Jonathan Pie and the myth of ‘absolute’ freedom of speech

In a recent interview with Channel 4, Tom Walker – better known as Jonathan Pie, the fictional news reporter who explodes with a fit of rage when the camera turns off and blurts out his true feelings to the thing he was reporting on – argues a case he’s argued before. That we should have should have ‘more’ freedom of speech. Here’s the relevant extract from said interview:

Freedom of speech is an immovable right for horrible people as well as nice people. If you’re a horrible person, if you’re a racist for example – I want to hear it. As long as you’re not inciting hatred, as long as you’re not inciting violence. If your opinion is that the colour of your skin makes you superior to me because of the colour of my skin, you should be able to say because then I can argue against you. If it’s illegal for you to say it, it just bubbles up. So that’s just the general level of what surely freedom of speech should be.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the Jonathan Pie videos but I can see why they’re popular and why some people find them amusing. And on the face of it, Walker is a nice guy with seemingly good intentions too. He postures himself as a very fair and unbiased political commentator (in the same interview, he cites that he follows Breitbart and BBC, Rees-Mogg and Corbyn all the same. He doesn’t want to fall into the trap of the echo-chamber, which is good). But the extract above demonstrates what I would say is Walker’s biggest blind-spot and something I’ve seen crop up in a fair few of his videos: that he is too concerned with raw “fact” and theorising and is either unaware or non-cognisant of what marginalised people go through in their everyday lives. He oversimplifies complex issues and ignores their practical consequences. There’s so much I disagree with in the thought he expresses above but I want to try and unpick each part, bit by bit.

Theorising and practicality should inform each other. But most of the times, in philosophical discussions like this, the two become separate and that’s when context is lost. Context is key. It sounds great to say, “freedom of speech is for everyone”, and it’s a ‘hot take’ I’ve seen given very commonly these days to defend horrible statements, but the idea that it should be the same for “nice” and “horrible” people is… irrelevant. How nice or ‘mean’ someone is has nothing to do with how their statements should be treated. What’s more important is the consequences of that statement. It’s great to say that racists should have a platform to air their bigotry but what that statement ignores is the actual effects of spreading racism.

It’s no coincidence that the biggest proponents of ‘absolute’ fair speech are usually the ones completely unaffected by the consequences of bigotry. While Walker might say, “Hey, if you’re a racist, I want to hear from you”, that’s very easy for him to say, because racists aren’t out to deride, deport or dehumanise him. And that is the context in which we’re living. Walker’s interview comes right in the middle of what should be one of the political scandals of the decade – the fact that an unknown number of British citizens – thought to be over 50,000 – have been had their lives ruined by our government. If they haven’t been flat out deported, they’ve lost their citizenship status and have been denied healthcare, welfare and social services in their own country and are struggling to survive, simply for the crime of being from the Caribbean, i.e. being black. So while Walker may speak of the need for racists to have a better platform, he ignores the fact that it’s the rise of racism that has caused issues like these to become far too common  an occurrence in Britain, with hate crime on the rise post-Brexit.

The only reason things like the Windrush scandal can happen is because politicians like Theresa May and Amber Rudd feel comfortable creating a ‘hostile environment’ (as they have so proudly claimed) for people who are not native white-British. The fact that even people who have been in the country for 60 or 70 years are not immune from it, shows how deeply this attitude has pervaded into the psyche of the country, or at least how much politicians think this is something people will be fine with. And while The Sun and The Daily Mail might disingenuously claim to be outraged by the scandal, it is a hostile environment they have helped to create by consistently and persistently spreading the message that immigrants and coloured people are not welcome in the UK.

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But since Walker, in his interview, asks that rather than just invalidate his opinion because he is a “straight white man,” critics should point out how he is wrong, allow me to point out how he is wrong.

If a certain type of liberal left disagree with my argument, the reason will be because I’m a straight white man. Because of the colour of my skin, my gender and my sexuality.

I find it regressive that… tell me that my argument is wrong because of something that I said rather than “the colour of your skin is why you’re wrong”. And even if the colour of my skin is the reason why I’m wrong, how am I wrong? Tell me how.

Putting aside the moral question of giving racists greater freedoms and platforms to speak, there is a logical fallacy in Walker’s argument.

If your opinion is that the colour of your skin makes you superior to me because of the colour of my skin, you should be able to say because then I can argue against you.

The idea that you can debate someone out of being racist is naïve at best and downright stupid at worst. If that were the case then racism and other bigotry would have already been eradicated by now. It’s as if to suggest that in 2018 we still need to sit grown adults down and tell them that racism is bad.

Racism cannot be logic-ed out of someone because racism is not a logical ideology. There is no reasonable evidence behind the philosophy that any one race is superior to the others. So how can you “fact” your way through racism? And for the same reason you cannot logic someone out of racism, you cannot logic them into it. No one becomes a racist overnight. No one becomes a racist after hearing one speech. And no one is snapped out of it by one either. Racism spreads through emotional appeals, misinformation and rhetoric that scapegoats minorities for problems that have systemic and governmental roots. It’s a process that takes years and seeps into someone slowly, over time, till they’re invested deeper and deeper into the ’cause’. And the reason it spreads is because media outlets like the Daily Mail and the Sun and people like Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Katie Hopkins, Tommy Robinson spew their bile consistently and persistently without challenge. We, as a society, have helped facilitate a scenario where lies about immigration, refugees and religion have been spread daily without enough people standing up to say, “Hey, that’s wrong.” Yes, in a society with free speech they should all be allowed to say whatever they want without legal recourse, but freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence.

Even Walker understands this idea, which is why he caveats his statement with the following, “As long as you’re not inciting hatred, as long as you’re not inciting violence…” Well where does the line begin and end, Tom? Because it’s very easy to draw an arbitrary line on physical violence but where does the spread of hatred begin? Is it when Katie Hopkins brands refugees as “cockroaches… built to survive a nuclear bomb”? Or when the Prime Minister of Britain refers to humans as a “swarm of migrants”? Because if there’s anything that history has taught us, it’s that the first step to facilitate the abuse and slaughter of a group of people is to dehumanise them. To make them lesser – to make them into insects and not people.

If you say racist things, you should be called a racist. That is the consequence of your free speech. Free speech does not mean that we should accept what anyone says without challenge and without question. And the idea that the feelings of racists should be protected over the lives of the people they are trying to hurt is preposterous. If ever you wanted an example of white privilege, there it is.

I’ve now heard Walker defending racists more often than I’ve seen him “debate” racists out of their racism. That is where the “colour of his skin” seems to influence why he is wrong. Because he is immune to ever being threatened with deportation or second-class citizenship or criminalisation for who he is. That’s not to say that white men are incapable of holding a fair stance on such issues, because there are millions of straight white men who are aware of their privilege and of the marginalisation that minority groups face and how all of it interplays in society. But when, like Walker, you feign ignorance to your privilege and your power and ask for the empowerment of bigots over those they would seek to harm, then you’re guilty of being in the wrong precisely because you’re a “straight white man”.

The final part of Walker’s quote is perhaps the most misguided.

If it’s illegal for you to say it, it just bubbles up. So that’s just the general level of what surely freedom of speech should be.

The idea that racism actually arises and “bubbles up” because certain things are made illegal is yet another gross logical fallacy. Following on from Walker’s lead, perhaps tomorrow we should make theft and rape legal because if you make it illegal, it bubbles up, right?? Let’s give murderers more freedom to murder so that, when they do it, we can explain to them why it’s wrong. If we keep calling them murderers they’ll just bubble up till they can’t contain their urge to murder anymore.

Walker cites this same idea later in the interview to explain why he thinks Trump and Brexit happened. And while the symptoms he identifies are correct, his diagnosis isn’t.

People want explanations of how they got Brexit so wrong. How everyone got it so wrong. Well you’re not engaging with people. With Brexit people were so scared that they were going to vote leave: “Bigot”. No argument. No, “Why?”, no persuasion. “You’re a bigot. You’re like Nigel Farage then”. That’s how you lose. That’s how Trump got in. “If you’re thinking of voting for Trump you’re a sexist. You’re a misogynist. You want to feel women up because he does”. Not going, “What is it about him you’re thinking of voting for?” You just get, “You’re a bigot”.

Yes, just brazenly calling people bigots is bad. No one was ever convinced by being insulted. That shouldn’t need to be said. And yes, the reason that the media and political establishment and ‘left-wingers’ were so wrong about Brexit and then Trump is because they didn’t engage with people and they were out of touch. But what they were actually out of touch with was just how much bigotry has become acceptable in society. What they were really out of touch with was how openly racist you can be – in the case of Brexit, with Nigel Farage standing in front of a billboard with refugees fleeing war titled ‘BREAKING POINT’ – and get away with it. What has really surprised everyone, or should have, is just how much society is/was willing to tolerate bigotry if they felt they were gaining something from it. That people were happy to blame and hate migrants for their own economic disenfranchisement or perceived lack of autonomy. How much hateful rhetoric targeting immigrants trumped any attempted dialogue of logic and sense about the benefits that immigrants bring.

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And it is all a consequence of a culture which media outlets and politicians alike have helped facilitate over many years by blaming foreigners when all else fails. By citing increased migration as the problem instead of decreased funding. By linking rising crime with rising diversity, instead of reduced policing. If ‘the establishment’ was shocked, it was by how far the monster they created had gone without them.

It was the same in the case of Trump where the reason “everyone got it so wrong” was because they underestimated just how much bigotry American people would tolerate and even condone and approve of, if it meant that they might ‘Make America Great Again’. They underestimated just how pervasive misogyny and particularly racism is in White America – even amongst white women who, despite Trump’s many gender-specific crimes, voted for him in a majority.

So yes, if political ‘experts’ were wrong in their predictions for both votes, it was because the pervasive bigotry in both countries was largely closeted. But the votes were won because that bigotry was so pervasive. If it was less closeted, it wouldn’t have changed the bigotry, only made it more commonly known and made the result of the elections less of a shock. The pundits might have gotten it right… but the result would have been the same. What we should be focusing on is how to turn back years of encouraged bigotry, not how to justify it.

In a sense, Walker is right. Now that the votes have happened, we have a better idea that these issues exist so freely. We have a better sense of the scale of the task of eradicating bigotry. But the battle will not be won by allowing hatred to be spread more easily and with less repercussions, but by challenging xenophobic, racist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic rhetoric and any other form of dialogue that seeks to make one group of people sub-human or lesser and with less rights. We must call out bigotry for what it is – bigotry. That does not mean, as Walker seems to suggest, that we must run around calling everyone a bigot. There is a difference.

Not everyone who holds a false belief is a bigot – I myself have held countless stupid ideas in my head in the past – about feminism and transgender issues for example – and probably hold plenty still that I haven’t realised. A dialogue is absolutely necessary to engage with issues. But that’s exactly why it’s important to speak up when someone is actively advocating regressive views that can damage the lives of the people it targets. We shouldn’t be afraid of hurting the feelings of people whose intent is to hurt the lives of others. And we definitely shouldn’t aid in the facilitation of people like Farage, Hopkins or Robinson in posturing themselves as victims when they, in reality, are the perpetrators.

If it wasn’t already obvious that Walker doesn’t understand the controversy around free speech, he explicitly states it himself in the interview.

And I just think it amazes me that the left aren’t really scared that the right seem to have claimed freedom of speech as their thing. The idea that Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson are the only people that are shouting about freedom of speech doesn’t prove that freedom of speech is a right-wing idea. It proves that the right have gone, “We’ll have that”. And the left are running scared. The left are scared to say that they are pro-freedom of speech because they don’t want to be branded right-wing. It’s a very, very bizarre state of affairs and it’s something I’ve learned since doing Pie that freedom of speech is a controversial topic. I find it very bizarre to me.

But what he neglects to mention, as he champions Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson as advocates of free speech, is that people like that are not interested in the free speech of society at all. They’re only interested in their own free speech. Does Katie Hopkins care about the free speech of Syrian refugees? Not in the slightest. And, I cannot emphasise this point enough but, neither of them are actually ‘fighting’ for free speech. There is absolutely nothing infringing upon their free speech in this country.  There’s no Gestapo knocking on their door. They’ve been freely speaking their minds for years and, in the case of Hopkins, have been getting actively paid by ‘news’ outlets to give these opinions. How can someone claim they don’t have free speech in that scenario!?

What they’re really after is freedom from consequence. They want to be able to call for the use of gunships against refugee boats without being called out for what they are – bigots. They don’t want people harassing them in the street or on the internet for their views, even though they themselves want to be free to harass and attack Muslim people, for example, for their beliefs. And yet, people like Walker, convincing themselves that they are champions of free speech, seem quicker to defend their right to say these things – which no one reasonable person would challenge – without ever actually condemning them. Or without sitting down to “debate” them as claims he wants to do.

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The Left are not paragons of virtue and are not always right on this or any other issue (Walker is, after all, himself a ‘leftist’) but if Walker is sensing a reluctance from the Left to cry “free speech!” every time an abhorrent commentary is made or someone like Hopkins calls for a “final solution” to the ‘Muslim problem’, it’s probably because there are some people who understand the dangers of allowing xenophobic propaganda – which is what this is – to be proliferated unchecked. I won’t resort to comparisons that lead me into Godwin’s Law territory but hopefully the parallels are already there to be seen. We shouldn’t need reminders of the dangers of consistently prejudiced propaganda.

I can only hope that Walker, as he tries to understand why it is people are so angry about this hate-rhetoric malarkey, takes the time to look at things from the perspective of the victims of racism and bigotry instead of always from the perspective of racists and bigots. He should ask the victims of the Windrush scandal what the rhetoric around migration has done for them. And if people tell Walker that it’s the colour of his skin that’s misguiding him, perhaps he will not consider it as “regressive” as he currently does. As things stand, he seems to be blind to the privilege he holds as a “straight white man” who will never be the target of attacks such as these that would make his life significantly harder. But if he needs help understanding it, then the comparison is this: Think of how egregious it feels when rich people eagerly call for the cutting of welfare and public funding, knowing it will not hurt them in the slightest (something that Jonathan Pie has stood against). That is what it feels like when people like Walker call for things to be done that affect minority groups far more than they affect him.

So, hopefully he will remember – next time he thinks of calling for ‘absolute’ freedom of speech – that he is not the one who is going to feel the repercussions of it.  And that, in reality, what the people who ask for it are after is not freedom of speech at all, but freedom from consequence. And, if we actually want to stem the tide of bigotry, we can’t let them have it.

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We Don’t Always Move Forwards

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Siddh: When Charles Darwin proposed, or more accurately popularised, the theory of evolution in 1859, he probably didn’t anticipate it would be so widely accepted. What he absolutely would not have anticipated, is how widely misunderstood his ideas would be.

When one thinks of the theory of evolution, the above image, in all its iterations, is the first thing that comes to mind and vice versa. And what this image puts forward is simple: teleology; the idea that everything in nature operates with a purpose. That we’re always moving towards something. And the general understanding of Darwin and this image is that we always progress. We move forwards, never backwards. Always get better, always get smarter. Even looking at this image, it’s clear that man is ultimate – the final stage of evolution. The goal that everything before it was striving to reach. Everyone in the image is looking in one direction, as if progress is on the horizon just outside the frame; a new super level to be achieved. It’s all encapsulated in the simple phrase “survival of the fittest”. Only the strongest survive in nature’s intrinsic battleground of selection, and therefore we always create a more elite generation than before.

But this is not the theory of evolution. “Survival of the fittest” was not a phrase ever used by Charles Darwin. If you put these ideas to him, he would probably wonder if you’d even been listening to a word he’d said. Darwin’s theory did not claim that animals would always evolve for the better – in reality, they just evolved to be different. Animals mutate randomly and pass these mutations on to their offspring – some of these mutations help that particular animal better survive in their environment. For instance,  a particularly harsh winter sets in that kills a large number of wolves, but the ones with a mutation that lead to thicker fur survive in greater numbers. Their genes therefore become the most common ones for future generations of wolves. Does thicker fur make those wolves any better than other wolves? Not at anything other than dealing with cold. They’re not smarter or more cunning, and they may even be weaker physically. But they survive and future generations of wolves in that region all share this trait. That is evolution.

This fundamental misunderstanding of evolution permeates society on a deep level and is the cause for so much complacency and so many falsely held beliefs. Society, and when I say society I refer mostly to Western society, has been comfortable in the knowledge that it is always on the up, always moving forwards, and the events of the last eighty-odd years have allowed this way of thinking to be ingrained in the public consciousness. For most of the ‘advanced’ Western world, there have been no major conflicts since the Second World War, certainly none that threaten the safety of their own countries, despite what governments may say. For most of the Western World, standards of living have been on the rise, wages and social mobility have been on the up and, most visibly, social freedom has been ever expanding. Contraception, Abortion, Gay Rights, Racial Equality – all issues that have come very far in the last century.

But all this progress has made people forget that everything that has been gained can also be lost. Society is always one movement, one mutation away from drastic change, and that change is not always good. The ‘shocking’ and ‘sudden’ realisation of this has, in fact, been slowly building for the last few decades. Wealth disparity has been exponentially rising since the Reagan-Thatcher era and, as would logically follow, class divisions have been proportionately entrenched. Couple this with an increasingly hysterical media and growing resentment towards the social movements of feminism, racial equality and LGBTQ rights, and we reach the apparent explosion of hatred we’ve seen in the last few years.

We should have seen it coming. The derisive way in which people spoke of ‘Feminazis’ and Trans bathroom rights, while citing that ‘All Lives Matter’ are all symptoms of a disease which had already permeated the Western Consciousness. A disease that needed only a simple spark to burst into life and consume its host. Those sparks have been provided in this past year. I’m of course speaking of two very specific events, neither of which I’ve had to mention yet for you to know that I’m writing about them. Events that, another eighty years from now, children will read in textbooks which cite very clearly 2016 as the year in which compassion died. The year in which social progress stopped and jumped back like the clocks returning from Daylight Savings Time. Of course, it’s a gradual process, but it always takes visceral, fractural events to mark the start of change, to point to and say, “This is when it began”. It’s Martin Luther King’s speech in 1963 that marks the beginning of change for racial relations in America and it’s the 1928 voting act that shows the same for women’s rights. It is Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States of America, both in 2016, that will mark the period of social regression in Western Society.

If I sound like a Doomsayer, I assure you I am not. The world will not end and our houses will not collapse. But if you believe that lives will not be affected for the worse then you are in stark denial. Setting aside the value of the British pound, there’s already been a massive rise in hate crimes in the UK since the referendum… and this is before any policy changes have been implemented and, dare I stress, before we’ve even left the European Union.[1] One can only imagine what will happen in America where millions of people now have the justification to attack anyone, including women, Muslims, Mexicans, LGBTQ people, disabled people, women seeking abortions, people against gun rights, people who believe in global warming… the list goes on. Why, you ask? Because the President-Elect, soon to be President, has himself advocated, in one way or the other, hurting or removing these people. The leader of that country, the primary role model, the foremost policy-maker, the commander in chief, the most powerful man in the world – has said it’s okay.

To pretend that either of these events is removed from the context of social backlash is another wilful denial. One might argue that Brexit was an economic and political decision and the same can be said for Donald Trump; that they were both a rejection of the elite, a cry for something new. While those things are true, they are not why they happened. To pretend that Brexit was about controlling British law-making is either disingenuous, intentionally naïve or both. Who are we taking our country back from? What are these laws that people so desperately want to not obey anymore? Please name me some of these laws so I can understand these tyrannical EU policies that I’m shackled by every day. The truth is that all of this is a very, very thinly veiled rhetoric for xenophobia. It’s all about a language of ‘them’ and ‘us’. “Them over there in Brussels are telling us what to do… we can’t be having that!” The reason so many people are so mortified that Brexit is happening is not because they think that the EU is perfect or that its operations and policy making are the pinnacle of excellence, it is because they understand what a vote for Brexit really meant. The Brexit vote was a simple choice and the ballot paper may as well have said so: Do you like people from other countries or do you think Britain should be ‘British’?

52% of the country do not understand the complete intricacies of European Law and the economic potentials. 48% of the country do not either. I do not, and if you do, then kudos to you; I hazard that you are maybe part of 2% of the country who do, if that. People did not understand the issues they were voting on. What swayed people’s choice was a natural inclination; a general perception. Many of those who voted leave, voted so because of a resentment of ‘the other’. Either a dislike for a foreign institution having any say in British governance or a resentment for people of a different nationality or people who don’t speak English or don’t “share our values” or, in some cases, a completely misunderstood vote for just getting rid of foreigners in this country.  This is not condescending, it is not patronising, it is fact. [2] Ask the people who voted to leave for a clear, political/economic line of argument and maybe 2% of them will be able to provide an answer that isn’t rhetoric or meaningless, regurgitated phrases. Ask the 48% who voted Remain to weigh up the economic benefits the EU gives versus the potential we can achieve outside of it and they will be equally clueless. People who have dedicated their lives to understand politics and European Law are equally confused and divided, why would the public know any better?

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Which is exactly why Brexit was not a vote of governance. Brexit was a vote for hatred. It was a vote for a gut instinct – a dislike for anything foreign. Even if you voted for Brexit believing that the European Union is a fundamentally flawed institution that Britain needed to leave, your vote for Leaving had nothing to do with that and to tell yourself so is to delude yourself. If you vote for a candidate with sound economic policies, but who vows to exterminate everyone with poor eyesight in your country, can you really wash your hands off the blame when they’re elected and deliver on that promise? To vote for Brexit was to facilitate the sentiment that foreign is bad and native-white British is good. And it is absolutely ‘native-white British’, because I’ve heard a lot of talk ‘a vote for the working class’, as if brown taxi-drivers and Polish plumbers are not working class? The result is a scramble for politicians to be as anti-foreign and ‘pro-British’ as they can be. This is what the Prime Minister meant when she said: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.”[3] Out there bad, in here good. What has Brexit told the world about Britain? That it’s an economically astute country that’s constantly looking for ways to gain better advantages in a capitalistic market? Or that it’s a nation of people who resent anyone not born there? I’ll let you decide.

Similarly, to pretend that a vote for Donald Trump was a vote for anything other than ignorance and hatred, is another wilful delusion. Is Hillary Clinton an inspiring candidate? Hell, no! She has no clear political targets, has no principles and only believes in an issue as long as it serves her. She has contradicted herself on issues multiple times, represents the political elite she vows to contain and, most famously, did some shady things with her emails. But you know what is another term for all that? A politician. Hillary Clinton is no different from the vast majority of politicians who have come before her or will come after her, other than probably being more qualified and high profile than most of them. But Donald Trump is an insidious maniac. He is the worst candidate in any political election in a first world country since Hitler. And Hitler actually lost. The public disenchantment with the political process and interchangeable candidates like Hillary Clinton is one I completely understand and often feel myself. But just because progress is slow, doesn’t mean you should jump off a cliff in hopes of a promised land at the bottom. Trump may bring change, but not all change is good. The only saving grace is that there are too many political checks in place for Donald Trump to start a Third World War but again, the details of the outcome are secondary to the sentiment of the outcome. You might be unconvinced by Hillary Clinton or even loathe her but to vote for Donald Trump is to vote for the KKK’s candidate of choice. It is a vote for ignorance and hatred. A vote for Donald Trump encapsulates the waves of sentiment that has been rising for decades, and it can only be best termed as a ‘whitelash’.

