“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)!
Der-de. Der-de. Der-de-de-de-de-de. Deeer-de. Deeer-d. Der-de-de-de-de-de. Yup, that was my effort at recreating the Blind Date theme tune via monosyllables. In my head it totally worked. For those of you who don’t come from the UK and aren’t as old as me you might not know about the famous TV show Blind Date hosted by the late Cilla Black (what a woman). There were four contestants: three hidden behind a screen whilst the other one asked them a series of provocative (but never too provocative, it was on around 7pm) questions. At the end, the questioner picked one of the three to take on a date and the audience enjoyed watching as they had to suppress their disappointment whilst the other two walked off and sometimes feign joy at meeting the one they’d chosen. Whilst Cilla charmed the audience a random disembodied voice belonging to a man named Graham helped explain the intricacies of the show. We loved it.
But that was then and this is now. The new show taking the world by storm is HIV Blind Date. A similar premise except this time the people running the show are tackling the root causes of the HIV pandemic. Namely, pharmaceutical greed, government inaction and stigma. And, until the beginning of this year, I knew woefully little about these issues. The groups behind the HIV Blind Date include Positively UK and Act Up. When I turned up to one of their meetings in January I learnt a lot in a very short space of time. I learned about PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), a daily pill that can stop the transmission of HIV. I’ll repeat that: a daily pill that can stop the transmission of HIV. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical greed comes into play here because big pharma want to make big bucks and monetise the pill when really it should be freely available to all on the NHS. Enter stage right government inaction and the huge deficit of political will on taking this issue forward. Furthermore, when it comes to austerity, so many frontline services that provide counselling and support to people with HIV are being cut. What sort of message does this give to the 17 people who are diagnosed with HIV each day in the UK?
In a short space of time I learned an awful lot and I’m still learning more. Not least about Act Up, a group dedicated to campainging on these issues and challenging stigma. Because there’s so much stigma out there at the moment and so much of it is ignorant and ill-informed. So, if like me, you find yourself a little clued-down on these issues then head over to the Act Up website and clue yourself up. In the meantime forget what you think you know and stop making crass assumptions about anyone with HIV. And donate your cash to HIV Blind Date as they open the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa!