Give Our Young People A Voice

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The divisions in Britain since the EU referendum a year ago have been written about extensively. Our group Resisting Hate and many others have publicly discussed the increase in racism, in Islamophobia and in Anti Semitism. In particular we have witnessed a surge of hostility to non British nationals.

What has not been so well documented is the divisions that have started to emerge between different age demographics in the UK. Specifically we are now starting to see a good deal of prejudice aimed at young people, especially toward those developing their own political opinions and who perhaps voted for the first time in this year’s election.

The catalyst for the discord appears to be the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn with the under 25s. Whether you like the man or not it is impossible to deny he has a very genuine gift for engaging and inspiring young people. What other politician could be relied upon to draw crowds at Glastonbury? It is Corbyn’s vision of a fairer and Socialist Britain that has helped young people to realise that they can play a part in shaping their own future and that the ballot box is very much the start of that process.

But, attempting to drown out this political awakening in our youth is the voice of some disenfranchised older people in our society. They dismiss the input of the young in the political process and deny them a voice based on their “lack of life experience”.

This attitude is not just bigoted it is narrow minded. It is failing to recognise the energy and the intellect of the young people in Britain and the value they can add to both the political process and the country. It is attempting to silence the very people to whom the future belongs.

I am particularly frustrated with the suggestion that young people today in any way have it easier than my generation and the generations before me did.

When I was at junior school the only things that mattered were playtime and having fun. If there were tests we didn’t know they were tests. Our teachers weren’t under pressure so we weren’t under pressure. Anything more complicated than cutting out a paper flower with safety scissors could comfortably be left to big school. We were allowed to grow and develop at our own pace.

At secondary school we learned about the future. The formula was pretty straightforward. If we worked hard we’d get good results which would guarantee us a free university place and would lead to a decent job which would get us a mortgage and end in a pension that would supplement the state pension we were guaranteed to receive.

Today’s kids are tested at every stage of their school life. They are put under incredible pressure to perform. The pressure is so great that thousands of children in this country are actually needing to receive counselling just to be able to cope with exam stress.

Young adults continue to take exams but unlike with us there is no guarantee that good results will lead to a university place. Even if they do go to university they will come out thousands and thousands of pounds in debt and still have no guarantee of getting a good job at the end of it. Even for those lucky enough to get a job with average income they are likely to be priced out of the housing market. The average salary in the UK for a full time worker (2015 stats) was £27,600. The average house price in 2015 was £277,000.

Unlike previous generations who could start to think about retirement in their fifties these young people can expect to work into their seventies. The future of a state pension is uncertain. The future of a state pension upon which people can afford to live is a long lost dream.

The newspapers remind us every day that automation will replace many jobs, both skilled and unskilled, within the next twenty years. The future for those entering the workforce is uncertain and daunting. While older generations enjoyed jobs for life young adults these days can expect several career changes throughout their working lives. These are challenging times in a turbulent economic environment.

I wonder how many of us in our forties, fifties and beyond enjoying the fruits of final salary pension schemes and home ownership would have buckled under the pressures young people today have to endure. As we look at the hardships these youngsters have to face, in the world they inherited from us, I think we owe them a voice in making their futures a better place.

We need to respect our young people for wanting to take an interest in politics and for believing in a better future. We need to respect them for embracing the principles of Socialism and the belief that the country must work for the many not for the few.

As for our life experience? We’ve wrecked our economy, we’re well on our way to destroying the planet and we’ve managed to create a society that will actually make us redundant. We have forgotten how to care about our fellow human beings and in doing so we have sacrificed altruism on the altar of capitalism.

I’m not saying our young people will necessarily do a better job but, bloody hell, they could hardly do much worse.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
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21,500 Reasons Not To Vote Conservative

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When atrocity happens right in the middle of an election campaign it is a knee jerk reaction for some to say that the event should be referenced by neither party and that, out of respect, for the victims no attempt to make political capital should be undertaken.

While I applaud the humanity of respecting the dignity of the victims, I disagree with the principle of divorcing real life horror from the polling booth. Politics is not a separate entity to our lives, it is the foundation of our everyday existence. It is our health, our education, our finances, our environment and our safety. We cannot separate politics from real life because politics is real life.

It is therefore with this in mind that I say the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London are relevant to the vote you will cast this Thursday and indeed should be high on your agenda when deciding which political party to cast your vote for. I will go further and say we owe it to the victims, both the survivors and the deceased, to cast our votes for the party who will do the most to prevent a recurrence of these evil acts of hate and who will invest the most into keeping our country safe.

Theresa May has proven she does not consider keeping our country safe to be a priority for her Conservative government. The Guardian have reported that since 2010 when Mrs May became the Home Secretary the number of police officers in our country has fallen by 21,500. The bombing of the London bus, the first major act of terror by ISIS on UK soil took place in 2005. The terror threat promised by this extremist hate group has grown exponentially year on year. Yet the reaction to this threat by the Conservative government has been to drastically reduce the number of police officers on our streets.

After the murders on London Bridge on Saturday Mrs May has now (conveniently in the week of the election) decided that “enough is enough”. She tells us that there has been far too much tolerance of extremism in the UK . This is empty rhetoric. There is no tolerance of extremism in the UK. Muslims and non Muslims alike have condemned terror and the senseless hate agenda of ISIS and its affiliates. Instead of admitting her own error of judgement in cutting police at the time when the country needs them the most, Mrs May is pushing back the blame onto the people of Britain. It isn’t her inability to fund defence that is to blame for our innocents being massacred – it is our fault for tolerating extremism. “Terrorism breeds terrorism,” she tells us. We don’t know what that means, she doesn’t know what that means. It is the desperate soundbite of a woman who has badly let her country down but doesn’t have the backbone to admit it.

What Mrs May fails to mention when indignantly mouthing her platitudes is the fact that far from tolerating extremism the people have actually been reporting it. The Manchester bomber was allegedly reported to the authorities on five separate occasions .That is five separate opportunities where Salman Abedi could have been prevented from killing innocent children. Five separate reports that were ignored and never followed up. This isn’t the people tolerating extremism, it is clear evidence of Mrs May not putting enough resources into the system to prevent terrorism. This view is shared by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party who have called upon Theresa May to resign.

The big red Conservative herring of the week has been Mrs May frantically trying to scapegoat social media in an attempt to take the heat off her own inadequacies. While our anti hate group Resisting Hate certainly agree that Twitter, Facebook, What’s App etc. play a massive role in the spread of hate speech, organised acts of terror are a different matter. Much of the communication takes place on purpose built social systems on the dark web. At a pinch a government may just about manage to regulate the mainstream social media sites (though given the opposition from the technology industry even this is unlikely) but they will never be able to regulate the internet. This is another meaningless sop to a public Mrs May hopes is naïve enough to swallow her bluster.

The Conservatives will tell you that the reason they have not been able to maintain the required number of police officers (and indeed the reason why so many public services are woefully underfunded) is because there is not enough money in the budget to afford them. This is fiscal mismanagement at its worst and typical of a government who seeks to curry favour with the elite at the expense of the people. Mrs May refuses to increase income tax for high earners and turns a blind eye to the number of businesses paying low or even no corporation tax (In 2014 six of Britain’s ten biggest firms paid no corporation tax). There is no money in the budget because time and time again the Conservatives have proven themselves to be too afraid of losing votes to tax the people whose contribution could make a real difference to the running of the country.

I think we could all be forgiven for wondering what impact a fully staffed police force would have had on these recent acts of terror if Mrs May had had the balls to demand the taxes to fund it.

I cannot and will not vote for a woman who cares so little about the safety of the people in this country. If you feel the same way then use your vote wisely on Thursday.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
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Why Not Everybody Should Vote

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It has been my custom for several years to encourage people to use their vote at local and general elections. I have always believed that the right to express an opinion at the ballot box is the cornerstone of a working democracy and a responsibility that should be taken seriously. Voter apathy frustrated me and the message I always tried to put out was that it didn’t matter who you voted for as long as you were taking part in the democratic process.

In the post referendum political landscape my belief in the value of democracy has not changed but my views as to how democratic decisions should be reached have altered radically. As we approach the 2017 General Election I will no longer be encouraging people to vote, indeed I will be attempting to dissuade some people from actually doing so.

My primary concern is that a proportion of the electorate simply do not have enough political knowledge to express an informed choice in the ballot box. I remember being asked on the run up to the last General Election by a potential voter whether she should vote for “Labour, The Conservatives or the Tory Party…” Another friend on social media could name neither the leader of the Opposition nor the current Chancellor. In the week prior to the EU referendum I was asked repeatedly whether I thought Britain should “leave Europe.”

Ignorance is not the same as lack of intelligence. These are not stupid people, they are simply people who do not take an interest in politics and as a result have not sought out the information needed to make an informed vote. But I would argue that if you cannot find or make the time to gain a rudimentary understanding of the political parties and the policies they are promoting then casting a vote is irresponsible as it skews the outcome based on lack of facts and not informed opinion.

I don’t want it to sound like I am entirely blaming those people who remain politically unaware. The media should also shoulder some of the blame. The tabloids who publish sensationalist headlines encourage knee jerk reactions rather than views formed by research and reasoned opinion. Social media and the spread of suspect information is also having an impact. But the same point applies – if you cannot make the time to sift through this information and discern political fact from tabloid intrigue then you should be asking yourself honestly if you are in a position to do your vote justice.

I am concerned that in previous votes, particularly the EU referendum, we saw voters disproportionately prioritising some issues above others. Brexit came about on the back of the anti immigration agenda which was only one of a number of key issues that would affect Britain and the people of the country. Heavily prioritising one issue at the expense of considering a holistic picture of what impact the different parties will have on all the key political areas is dangerous. The NHS, the welfare state, foreign aid, nuclear armament, taxation, legislation and the environment (to name but a few) may be neglected in favour of a popularist vote based on a biased agenda.

I am deeply concerned at some of the ridiculous priorities that lie behind the motivation for some votes. You may have a right to vote on the basis of the colour of your passport but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I was particularly alarmed at the priorities of one bright spark who told me (and I am being serious here) that she was voting to leave the EU because she was worried future EU regulation might limit the maximum power of hairdryers on sale.

I don’t have much patience for protest votes and spoiled ballot papers either. If you have bothered to make the time to attend the polling booth then in my view spoiling your paper is both a waste of your time and a two finger salute to the concept of democracy. If none of the parties work for you then campaign for change, start your own, stand as an Independent or write to your MP and tell them what changes you want to see. But don’t scribble the name of a dead gorilla on your ballot paper and congratulate yourself for challenging the system. Because you aren’t.