The election of Donald Trump is a fundamental rejection from white people – men as you’d expect, but over half of the white women of America too – of the other.[4] Of Mexicans, of black people, of gay people and of women like Hillary who want the choice of social, economic and sexual freedom and to not be grabbed by the *****. The outcry for economic change and a political upheaval are there and they are necessary, but in this case, they are secondary. This was a vote against progress. A vote against equal rights for minority groups – against feminism, Black Lives Matter and against gay/trans rights. It’s obvious that the bathroom law will be repealed very quickly if Trump has his way, but that will just be the beginning. When the President supports ‘punishing’ women for abortion, opposes gay marriage, wants to increase ‘stop and frisk’ laws in black neighbourhoods and when his running mate believes in ‘conversion therapy’ for homosexuality, what damage could be caused to the lives of normal people?

How far back will society slide? Not just through legislation, but more importantly, through attitude. How easily will the years of telling people that they should accept each other – regardless of race, gender, sexuality – be erased? There was a time when sharing your hateful, ignorant views – that women should be second class citizens, coloured people should be subjugated and gays outlawed – was out of the question. We had brought society to a point where you just couldn’t say those things. But years of being forced to repress those feelings has resulted in a powerful attack against equality. An anti-movement that is proud of being hateful, proud of being ignorant. That’s the sentiment that Michael Gove tapped in to when he said that people “were sick of listening to experts”. Suddenly, being ill-informed is not a stigma, but a badge of honour. It doesn’t matter if what you’re saying is completely incorrect, as long as you said it proudly and vehemently enough. And now, the leader of the most powerful democracy in the world holds all those horrible views. Let that sink in. That is how far we have regressed.

And this is merely the beginning – he has only been elected on those beliefs. Now he has the chance to act upon them with a clear mandate. Across the pond, we have a Prime Minister who believes that we should reject empathy with those from other countries and instead focus on serving ‘Britain’, in a time where the world faces its greatest migration crisis since the Second World War. A Prime Minster who voted against gay marriage and whose Home Secretary proposes that companies should be forced to disclose and be ‘shamed’ for the foreign workers they employ… all without a mandate. Within months, Brexit has created a country where mainstream newspapers are allowed to brandish independent judges as “enemies of the state” and who cite being “openly gay” as a reason to discredit someone. If this is within months, what might the world look like in ten years’ time?

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If there is one lesson to be learned here, it is that society does not always move forward. We do not always move up in the evolutionary scale and in fact, there is no scale, only a chart to map our movement by. Complacency had brought us to the state of believing that, no matter what, things would always generally happen for the good. That humans would continue to walk down that straight path ahead of the monkeys, moving towards the horizon of wonderful possibilities. In reality, we move – up and down, left and right. We gain things and we lose things. One mutation may serve us well for the time being but another might bring about our downfall. It is a reminder to take nothing for granted and that the fight for progress will always be as brutal a battle as any in nature. Today, openness and empathy have died a slow, lingering death while hate and hostility have finally usurped the dominant modes of political thought. The calendar has been marked for a paradigm shift and I’d be damned if I believed it was so that society could make a step forward. In the end, Darwin is proven true yet again: progress is not always guaranteed. The monkey does not always evolve for the better.

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/brexit-hate-crimes-racism-eu-referendum-vote-attacks-increase-police-figures-official-a7358866.html

[2] http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/trump-and-brexit-why-its-again-not-the-economy-stupid/

[3] http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/theresa-may-sparks-twitter-backlash-over-citizen-of-the-world-remark-in-conservative-party-a3361701.html

[4] https://twitter.com/leicesterliz/status/796245393034117120 ; https://twitter.com/leicesterliz/status/796243889065754624