thing? Why is ‘coming of age’ a good thing? ‘Growing up’ implies the positivity of development. Similarly, ‘When I grow up’ points to the freedom and potential of being in charge of your own life.

To be ‘asleep’ is generally a bad thing in our language as well. This seems odd, considering most of my colleagues think of sleep as a good thing, the desire for ‘nap time’ is a common theme among many millennials. The idea of being ‘asleep at the wheel’ has negative connotations of not being aware of what you are doing. The idea of armies of zombies tied to smartphones is so horrifying to us because it implies we are ignoring the world around us…and it’s not far from the truth.

Millennials, let’s not be the zombies that society thinks we are. I know it’s hard. It’s so easy to drown our worries in social media, computer games, and netflix. Let’s not be in our own bubble. Look at the world outside; we need to become part of it. If your elders scoff at you, don’t turn away and ignore them, engage with them. Let’s be the better people by engaging with our world. Take pride in taking control: becoming an adult is a good thing. You are coming into your own, becoming a self-sufficient person, in control of your own destiny. No other generation has been so tolerant of others, no other generation is as aware of the environment, and no other generation is as unified as ours.

We are just coming of age. The world will one day be ours. Let’s make sure we are ready for it, we will seize it by the throat.

But only as adults.

 

 

‘Experts’ Need to Embrace The Politics of Emotion

2016 has very much been the year where experts have been proven wrong, first in the case of Brexit and now in the man himself Trump. I hate to quote the lizard Michael Gove but “I think people have had enough of experts”. The idea that experts and academics are thoroughly divorced from reality seems to be everywhere.

In his letter to New Zealand the esteemed scientist and writer Richard Dawkins said “There are top scientists in America and Britain – talented, creative people, desperate to escape the redneck bigotry of their home countries”. He also points out “Science in both Professor Richard Dawkins Promotes His New Book "Appetite For Wonder: The Making Of A Scientist"countries (the UK and US) will be hit extremely hard: in the one case, by the xenophobically inspired severing of painstakingly built-up relationships with European partners; in the other case by the election of an unqualified, narcissistic, misogynistic sick joke as president.”

I’ll be honest, his last sentence seems a bit rich given that he has stirred up controversy himself with his comments on Down’s Syndrome and date rape. His comments do not cast academia in a good light.

I can see his point about the decline of science. I don’t really see science as a whole benefitting from recent events. However I object to how he proposes to fix this, by making scientists flee to more ‘progressive’ countries.

It would seem that Dawkins is suggesting that scientists should retreat to the ivory tower of New Zealand. This only increases the image of experts as snobs who look down on the rest of the world.

This banging on in the liberal media about “post-truth politics” is yet another brand of
this deeply belittling worldview. I understand what they are getting at, considering donald-trump-got-only-8-words-into-his-campaign-before-we-found-a-seriously-questionable-factTrumps comments on global warming as a Chinese plot. However the language they use is
ridiculously patronising. If the Left is to win converts it must be sensitive and wise with how it uses it’s words. The brushing aside of millions of people as ‘bigots’ or ‘rednecks’ will not help anybody.

The rise of the new politics of emotion is dangerous. Things like Nigel Farage’s promise for 350 million extra spending money to be channeled into the NHS show the extent to which no one really knows whats going on. The grasping for for vague but comforting ideas seems to be the norm.

The Left needs more emotion.

Hang on. I don’t mean we need a leftie Trump. However liberals need to worth consider how to reconnect with people.

Where do liberals come from then? How do we make a start? Much of the liberal intelligentsia finds its roots in academia, universities and colleges. Surely this is a good place to start? A brilliant place to start if we are to deal with the likes of Dawkins.

In my own experience of the academic world I was often struck by the specificity of the things we studied. It depended on the seniority of the professor but case studies and specialties were the norm. The concept of a grand narrative spanning a nation’s history was not particularly fashionable. No single person could possibly know enough to authoritatively tell the story of an entire peoples history.

And surely that’s what everyone longs for? A story. A story in which your family and the places you love feature.

winston_churchill_statue_parliament_square_london_croppedI for one was fascinated by Winston Churchill as a child, a biting wit and stoic attitude I thought he was an example of Britishness. “We shall fight them on the beaches…” is slightly cliched now but I found it very inspiring as a child. My grandfather regaled me with stories of the blitz and then Mr. Churchill’s voice would come on the wireless. The bomb ravaged streets suddenly seemed safer, his voice was immensely encouraging to my young grandfather. A fantastic and haunting statue of Churchill stands outside the Houses of Parliament Surely a great British hero?

Academia taught me a different story. As I studied History at university a new, aggressive, upper class, drunk, and imperialist vision of Churchill entered my mind. He was not the hero of my childhood. His white mans burden attitudes were shocking to me and immediately I disowned him. How could a hero of mine hold such views I found offensive to my own?

My hero, and part of my story, was dead.

Now what my university taught me was true. Part of academics job is to argue about what the truth is. This is vitally important to our world since a huge amount of problems are caused by peoples lack of knowledge. So much prejudice would go away if everyone was on good terms with some people from another country.

But academia and the intelligentsia it produces need something more than truth. Experts need to embrace emotion.

The way people feel is a truth. It is not the whole truth but it is a neglected part of it.

For all of Churchill’s views and ideas, I am thankful that he comforted my grandfather in his time of need. My grandparents and their generation had their minds of rest because of his speeches. I have a deep respect for my grandparents and even though I don’t agree with them on many things, I respect their story. Because its part of my own.

I have used history as an example because it is my field. However the likes of Dawkins would do well to understand human emotion in their work and how best to appeal to it.

Embracing emotion will be a slippery slope, every story has its heroes and villains. Academics must be sure to maintain balance. However what people want to hear is a story. Trump is, Farage is.

Experts must captivate us once again.

Patriotism Is Not Enough

Well it’s happened hasn’t it? Do I really need to say more?

In all honesty I don’t know what to say. I’ve had friends telling me to add my voice into the mix. However I think thats the problem, the mix is so vast. How can anyone possibly have something unique to say? How can anyone really make a difference in this world of clickbait and self-reinforcement?

Multiple people on the internet have come to realise in the past year that social media is an echo chamber. On Facebook, the people you are friends with are most likely very similar to you. In my case most of them were born in the 90s or 2000s and most are fairly liberal. Zuckerberg knows this and thus his delightful program panders to my likes and desires and feeds me and my friends material that we enjoy looking at. I have touched on this slightly in a previous article.

The British newspaper the Independent is a perfect example of this. Recently it has taken on board a very click-baity and buzzfeed style of reporting with articles like “Nine Times Trump Has Already Betrayed the US Voters Who Put Their Faith in Him“. Of course the Independent remains a fairly prestigious newspaper but it’s slide towards click-bait has seen a noticeable decrease in recent quality. This is no more true than on it’s Indy100 platform which has headlines like “Jeremy Corbyn just made his most scathing criticism of Theresa May yet – by comparing her to Donald Trump“.

Brilliant.

maxresdefaultSo what? Honestly so what? What has Corbyn really done? Will that headline translate into anything serious in the real world? Will the noble and righteous forces of the left go over to America and ‘destroy’ Donald Trump? There have already been multiple times where Obama has apparently “destroyed Donald Trump”, there have been so many points where we have seen Farage made fun of or Republicans been humiliated by Obama’s smooth delivery. And what has that got us?

Nowhere.

What have Corbyn’s impassioned speeches about the welfare state done for us? What have Obama’s mic drops done for us?

Nothing.

As in the UK after Brexit, racist attacks have started to increase in the USA. What is going on here? Who knows? If it is a ‘whitewash’ what do we do with that?

What can I do?

What can you do in the face of so much hatred from both sides? What can we do when people are dehumanised at every turn, be you black or white?

Protect your friends and family from hate and violence as best you can. All this psychoanalysing of every group in the world that is not part of the Liberal Intelligentsia makes me sick. Start from the ground up. Be welcoming to one another, be kind to the stranger and forgive your enemy.

Get out of your echo chamber. Stop reading the scum that is “9 Ways Trump Is the Devil Incarnate” or “15 Ways Michelle Obama Will Be the Messiah”. People are not intrinsically evil. Yes there are plenty of bad people out there and Trump may be one of them, but most of us are not.

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This is might seem cheesy but I’ll say it anyway. On the Wednesday after the election result I was in Trafalgar square. I felt like I could see signs of doom everywhere as I walked around. But then I saw this statue.

Edith Cavell was a British nurse in the First World War who was famous for helping soldiers from both sides of the conflict. She was executed by a German firing squad despite the fact that British, French, Belgian, and German people pleaded for her pardon. Slightly unrelated to the current situation but the quote on her memorial seems more apt than ever.

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On her memorial lies the phrase “Humanity”. Lets not lose sight of that.

You’ve Heard of Marmitegate but Worse is To Come

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I remember the night of the Brexit vote. It was a truly frightening time for me. I had no idea what was going to happen, I had no idea what my future would be like or what the country would be like. David Cameron was busy yammering on about something and Boris was too.