Under British democracy voting is a right. A lot of people will consider my view that not everybody should exercise this right as undemocratic and an affront to the people whom I am suggesting abstain. But I believe voting is not just a right it is also a responsibility. You do have the right to a vote but with that is also an implied obligation to understand what exactly it is you are voting for and why you are voting for it.

You have a responsibility to cast your vote based on an informed, considered opinion. In my view anybody unable or unwilling to do this should stay at home on polling day.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
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The Problem With The Will Of The People

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Possibly the most oft quoted catchphrase of the post Brexit referendum world is the statement ‘The Will of the People.’ It is hard to find a single article on the EU referendum that doesn’t make reference to the words that have become synonymous with the concept of democracy.

However when discussing democracy it is important to acknowledge that there are two definitions of the concept. In a Direct Democracy there is a focus on the people being directly consulted on matters pertaining to the state. In an Indirect Democracy decisions are taken by elected representatives of the people. The UK with a two tier Parliament comprised of an elected chamber and a chamber of peers is an Indirect Democracy. This definition gives every eligible individual a vote of equal worth to cast in favour of who they think will best represent them at Parliamentary level.

The problem with the EU referendum was the confusion it caused in relation as to how it would sit within an Indirect Democracy. As an advisory referendum it would seek to clarify public feeling which would help the elected representatives make an informed decision. As a binding referendum the people would vote directly to establish policy themselves. In the specific case of the EU referendum it was an advisory referendum. This meant that although it had value in establishing public opinion it had no legal status in itself. The will of the people would be a factor in decision making but not the final arbiter of judgement.

In the case of Brexit much has been written both fairly and unfairly about the motives and abilities of those voting in the EU referendum. Some of these points have been over generalised but there are five concerns that come out of this dialogue which certainly in my view strongly support why adopting ‘the will of the people’ as our governing principle of democracy puts us in a difficult position.

The referendum was at odds with our political system

Referendums do not work well in an Indirect Democracy. They confuse the role of the MPs we have elected to make policy for us and cause conflict between two competing concepts of democracy. The role of the will of the people in our democracy is to elect members of Parliament. In consulting the people directly on issues we are bypassing our own democratic system.

The EU referendum would have been less problematic if it had been clearer that the referendum was advisory and not binding. Due to the lack of clarity a good many people went to the polls believing that a majority verdict would result in binding legislation.

Many of the voters were not politically aware enough to make an informed decision

In a country where we are not regularly involved in the Parliamentary decision making process it is unsurprising that much of the electorate are not politically engaged. It may not be popular to say that there are many people in Britain who know very little of either our own political system or the wider political and economic considerations of leaving the EU bloc but it is also the truth. It is equally fair to say that as even our seasoned and experienced politicians seem completely confused as to the ramifications of Brexit, the man in the street cannot be expected to have more of a clue.

Members of all political parties and the media have shied away from criticising the knowledge of the electorate as they believe in doing so they will be perceived as being elitist and seen as implying that the opinions of the working man are less valid than his or her professional contemporaries. That would be justifiable criticism if they were crass enough to call the voters stupid but there is a clear difference between saying sections of the electorate are ignorant and saying sections of the electorate simply did not have enough understanding of political and economic conditions to understand the potential consequences of their vote.

The facts provided by both the Leave and Remain campaigns could not be relied upon

I think we are all perhaps a little bored of the big red bus by now but it still serves to make the important point that misinformation was abundant in the weeks leading up to the referendum.

Some of this was due to media bias with most of the big newspapers having strong bias toward one of the campaign sides.

Downright lies and clever rhetoric helped create a situation where people were ticking boxes in the booths based on policies that would never manifest themselves.

‘Fake News’

I would argue that there is probably no worse time in modern history than this to be consulting the people about their opinions. We sit in a technological gap where information flows more freely than it ever has but we have not yet taken that next step to regulate and verify the information that is being so readily consumed. The hyperbole surrounding ‘Fake News’ may have gathered momentum with its loudest (and orangeist) critic tweeting on the matter but as seen in a 2016 Pew Research study 62% of people get their news via social media. Although action is now being taken to ensure veracity, back in June 2016 there was little governance relating to what could be published and termed news. The ‘will of the people’ only has value if it is a will established through giving the electorate the true facts prior to asking them to form an opinion.

Some voters were influenced by social bias and cultural pressure

In a similar way that news entering a FB or Twitter feed cannot be confirmed to be truth it can also not be confirmed to be unbiased. Think tank Demos published a study of how social media channels essentially become an echo chamber where an individual’s political convictions are further strengthened by the fact that all the information they receive reinforces their initial belief. Culturally people are more likely to seek out and friend those who will share their views and who are likely to share similar material that will support those views. The algorithms that drive social media are also programmed to identify what material a user finds interesting and provide more of the same of it.

It is not derogatory to question the impartiality of an electorate who are only exposed to information that reinforces rather than challenges their preconceptions.

Some individuals had an agenda of prejudice

It would be ridiculous to assume that every one of the seventeen million people voting Leave were racists or xenophobes and any Remainers who push this view do the rest of us no favours.

However it is certainly fair to say that the Leave campaign was hijacked by a minority of those who want to push a divisive agenda in the country. The Leave voters were not all politically far right inclined but it could be argued that there were enough right wing Nationalists voting to swing the balance in favour of the EU exit. The concern here is that in a referendum some people may be swayed to act irrationally (in the academic sense of the word – broadly speaking to act against their own economic interests) in favour of supporting ideological principles or, in the case of Brexit, an agenda of prejudice.

