I would like to report a disturbing trend among some of the British people I know – including some friends and family. Despite being in the information and travel age, people appear to be buying into prejudice and intolerance on a grand scale. Having access to more knowledge about others, doesn’t mean we are using it. On the contrary, we are overloaded with information and appear to reach for dumbed-down caricatures of “other cultures” and the easiest sound bites we can swallow to help us make sense of the world and ourselves. And the ISIS and Ebola newsfeeds have provided a rich stream. To give you an example, a teenager recently said to me, “I’m pretty scared about Ebola. Bloody Africans not washing their hands and eating bats. Dirty bastards, I wish they hadn’t started all this.” And on ISIS, someone suggested that Britain should bomb whole civilian areas in Iraq, because “they will probably become ISIS or killed by ISIS, so we might as well be rid of them.” Another actually suggested that Ebola be shipped to the Middle East to “finish them all off”. The frightening thing is that many of the comments (and there have been many more besides these) have been made by middle class so-called liberal thinkers. The word “they” is prevalent.
Cameron’s fantastic stage management of the Europe bill in a transparent bid to draw back UKIP supporters has lead to a well-educated friend saying, “We just aren’t European. We are different from them”. This is probably a very tame version of what many out and out racists are saying, but I am nervous about xenophobia seeping into mainstream Britain from the radicalised edges. Are we that fragile in our own identity that we need to constantly assert it by finding failings in “others”?
Although I usually write more about the positive things in society, I’m blowing the whistle on the middle-class racists, for I fear them most. At the moment I am staying by their sides and attempting to offer calm and rational insight, but if you have any advice about how I can handle this without shouting please let me know.