A couple of weeks ago I went to a day-long conference in Brighton hosted by the political journalist, Paul Mason. There were a number of interesting speakers but it was Mason’s closing speech that really cut the deepest.
Bear in mind this was just a week after Trump had been elected President, a few months after Britain had voted for Brexit, with the prospect of Marine Le Pen gaining power in France and Norbert Hofer in Austria looming in the future. He spoke about a rumour that Trump was going to resurrect the House Un-American Activities Committee, the McCarthyite kangaroo court that persecuted left wingers in the 1950s.
We all like to think that we would have stood up for our Communist friends if we’d been alive in the 50s, he said. Just as we all like to think that in the 1930s we would have rushed to the train stations to pick up the Kindertransport children sent over from Nazi Germany. But the truth of the matter is, that, unless we went over to Calais this summer and helped out the one and half thousand refugee children penned up in the Jungle camp, we would have done nothing in the 30s and we would have done nothing in the 50s.
What we are doing now is what we would have done then.
It was a very sharp wake up call.
This is not a blog about politics but it is a blog about being human. And as Reggie said just a day after the US election result, now is the time when we need to “cherish the Human” as fiercely as possible.
Insecurity and fear can easily be channelled into blame and scapegoating. It’s easier to blame someone else than deal with the complexity of the situation and feel our own vulnerability. But that is exactly what we need to do in these difficult times when the world population begins to move and the underpinnings of nationhood and global finance begin to shudder and shake. Feel the inherent vulnerability but work with it, not push it away and let it turn into xenophobia and blaming.
There’s lots we can do in direct activism to make sure that reactionary and xenophobic forces don’t dictate the agenda for the next five years, but this organisation, Mindsprings, is active in promoting meditation as a way to stay sane, steady and empowered in these difficult times. And we’re also committed to providing a welcoming and safe space to do this.
I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of not polarising into “them vs. us” when it comes to these seismic shifts. Trump voters and Brexit voters are just the same kind of humans as pro-Europe or Bernie Sanders voters. We all want happiness and we all believe in our way of getting there. However, that said, there is not a moral vacuum when it comes to these things. Which ever end of the spectrum you sit, racism is racism, hatred of foreigners, gay people, disabled people, women is hatred. And I cannot be equivocal in my stand against these.
Paul Mason encouraged us to make it clear what we stood for in regards of these social values. And to that end I have amended the mission statement on the Mindsprings website accordingly.
“People of any religious belief or none, any political stripe or none are very welcome to our courses. However, we pride ourselves on being a safe and progressive space for people to share their experience. We welcome gay, lesbian, trans people and people with disabilities. We make special place for refugees, the elderly and those of us suffering from mental health difficulties. Anyone who struggles financially can write to get some assistance to attend. We will never condone xenophobia, racism or sexism.“
It’s time to nail our colours to our mast. And these are mine.