Anybody questioning the validity of the will of the people has experienced a backlash pointing out that in a democracy all votes are equal and every individual has the right to a vote. However what is often overlooked is the fact that along with the right to vote comes the implied responsibility to understand what you are voting for. Agreed that in our political system every vote carries equal weight. But not every vote has equal worth. Ignorance is not equal to informed opinion. If people vote based on misinformation, lies or prejudice and with only poor or biased information upon which to base their opinion then chances are the outcome of that vote will not reflect the best outcome for the people voting.

‘The will of the people’ may sound democratic but it is not always a democracy that will work best for the people.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
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Politics And Our Relationships

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Last year was one of the most politically turbulent in living memory for the citizens of Britain. The impact of the country voting to leave the European Union will be debated and discussed for years to come and Brexit will take its place in the history books as one of the pivotal turning points of the new century.

It is well documented how Brexit caused chaos on the world stage but it is also important to consider the issues raised on a more localised level. The Remain v Leave campaign in Britain fought a bitter battle splitting families, relationships, long standing friendships and workplaces down the middle. Our country was divided on what direction British politics would take post 2016.

The events of 2016 were foreshadowed by a changing tide in British politics. Since 1945 Britain had essentially been a two party political system with the Labour and Conservative party changing between government and shadow cabinet on a turnabout basis.  We lived in a country where politics had become predictable and therefore, to many, dull. This apathy hit a low point in the 2001 election when forty percent of the country were not even engaged enough with politics to bother casting a ballot.

A likely reason for this disinterest was the shift in attitude between the two major parties. Both parties had been steadily moving toward the central ground and away from the Socialist roots of Labour and the right wing ethos of the Conservatives for some time. When voters complained there was little to choose between them, they were right. Both choices seemed to offer pretty much the same set of values and it isn’t hard to understand why so many voters felt disengaged with the whole political process.

It was from this stagnant political arena that the UKIP party gained momentum. Capitalising on not being a centrist party UKIP put topics on the table that awakened the old schisms between the left and the right. Controversial subjects like leaving the EU and Immigration polarised public opinion and made politics interesting to the general public again. The upside of this was a more engaged electorate reflected in the GE 2015 turnout at 66.1% and even better public engagement at the EU referendum with 72.2% turnout.

The downside of the UKIP induced political shake up was that the topics they introduced encouraged not just debate but division. Whether Farage intended to motivate the far right minded among the British public to increased levels of xenophobia and racism is a matter for speculation. (Though in the opinion of Resistinghate.org anybody producing the Breaking Point poster could not have helped but know what reaction it would inspire). But motivate them he did. This created a polarity in the country at large which filtered its way into drawing rooms, pubs and work places.

For many of us the discussions with friends, family and colleagues were a real eye opener as to the true nature of the people we had been rubbing along with quite nicely for years. I think I lost thirty friends on Facebook the day after the EU referendum and I went on to cull a similar number for posting reactionary far right comments and racism in the days that followed. On a personal level I was horrified I had allowed people with these views to become close to me and I felt accountable for not doing more to realise that the polite veneer of some, believed to be friends, had masked the underlying values of hate to which myself and my group are so passionately opposed.

What I personally found very frustrating was how many opinions had been formed with little research or attempt at factual knowledge. In many cases I was as appalled at the lack of attempt to form an informed opinion as I was at some of the memes and opinions expressed. When I did challenge on what precisely my (now ex friends) were “taking their country back from” they didn’t know. Yet for the sake of friendship I was expected not to challenge their opinion on the basis they were entitled to it. This perception that ignorance is equal to informed opinion is a massive chip on the shoulder for the reactionary far right.

Something as trivial as a friend on Facebook is easy to remedy (click, click gone) but when close real life relations and friends stand by far right political views it can be a lot harder. I was asked by a member of our online community before Christmas if they should challenge their racist uncle who would inevitably want to discuss Brexit at the festive dinner table. To do so they said would ruin Christmas for the family. To not do so they would feel a hypocrite as it would mean they were happy to stand up for their views online but backed away from doing so in a face to face setting.

It is a hard question to answer. And perhaps back in the day I might have supported keeping the peace at the dinner table. When politics was about whether you voted Labour or Conservative then possibly it wasn’t worth risking a division in the family. But politics isn’t just about the party you support, politics is essentially a term for everything that goes on in our countries, our lives and our world. And what is going on in the world now, namely the post Brexit upsurge in hate and discrimination, is something I truly believe we do need to stand up to.

I am not necessarily advocating that we defend our political views at the expense of our relationships but what I am saying is that those humane values that sit behind those views are worth defending at any cost. If we do not have the courage to defy racist and xenophobic attitudes in those closest to us then how can we hope to have the strength to fight them in a wider audience?

It isn’t easy and I do understand that. I have lost several very close friends because we just could not find common ground in the post Brexit political climate. And I mourn that loss, I really do. But I value my integrity more than any friendship I have ever made. I need to be able to look in the mirror and see somebody looking back who is prepared to defend their principles first, last and always. Someone who will never be cowed into the silence that vindicates bigots and who can always be relied upon to be the voice that speaks up for the oppressed in this new and, sadly, hate filled political landscape.

I need to stand up for what I believe in and if you want the world to change for the better, so do you.

 

 

 

 

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
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Government Accountable To People

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Looks like the bleachers are full of…..one person it seems. Hmmmmmmmmm.

