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This article was written on 22 Oct 2015, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Intolerance

Intolerance that screams and shouts is easy to oppose. When you see the Westboro Baptist Church with its lurid signs, or see people like Oswald Mosley strutting around in a preposterous uniform, you think that these people are easy to ignore or argue against. And you’re right, of course. But when intolerance is someone you know and maybe like, someone who is sitting three feet from you and wearing a nice cardie, it gets tricky.

There are not many times that I’ve been screamed at. I was beaten up at school on numerous occasions, but got my revenge by escaping the area and having a better life than my aggressors. There are times I’ve been virtually yelled at on Twitter, but I block them or ask ‘why do you hurt?’ which, as it’s the kind of answer that they weren’t expecting, is oddly effective.

The cardie-wearers, though, are in a different league. I’ve detailed before that when I was doing Street Pastors there was more intolerance coming out of the mouth of one of the other members than I’ve ever heard. She wasn’t screaming or shouting but talking in the calm, measured voice of someone who doesn’t expect to be disagreed with.

Someone once said that when fascism comes, it will come as someone who wants to be your friend, wants to speak to your concerns and put them right with rigour, zeal and policies which might seem rough, but which also seem necessary. This is spot on. Deadly accurate. It’s the same with the Tories and the same with UKIP.

They want to ‘sort out’ a series of problems which they have told you are problems but which have no independent verification. All these disabled people on benefits? We’ll make them jump through a series of hoops which leave everyone demeaned and some of them dead. Too many immigrants, doing jobs we won’t do? We’ll say vaguely racist and xenophobic things and make noises about steaming out of the EU.

So the list goes on. People seem to have a vague feeling, shared be some other people, and then write a policy around it. Evidence isn’t important in this world, but intolerance is. Because intolerance feels positive. Like you’re Doing Something, capital ‘d’ and capital ‘s,’ about something which you’ve decided is a very real problem.

Bombing Iraq, for instance, was Doing Something About Saddam. Quite why we had to do that, we don’t know as the initial reason appears to have been wholly spurious. But bombing and killing certainly felt definitive. And it scales down to a micro level. All those people on public transport who scream abuse at Muslims are Doing Something. It’s muddle-headed, entirely wrong and makes them look like fools, but they’re quite definitely Doing Something.

The answer to intolerance is hard, because the answer is nuance. It’s taking the simple answer to what may very well be a non-problem and saying that you need to stop and check the facts. And then, because I’m a Christian and Christ commands it, you need to respond in a way in which the governing principle is love. This is not a quick or easy thing to articulate, especially to those who are already in love with slogans and ‘common sense,’ which is a whore of a concept that will support any old bigotry and bumpipe, but it’s the only viable alternative.

Next time you meet a nice Christian lady who says that if gay people adopt children the human race will die out, or someone who thinks that we’ll all be Muslims by 2020, don’t punch them in the head and don’t laugh at them, however tempting that may be. Ask them what their evidence basis is and whether it’s a non-problem to which a solution gives them the illusion of activity. Chances are you’ll be right. Stopping fascism starts here. Ready?

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