“I call bullshit!” It’s my favourite post-referendum phrase at the moment and basically it’s a catch-all for whenever I hear someone chatting a whole load of bollocks. Whether it’s Theresa May promising greater equality in Britain, or Borish Johnson saying you can contextualise away his many racist and sexist slurs, or anyone saying Britain can be great again without even the semblance of a back-up plan. I call bullshit to all that. But there’s something I call even greater bullshit to and that’s intolerance.
I was brought up to be polite. Very polite. In many ways that’s a good thing, I always got on well with my friends’ parents and I tended not to go around brazenly offending people. On the other hand it did mean I avoided conflict and internalised the majority of slights I suffered only to let them fester and reappear as passive aggressive comments or sudden outbursts of anger, neither of which were particularly helpful. So, I think there’s a balance to be struck between being polite enough – i.e. not being a total wanker to people – and being blunt – i.e. being honest to call out bullshit when you see it. A bit of conflict is healthy after all.
So, this is one for all the casually bigoted people I know – the sort of people who profess to not being racist but crack the odd joke about people of colour; the sort of people who profess to being tolerant but don’t really like Muslims; the sort of people who profess to not being homophobic but call bad stuff ‘gay’; the sort of men who profess to not being sexist but tell women to get back in the kitchen; the sort of Tory voter who genuinely thinks a party wedded to the banks and neoliberal capitalism can get us out of this mess; the sort of Brexiteer who doesn’t like the democratic deficit in the EU but is blind to the democratic deficit in the UK and the sort of privileged cynic who criticises society and the people in it whilst selling out to be a banker. Basically, I call bullshit to any of the crap that undermines equality and diversity in this country.
I believe in a plurality of values: I am happy for people to practice different faiths, I am happy for people to vote for different parties (e.g. between Labour and Green), I am happy for people to have differences of opinion but I am not happy if any of this promotes hostility and hate. For the sake of Britain being great again we must be intolerant of intolerance. It is not true that anything goes and I will fight tooth and nail to combat prejudice. So, yes, I will throw off the shackles of over-politeness and call bullshit to bigotry. Bigots beware (and while you’re at it, just piss off and get a life)!
Yes to healthy anger! Curious, though, why is this ‘for the sake of Britain being great again’? Does this once greatness refer to the empire, and if so how is that a standard? Why frame it as part of that discourse? Why not say no to intolerance simply as part of being human on this planet where we are increasingly being challenged to find ways to be inclusive, or face a perilous future. Offering this in practice of healthy disagreement 😉
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Oo, great healthy disagreement Pelin! Thanks for the comments. I mention Britain being great again not as a throwback to imperial/empire greatness, which I really don’t think was great at all, but because I feel, whilst nationalism and patriotism can be dangerous, we do need some sort of common identity as a country (I think this will be even more important if the Union breaks and Englanders have to define their identities as English rather than British). So I frame it as part of that discourse because it’s recognisable but I would redefine and reclaim what that sense of greatness is – e.g. one based on a strong labour movement, a country that created a free at the point of use healthcare system, a country that has always been rife with diversity, a country that pioneered different forms of equality thanks to the Suffragettes, great LGBT movements, etc. I also think it’s a shame just to identify oneself against things (e.g. the Brexiteers were very good at defining themselves as anti-EU but it’s unclear what they actually stand for).
I reckon we can define ourselves in many ways, including as humans on a planet, but I think it’s also important that we can define ourselves in smaller, more tangible ways – e.g. as living in a certain village/town/city, as living in a certain country, as part of certain minority/majority groups, as people of faiths etc. I think it’s vital we strive to reclaim what it means to be, for example, British, from the people who use that same identity to justify discrimination, etc. Basically, yes to a pluralism of celebrated, healthy identities and bullshit to identities that define themselves through prejudice and bigotry.
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