The inauguration was quite an eye opener. The only time I’d seen protests on around the same scale was when Bush Jr had his inauguration-

If one this is very clear, the US voting system needs to be addressed so that you don’t get a situation where millions of votes are essentially ignored which results in the loser (for want of a better word being elected.)

In the end, the election has been carried out, much like Brexit, the decision is made and the results published. What we HAVE to do now, whether it’s here in the U.K, in the USA or anywhere else, is to ensure that the government and elected individuals remain accountable to the people. That the government or elected officers do not take actions that are unconstitutional and that the population has the right to question, and expect answers from them

Halal Kitty is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate, and a regular contributor to the group’s activities on Facebook and Twitter.
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So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

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Guest article from an associate of Resisting Hate who wishes to remain anonymous.

Last year I was assaulted and heavily injured, my crime, wearing a Remain button and having a slight accent, luckily my dog who was roaming in the bushes heard me scream and saw the attacker off, which stopped him from doing more damage than “just” a fractured cheekbone and a few long lasting bruises from being kicked while being down.

My attacker was a sturdy white guy, dressed in jeans and a bomber jacket, heavily tattooed and he kept telling me that the EDL would take care of me, because apparently I’m a “benefit thieving foreign cunt”.

To bore you with some facts, I’ve never been on benefits, I’m an EU citizen who’s married to a British citizen, we own our own company and according to our accountant we are in the top 10% bracket, so yes, I do pay quite a bit of tax.

Another boring fact: I didn’t come here for the “better life” – my quality of life is considerably worse than it was before, I’m not trying to be rude but even after more than 10 years I do have trouble to adjust to the lack of things I took for granted in other EU countries. Timely medical appointments and treatment with an eye on prevention (not the fault of the NHS but due to the lack of funding), houses that are well insulated as standard (not only cheaper also environmentally viable) and have living space, quality public transportation for reasonable prices, a choice of healthy food that isn’t ridiculously expensive…

The reason I came here was my husband and the fact that for me there was no language barrier as there would have been for him, if he would have moved. Due to the nature of my business being international, it was easier for me to relocate so we bought a house together in the UK and from day one I paid tax here.

The first 9 years, it was mainly getting used to the time warp, I used to joke about that this is how my parents or grandparents possibly lived. Estate agents were shocked that I said I absolutely need a kitchen that can accommodate a dish washer, I was told to just do the washing up, I explained politely that we both regularly work 10 to 12 hour days, it is the 21st century and a dish washer is just a regular modern appliance I’m used to. I got some very strange looks. Next hurdle was a hallway, no, I don’t want the front door opening into my living room, several reasons, it’s a lack of privacy and cold in winter. Just to clarify, we weren’t looking in or around London, but in an affluent Northern area. We made clear that space is quite important, the UK concept of space is certainly different than the European one, here a full bedroom means the room is full if you put a bed in it…

I got used to a lot of things (even the weather) a banking system that’s archaic even the lack of customer service (!) I’m a social person and there isn’t a lot of culture available without massive travel. There are pubs but I’m not a big drinker and a bit of a health freak. Ordering a still water in your average UK pub will get you some strange looks, if you’re lucky you can order a tea or coffee. Quite different to the rest of the civilized world.

As an animal lover (we have several rescue cats and dogs) I got involved with local animal charities and then other charities, as I noticed the level of poverty in the UK was quite shocking and has become progressively worse due to massive cuts. I have moved around quite a bit in my life, not just countries but also continents, and always thought wherever I live I should contribute to the society, not just with tax but also with practical help.

You could say I was somewhat settled and had made the UK my home. Work regularly brings me to other European countries and the US, but this was “home”, then the talk about the referendum started and things changed dramatically.

As a responsible dog owner, I clean up after my dogs, if I see somebody’s dog fouling in a park or on the road and they don’t pick up, I politely offer them a “doggie bag”, pretending they must have forgotten them. In the past on occasion they might have told me to mind my own business, now I regularly get yelled at to “Fuck off back where I came from, this is England” – I guess I must look lost?

Not only did I get assaulted, I had people verbally abusing me, spitting in my face, telling me to “get out, we won”, my dogs were called foreign dogs (they’re all English rescues) and I should get “English dogs, this is England!”

On social media I was forced to drop my maiden name from all profiles due to serious abuse and threats (I’ll mention again, I was never on benefits or social housing), I had people tracking me down, posting my address with suggestions they would “visit” me, accusations that I must be a prostitute, a migrant maggot, a foreign slapper, even people telling me they’d like to punch me.

When I mentioned that I was assaulted (chillingly on the same day as Jo Cox was killed) I was told I wasn’t punched hard enough and why was I complaining as I was just “roughed up a bit, not even raped”. I was even accused of making the story up! (Yes, apparently the police and medical records too).

To sum things up, the UK doesn’t feel like my home anymore and hubby and I are looking to move somewhere where racism and xenophobia isn’t as rampant as it is in here. Naturally we’ll take our taxes with us.

To quote Douglas Adams: So long, and thanks for all the Fish.

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Janus

Claiming 2017 Back From The Haters

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There is little need to recap the chaos of 2016. Certainly to anyone with a social media presence or who reads the newspapers the horrors have been all too evident. From an increase in worldwide terrorism to the shock Brexit referendum through the rise in Nationalism, evidenced by support for hate groups like Britain First and National Action, and culminating in the election of a fascist to the American presidency – 2016 was not a good year for humanity.

The worry for many is that 2017 will bring more of the same. Trump takes up his seat in the White House in January, The Netherlands have a strong candidate for hate – Geert Wilders – in their March elections and the equally abhorrent Marine Le Pen, the fascist leader of Front National in France has promised a referendum on the French exit from the EU “Frexit” if she comes to power in April. Social media giant Twitter is still failing to tackle the massive wave of hatred posted on its platform, there are daily incidents of racist attacks on our streets and the Metropolitan police has advised that in the wake of the Berlin atrocity a UK terror attack is “highly likely.”

On the face of it things look pretty bleak but there is a big difference between Jan 2016 and Jan 2017. This time we are prepared. Last year caught most of us on the hop. I had the odd nagging worry that the Brexit vote might be closer than I would feel comfortable with but I never seriously entertained the idea that Britain would actually vote to leave the EU. As for Donald Trump becoming the President of the USA, that was so farfetched a year ago as to be laughable. We simply didn’t consider the possibility that people would listen to far right rhetoric and that was our mistake. We underestimated the need for change and the desperation of those who would turn to anyone, even far right haters if they promised that change. We overestimated the integrity of our media and unwittingly allowed fake and misleading news to be consumed by the people who would vote in the crucial 2016 elections. Perhaps we even overestimated some of the people themselves. We put the future of our countries in the hands of many whose only source of political knowledge came from the likes of the Sun newspaper and who in many cases were unwilling to put the work in to seek out a deeper understanding of the consequences a post Brexit pro Donald Trump world would bring.

We are perhaps now Coleridge’s sadder and wiser men. It has taken the events of 2016 to bring us to the point where we now acknowledge and understand the far right to be the dangerous adversary it is. We have learned our lesson in the hardest way possible but the hope is that we have learned it in time. A Facebook meme commented: “The Holocaust started with words not actions” and this is deeply relevant to where we find ourselves at the start of 2017. We know where the path to hate will take us. We know how easily it is for those well versed in the art of hate rhetoric to take power. We understand the danger of allowing silence to be mistaken for complicity in atrocity. Everything we ever learned from history has been played out right before our eyes on the stage of 2016.

The important thing now is what we do with this knowledge. Although there have been some last ditch attempts to stop Brexit going through and prevent Donald Trump from becoming President these are now looking very much to be fait accompli. One thing our far right haters have got right is that we will achieve nothing by crying over the legacy of 2016. We need to use what we have learned constructively to mitigate the damage limitation and stop it spreading.

Voters in the Netherlands, France and Germany will have a positive opportunity to fight back at the polls. But it isn’t enough just to vote. If you are a politically aware person with a good understanding of the carnage the likes of Le Pen will cause, educate others. Write posts about it and put them on social media for your friends to see. Discuss it at dinner parties. Talk about it with your work colleagues. Help others to see the parallels between the polls in your countries and the far right hate victories of 2016. If you are not politically aware and one of the “taking our country back” brigade be honest with yourself. Do you actually know enough to vote? If you don’t then get out there and take responsibility for looking at unbiased sources of information to bring you to an informed point of view before you step inside the polling booth.

For Britain and America the vote ship has already sailed. But those of us who support humane and liberal values are very far from being defeated. What we need to focus on now is putting good into the world. Build bridges between communities. We need to make minority groups feel they do belong in the countries they live in, despite what the hate press and divisive politicians say. This doesn’t have to be on a grand scale, even eye contact and a smile can help eradicate the invisible barriers that the far right hate has erected.

We need to stand up and oppose division and hate rhetoric. Report the hate you see on social media platforms, complain to the newspapers when you see inaccurate and divisive reporting. Write to your MP and sign petitions to make your voice for good clearly heard. Support groups like Hope not Hate who fight fascism and, if you can afford it, donate to charities who offer support to victims of hate crime.

Uphold the values you stand for in every aspect of your life. Challenge prejudice wherever you encounter it and be willing to explain why it is wrong and why it hurts people. Educate rather than intimidate people into an appreciation of why it is wrong to discriminate against individuals and communities.

Whatever you are willing and able to do to fight hate is of absolute critical importance in 2017. The far right are not going away, they are engaged in a battle to win the hearts and minds of the populace and we must not let this happen. We must not be the good men who saw the evil and did nothing, we must not be the people who turned their backs until it was too late and who had nobody to speak up for them when the hate finally turned their way.

We must not be our naïve selves of 2016 who believed hate would never take a foothold in our societies. It did and now we need to stop it.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
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Why We Could Never Have Voted Brexit

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It is rare to find our pro diversity group agreeing unanimously on anything. The strength of our group lies not in conforming our views to fit a party line but in respecting the different views and beliefs held by our members. This defines tolerance as opposed to conformity which pretty much encapsulates the ethos of what we are about.

However the one thing I think I can safely say that every single member of our group does agree on is the importance of staying in the EU. To my knowledge not one member of Resisting Hate voted Leave in the June referendum. And although there were many cogent political and economic arguments discussed in our chat rooms the overriding unanimous unease was that a Leave verdict in the referendum would lead to a great many social problems in the UK.

Although along with many other groups and individuals of an anti hate nature we had predicted that a vote based largely on misinformation concerning immigration would cause some tension in the country I do not think us, or anybody else was prepared for the backlash of hate and intolerance that resulted from the EU referendum. We certainly did not expect to see people stabbed for their racial background, women attacked for wearing Islamic dress, children bullied in the playground for the colour of their skin or people who have lived in Britain all their lives being told to “go back home”.