“What am I going to do?” I said, “Surely if we leave the EU I will be doomed!”

Then the next fateful day and my greatest fear came to being. Our nation’s finest product, our nation’s most wonderful invention, conceived of in London’s Brixton area, was cut off from its main production area.

Reggae Reggae Sauce is not produced in the UK but in a factory in Poland. Lord protect us. The lifeblood of chorizo pastas and barbecues everywhere is at risk. With Brexit Reggae Reggae Sauce will surely become extinct from our shelves.

How will we get hold of Reggae Reggae Sauce now? How much will the prices rise? How much uncertainty do I really need in my life? How will we survive without this product? How will we possible be able to have that sweet blend of Caribbean flavours in our food? How will we do what it says on the bottle?

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“Put Some Music in Your Food”

Oh silence is not golden it is dark!

For the un-itiated I will let Levi Roots site do most of the talking but once again I need to educate you. Reggae Reggae Sauce is a sauce created by Levi Roots, a Reggae musician and entrepenureal chef who made his name on the TV series Dragon’s Den in 2007. His unique blend of spices created a sweet, tangy, yet slightly peppery product that is ideal for Caribbean dishes but is extremely multi-purpose as a condiment and a staple sauce.

spicychorizopennepas_84044_16x9Of my own experience and recipes I can tell you life won’t be the same. Here’s one thing I’ll tell you won’t be the same without it. Chorizo pasta. How will we possibly be able to add that crowning glory to this already beautiful dish? The sourness of the tomatoes and the sweetness of the sauce along with the meatier taste of the chorizo are accentuated beautifully by Reggae Reggae Sauce. Alternatively it’s a superb addition to barbecued chicken. How will barbecues ever be the same Theresa May? Have you declared war on barbecues?

Oh cry beloved country! This is what we have reduced ourselves to, a Reggae Reggae Sauce-less world! First the great marmite scare of 2016, who knows? A greater catastrophe may yet be looming over the horizon. I am already panic buying, creating an ark of Reggae Reggae Sauce lest we be thrown into darkness.

I have experienced much hate over the years for my love of Reggae Reggae Sauce. I attempt to sing it’s praises and I am shot down, I attempt to tell the world of this joyful product and I am left in the dust. The unfaithful do not have eyes to see so they are worthless to me! Yet soon they may yet see their folly. Repent all ye who do not appreciate putting music into your food! Don’t be one of the unbelievers when judgement comes and all Reggae Reggae Sauce is abolished from Britain!

We may yet live in a reggae reggae sauceless Britain. Silence will reign, no longer shall we be able to put a little music in our food.

Welcome to Britain

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The White Cliffs of Dover from afar

When I was in America, I didn’t feel like a foreigner.”

A friend of mine once said. He had recently returned from a year abroad in America as part of his degree. His experience was amazing, baseball games, good friends, and travel to the incredible sights and sounds of America. I got a bit touchy with him considering my British inferiority complex with regards to America but his words really struck a nerve elsewhere.

In America, you can become American very easily.” Said another friend of mine.

I can vouch for what she said. I had friends at my school in Turkey who were of middle-eastern heritage but considered themselves thoroughly American. It was the same with a few Canadians I know.

Ok fine so woo hoo America right?

Well lets take a look across the pond at Britain, a rainy, green and pleasant land. I’m gonna come out and say it now, I really love England. I remember coming into London from China where I was a child and being continuously wowed by how green it was. Compared to the

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Brent Knoll in Somerset, a great hill used as a watchtower by Saxons against Viking invaders

magnificent but barren deserts of Northwest China, England really did seem like a green and

pleasant land. Going down to the southwest of England my grandparents filled my mind with tales of King Alfred and King Arthur at Glastonbury, giving me a deep sense of connection with the soil. Here the Vikings were beaten off, here a great hero sleeps in anticipation of days to come. I admit much of that is fanciful, but I don’t want to let go of a certain wonder with the country of my birth.

Yet for all this, I am ashamed to be British sometimes. Those two friends I mentioned were of Eastern European origin, and Britain could not give them a sense of belonging. Whilst working in a summer school as an English teacher I overheard a conversation between my eastern european colleagues.

How is it going for you?”

It’s getting more difficult, when I tell people where I’m from and that I’m an English teacher they look at me strangely. As if they think someone from Britain could be doing that Job.” Was the gist of what I overheard. Brexit loomed in the backdrop.

I remember speaking to a friend who had lived in London his whole life as a second generation immigrant.

Do I look British to you?” he asked me once. “Of course I don’t!” An awkward statement for me, a white British person, to be confronted with but it spoke volumes. This guy was probably more British than me, having lived here his whole life unlike me, but he did not feel British.

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An Indian, Italian, and Turkish restaurant all on the same high street

The area I live in is full of Turks. There are a lot of shops where there is no English writing, only Turkish signs. I walked into a Turkish corner shop one day and spoke to the shopkeeper in Turkish. His face seems to light up each time I come in and converse with him in my pidgin Turkish. I now try and talk to each Turkish shopkeeper I meet. I am surprised how well a simple “Kolay Gelsin Abi” (may your work come easily brother) can go down each time I go to one.

And this leads me back to my first friend. After he shared with me about his experience in America I suddenly felt the overwhelming need to tell him something.

Mate…I’ve never told you this to you before but…Welcome to the UK.”

It was a bit awkward because I’ve known him for 3 years but I’m glad I said it.

It’s something I need to say more to people. I have heard of many incidents from different contacts about a situation where they told a newcomer “Welcome to the UK,” and the effect has been wonderful. I have yet to experience this but I plan to soon.

For myself as a foreigner in Turkey I was struck by how often strangers would say to me “welcome to Turkey”. I’m not talking about guys trying to bait tourists with exhorbitant and annoying sales techniques, I’m talking normal people. Whenever someone asked me where I was from and said to me “welcome to Turkey” I felt a sense of safeness. My Turkish was
terrible and I was a weirdo in the middle of Istanbuls industrial district. But I felt comfort in the fact that at least one person around me was glad I had come and could offer me help if I needed it. Of course as an English person I was careful to disassociate myself from the imperial sins of my nations past, as prejudices did still exist. Yet for all that, there were Turks who were glad I was there.

It was partly also a cultural thing, as Turks are naturally disposed to being helpful to people even if it wouldn’t help the situation. However this small focus on welcoming people was very touching to me.

The vast majority of people who come to the UK feel a sense of resentment against them from the populace. In the big city where everything is changing constantly we are suspicious of strangers and cold towards those around us. 

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New Development near Spitalfields market, London

I read a very fine article that stated Brexit was a cry for community. This longing for community can easily be co-opted by racists as a means to create a homogenous society and Brexit has made racism seem legitimate to many. Whatever you think, London, the UK, is in
dire need of community. 
We are divided by Brexit and all the trappings of race and class. Small businesses and local shops are swallowed constantly by big money and gentrification ravages our communities with Uber-esque internet services. New people come and find themselves in a hostile, cynical machine of underground tubes and hurried streets.

One should still be careful how one throws around “Welcome to the UK”, don’t let it become a demeaning white saviour thing. But in all honesty we really don’t say it enough. This simple phrase could do so much to help our community in day to day life.

I know what the politicians say, I know what the news says, I know what some people might say, but please, from a British person…

Welcome to the UK.

The Youtube Comment Section, Pepe The Frog, and The Nation

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What is the future of the nation?”

I was once asked by a professor in a seminar on nationhood.

Surely the internet will bring all of us all together and the concept of being of a certain nationality will disappear! When people see how everyone is ok really they will stop hating each other.” Was the gist of how I replied. A fellow student disagreed. People don’t get along, was his reply. People are naturally hateful of difference. The internet won’t change this.

I disagreed with his pessimism but I have to admit that in recent years the internet is hardly a fount of human goodness.

Behind the safety of a screen all the pent up venom of the human soul can be splurged on to an internet forum. The youtube comment section is now a symbol of violent, pointless argument, where all kinds of things can be said. A common thing to see on a youtube video of a less popular so38eng or album is users commenting that the people who down voted the video are tasteless monkeys, with Justin Bieber being the prime symbol for the decadence of today’s youth and the death of all music taste. I could flout my hipster credentials at this point but really that is the root of the problem.

I could very easily like a certain kind of music, become bitter about how no one else around me likes it and find similar people online where I can vent my fury. I don’t particularly like Justin Bieber but (oh god I’m about to say it) I think his new stuff is quite nice. Taking joy in music, no matter how rubbish it is, is a beautiful thing. Going to a club with cheesy music where everyone is dancing and singing along is a magical experience. I would much rather be in a club where everyone is singing One Direction together than if Band of Skulls comes on (look em up, they’re good). To each their own music taste or interest, but there is something wonderful in combined experience in the flesh.

The internet basically allows people to find others of a similar persuasion on any subject under the sun and find comfort in that. I do. I take great comfort in being able to find people are interested in this obscure game or that weird album. However this comfort can be enticing, and lure us into camps. Users can find support in a community which most of them will never interact with outside of the internet. Thus becoming entrenched in ideas or interests which may not match with their colleagues in the material world. I have frequented meme websites where a glance can tell you what kind of person populates the feed. A large proportion of the material is no longer memes designed to be funny but people complaining and reinforcing each others views.

Certain traditions evolve. One meme website I used to frequent in my teenage years was dominated by young men of the geekier sort such as myself. A common tradition was that if a woman appeared in a post, in the comments section a GIF of a girl having frankfurters thrown at her face would appear. Implying that the woman in the post was merely attention seeking. Although seemingly light-hearted at first it reinforced the idea of all women as merely seeking validation, emphasising the quite male audience of the website. With the recent trend of Pepe the Frog being used as an alt-right symbol, its easy to see how seemingly harmless fun can become quite dangerous very quickly.

Occasionally a remark about “just be nice to everyone” will appear on a meme website and we will often brush it aside as vacuous and self-righteous. To be honest though, it is more important than ever. The world now seems more divided than ever before. Brexit, Trump, Harambe, the Turkish coup attempt, Syria, feminism, Black Lives Matter, we are increasingly aware that the world is solidifying into camps. Society is becoming ever stratified as hate boils against hate. Or so it would seem on the internet.

Certain members of my family voted for Brexit and wouldn’t agree with gay marriage. My grandparents once lived next door to a heterosexual couple where the husband came out as a woman after several years. Surely anathema to my more conservative grandparents. But 1destsmy grandfather still let Bill fix his car, still had Bill round for tea, still greeted Bill in the morning. I’m not saying everything was hunky dory but the point is that different values did not stop them from being good neighbours to one another. My grandfather would be mortified if someone called him a homophobe.

Once a muslim friend of mine from school joked that anyone who was not a person of the book (i.e. Muslim, Christian or Jew) would go to hell. His comment was directed specifically to everyone of East Asian origin who were, to his mind, buddhists. I can only hope my Korean colleagues didn’t hear him. Later that day I discussed it with another friend who was much more versed in the Quran.

Who are we to judge?” he said. God alone decides these things, it’s hypocritical and thoroughly foul to make such accusations. My friend was visibly frustrated by this story and judging by the lukewarm reception to my other friend’s joke, many of my other classmates were too. This friend of mine was of a different religion to me and likely differed on many other things, and yet I had so much in common with him. 

I researched the Notting Hill riots in 1958, the first of many awful race riots in Britain’s history. A strange exchange between a British Asian man and a white passer by struck me. The white man said “We fought for our country, you don’t belong here. Go home.” The British Asian man was indignant and stated that he had fought for the British in the second world war and that it was his country too. The white man was mortified and apologised. This was no where near the norm in post-war Britain, racism against immigrants was ubiquitous and foul. However this snippet stood out to me as a heartening moment of reconciliation. Once the white man knew more, the scales fell from his eyes. It is a rare moment where decent humanity trumped prejudice in a very prejudiced atmosphere. Who are we to judge?

When I returned to the UK for university I was confronted with a strange new and much more liberal culture than I was used to. The internet had fed me visions of so called feminists running around castrating men, a vision solidified in my head by trends such as the #killallwhitemen incident in 2015. More left-wing newspapers that I liked frequently made me feel victimised. As a white, English, southern, Christian, middle-class male I was the epitome of all evil and everything that was wrong with the world.

And then someone explained it all to me. Close friends shared their views with me, explained the rationale behind many liberal points of view. And I understood. The point was not so much that I suddenly saw the light of the holy knowledge of liberalism but that someone I knew and liked talked about their views to me. Now that I knew a feminist who was not going to castrate me I suddenly felt less victimised by Guardian or Independent columnists.

I know some Trump supporters. I know many Americans who hate Obama. Liberal Europe scoffs at Trump supporters every day, Trump is a laughing stock for comedians all over the place, and red necks are the epitome of all evil for many Europeans. Similarly much of Liberal Britain cannot fathom why the rest of Britain voted Brexit. Brexiteers are surely all crusty bigots and the British countryside is the jungle in Heart of Darkness. Of course this is a monumental event in our history which cannot be ignored and will have vast repercussions, not least the spike in racist abuse in the last few months. However the key to healing our country is to understand each other. Disowning friends who may have voted Brexit is not an option, insulting and spitting on each other will not do. 

Hate will only breed more hate. In the long term we cannot wave genuine problems away as “oh everyone has their own opinion and its all fine”. Problems need to be solved, prejudice of all kinds needs to be eradicated and the world should not keep bleeding. It is difficult but being kind and understanding to each other in everyday life is the first step. It may be the best step for now.