The big question is why these hate crimes spiked so dramatically after Brexit and whether Brexit caused this hate or acted as a catalyst for the underlying racial and religious tensions already present in the population.

In trying to tackle this question it is important to look at the demographic of the people who did vote Leave. Geographically most Leave voters were outside London, many in the North of England and many in areas of financial deprivation. There are frustrations in these northern communities and often a perception that London has no interest in the welfare of people beyond the capital and the more affluent Southern counties. The referendum took place after several years of Tory austerity which had led to high unemployment and minimal pay rises leaving many families struggling to make ends meet.

There was also a definite split between younger and older voters with the older favouring the Brexit and, broadly speaking, the younger opposing it. If we consider the fact that the base rate had been 0.5% for seven years prior to the referendum it is easy to understand why older voters, many of whom rely on interest from savings to boost their pension were feeling the pinch.

It was from this powder keg of economic discontent that the divisions in society began to fracture. Splitting from the EU was to become a symbol for what would happen to Britain itself as the country began to split into cultural segments.

Discontented with Britain in 2016 many Leave votes saw leaving the EU as the route back to the Britain of olden times. The cricket on the lawn, gin and lime at six, John Betjeman kind of Britain. A Britain that many of those swept along with nationalistic fervour believed had no place for those not born in the country. Voting to leave the EU consolidated a new identity for people who wanted to identify with these nationalistic values.

It was this upsurge in Nationalism, born from economic discontent and fuelled by a xenophobic right wing press (primarily the Mail and The Sun) that led to the disenchanted populace looking for ways to “Take our country back.” Although on the surface of it exiting the EU was about claiming Parliamentary sovereignty and establishing the British Parliament as the final arbitration in legal matters the views of the Leave voters ran deeper than that. Leaving the EU became the symbol of reclaiming their vision of a white Christian Britain. It was not a political break they sought but a cultural break, a reclaiming of what they perceived to be the values of “Great” Britain.

The trouble with this Nationalistic thinking is it hinges on the premise that a single culture is more beneficial to society than a diverse blend of religions, races and belief systems.  This thinking is not only naïve it is dangerous as the consequence of raising one culture above the others is that those who don’t make it into the elite group become the subject of prejudice, discrimination and, as we saw after the June referendum, violence.

Nationalism spectacularly fails to acknowledge that a productive and successful society springs from a culture of integration, not elitism. Pluralism is not a threat to British culture it is the essence of British culture itself. If as a country we can take pride in anything it is our melting pot of cultures, races and faiths and our ability to live in harmony together. We have built a country to be proud of on a backbone of multiculturalism.

Economically speaking I do think leaving the EU is a mistake. I believe it will lead to job losses, an increase in the cost of living and political uncertainty that will stretch way beyond the next General Election. But perhaps even more important than the financial consequences for the country is the consequence to Britain as a community and the loss of the values we are respected for throughout the world, namely our very British acceptance of others.

I said at the beginning no member of our anti hate group voted Leave and this is why. We represent the true patriots of this country, people who are committed to the real values of Great Britain. People who believe that every single person in our country, irrespective of faith, colour or race, has equal worth as an individual.

We like living in a diverse and integrated country and we intend to play our part in keeping it that way.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
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Leap In Hate Crime Post Brexit

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In order to understand and ultimately prevent the behaviours that cause divisions in our society it is sometimes necessary to look at how those behaviours evolved and why some people in our communities behave the way they do.

The trigger for the recent revival of racism, Islamophobia and prejudice in the UK was the Brexit referendum when the country voted to come out of the European Union. Over 17 million people voted to leave the EU, many of whom were happy to quote slogans about “Taking our country back,” and “Keeping Britain for the British.” The public face of the campaign on both the Leave and the Remain side was one of national identity, identifying as an independent country or as part of the wider European community. From the very beginning the referendum was associated with the concepts of unity and division, the concepts that would go on to cause conflicts not just between Britain and the EU but among the people of Britain themselves.

Having endured several years of Tory austerity, by the time of the June referendum individuals and communities were starting to feel the pinch of wages not keeping up with inflation and the significantly reduced spending on public utilities. This increase in poverty led to a resentment of other cultures and the view that “they” (immigrants, Muslims, the Polish, the Jews, black people etc.) were using resources that some native Brits felt should only be available to “British” people.  This economic downturn contributed to the frustrations of people in financial difficulty and fuelled a discontent which was to sow the seeds of disharmony between communities in the UK.

This fear was tapped into and utilised exceptionally well by UKIP with the blatant lie that the funds employed to stay in the EU would be diverted to the NHS. Post referendum we now know this to be a lie but it does serve to illustrate the concerns of the people at the time the referendum took place. A fundamental reason why so many people did vote leave was in the belief that it would lead to a boosted economy and a better standard of living for those in the UK.

UKIP also channelled the nationalistic fervour of some UK citizens. It is perhaps no surprise that nationalism tends to be more prevalent among working class, poorer, less educated people who made up a large proportion of the leave voters. For people out of work or in unfulfilling jobs nationalism can provide a sense of worth and identity. For people already starting to resent who they see as outsiders in their country nationalism can be a dangerous step toward far right fascism. This can clearly be seen with the rise of far right hate groups such as Britain First, the EDL and Pegida, all of whom have gained support over the past five years.

While Britain was struggling to make ends meet the media was also busy adding fuel to the rising flames of discontent in the country. The Daily Mail seemed unable to print a headline that didn’t feature the word “Muslims” and even the BBC were happy to give the impression that the terrorist supporter Anjem Choudhary was a spokesman for the Islamic faith. Social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook were slow to remove far right propaganda accounts which allowed hate to spread directly and unchecked into news feeds. The Murdoch empire not only refused to curtail bigotry but actually employed Katie Hopkins to spout it all over The Sun newspaper. Murdoch also backed Sun writer Kelvin Mackenzie for harassing a female Muslim journalist about her personal choice of clothing.

It was interesting to notice that many of the areas with a large Brexit vote were areas with very few ethnic minorities. The more diverse areas – London of course – but also some of the major Northern cities were much more open to the idea of staying in the EU. The rationalisation of bigotry toward perceived “foreigners” was also in a minority in these more diverse regions. This does suggest that a lot of bigoted hatred is fuelled by the uncertainty and fear of the unknown from those not living in multicultural areas. For the people who do mix in diverse communities there was much more of a willingness to integrate and less fear of different cultural influences.

In the months running up to the referendum there was a lot of publicity given to the growing concerns about the dilution of the British culture, in particular the Christian church and “traditional British values.” Speaking to some of the leave voters about the cultural rather than the political implications of the vote it struck me time and time again what a factor the fear of cultural dilution had played in the decision making of many. Unfortunately a lot of the examples given to support cultural dilution tend to once again be the fantasy of the media. The “Winterval” urban myth persists to this day to the extent where Theresa May had to announce in Parliament that she was still all in favour of Christmas. But these myths and rumours continue to permeate, encouraging the false belief that “immigrants” are coming not to coexist with British culture but to eradicate it.

The consequence of the climate created by a problematic economy, growing nationalism, a sensationalist media, a mistrust of other cultural communities and right wing political groups like UKIP taking full advantage of all of the above was to create the perfect conditions for a catalyst that would bring “socially acceptable” bigotry into the British public mainstream. The EU referendum acted as that trigger.  The vote to leave the EU gave the growing discontent a voice, translated fear and worry into hate and hate crime and legitimised prejudice and discrimination in a way we have not seen in the UK since the 1980s.

Brexit did not make people bigots it gave existing bigots in a challenging climate a license to behave in a bigoted way.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
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Britain Must Support Our Polish

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The attack on Polish gentleman Arkadiusz Jozwik by a gang of teenagers in Harlow last week shocked the town and sent tremors through the wider UK Polish community. Initially reported as a random attack the media quickly turned to speculation this was a hate crime, a deliberate act of racist violence and further evidence of the growing divisions between UK communities.

Alongside many other minority groups in the country, abuse and violence toward Polish people intensified after the Brexit referendum. The Guardian reported that anti Polish attacks have increased five fold since the referendum and the almost daily reports of incidents targeting Polish people back this statistic up. In Cambridgeshire only hours after the referendum result the Police were already investigating a spate of incidents involving signs saying “No more Polish vermin,” which had been plastered across the town.

The Polish ambassador Witold Sobkow called upon all Polish nationals to report incidents including threats and xenophobia to the Police and has spoken openly of the importance of not allowing this hatred to fester within our country. But it is important to question how the hate toward Polish people has ever managed to grow in the first place. When we consider the contribution the Poles made and continue to make to our country it seems barbaric that the British nationals should turn on those who have given them so much.

The positive history between Poland and Britain was cemented in World War Two with the Poles contributing the fourth largest number of troops to the Allied cause. 43% of all intelligence reports that reached Britain were from Polish secret services. Later in the Battle of Britain it was a Polish flying squadron that claimed more enemy lives than any other Allied troop and it was a Polish man (Josef Kosacki) who invented the mine detector which saved many lives during the war effort.

There are somewhere in the region of 850,000 Polish nationals in the UK today. As reported in the Financial Times these citizens, together with other immigrants from Eastern Europe, paid over twenty billion pounds more in taxes than they received back in any form of benefit in the period 2004 to 2011. The British Government’s own data supports this in a report published by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London which stated immigrants arriving in Britain post 1999 were 45% less likely to claim benefits than people born in Britain. The conclusion to be drawn is that Eastern European migrants including those from Poland are having a very positive effect on the British economy.
A lot of the hate rhetoric surrounding Polish immigrants has been the accusation they “Take British jobs.” Some interesting statistics were published on this by the Independent – In 2004 approximately quarter of a million Polish people entered the UK. Yet in that same year unemployment figures dropped and advertised jobs increased. This would suggest that Polish immigration had little to no negative impact on reducing jobs for British workers and that in fact their contribution to the economy overall meant more jobs were created to support British workers seeking employment.
Even Boris Johnson, leader of the Brexit campaign endorses the need to retain our Polish immigrants. On a recent visit to Warsaw he was reminded by the Polish foreign secretary of a phone call in which he stated “Whatever you do, don’t take them [Polish people] back, Britain needs them for its economy.”

Demonising our Poles as with demonising any minority group in Britain is not the answer to solving the problems of the emerging culture of discontent. As long as our media continues to print that the struggles with our economy are down to immigration we will continue to have a problem with racism. The only way to fight this is to do as I have done here and educate people about the true value of those who come to our country, support our economy, live in our communities and are willing to stand by our side at times of national peril.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
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