'Don't mourn - organise!' says Hope not Hate's Nick Lowles
I switched off yesterday. I had had no sleep the night before and I was tired, but really I just couldn’t bear to watch or read about Trump’s victory in the United States.
I just shut it out of my mind, hoping it was just a bad nightmare from which I would wake. Sadly – and frighteningly – it is reality.
Today I have set off to work with a spring in my step, determined to do what I can to fight back.
We are living in deeply worrying times. Trump’s victory, following so soon after our own Brexit vote which unleashed a wave of racism and intolerance, is encouraging the far right to be bolder and more aggressive.
We are likely to see a further increase in racist violence and bullying as the haters feel more confident and legitimised.
We are also likely to see growing support for far-right parties across Europe and with forthcoming elections in Austria, France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands – to list just a few – we could also see far-right parties/politicians increase their representation and even enter government.
More worryingly, has been the adoption of far-right ideas into the political mainstream, so that even if the parties fail to win power their ideas will.
We can shut ourselves away and get depressed. We can huddle together in our little progressive circles and social media echo chambers and moan about why people can’t see the truth – or we can get organised and do something about it. And that is what I intend to do.
But the very fact that far-right ideas are appealing and gaining traction should make us rethink our own approach. The fact that they are winning and we are not should make us accept that we are doing something wrong. Our ideas and tactics are clearly not resonating.
We must reassess how we do politics. We need to figure out how we can have a modern economic system that doesn’t throw whole communities on the scrap heap.
But the Left also needs to rethink how it engages with white working class communities so as to express genuine empathy and understanding. We need to understand the need of communities to their tradition and culture, and not appear to be meddling outsiders sneering and insulting their way of life.
Opposition to immigration and multiculturalism might be the prism through which people are increasingly expressing their discontent, but accepting that should not get us to ignore genuine grievances and anxieties.
We cannot condemn everyone who raises concerns about immigration as a racist. Some clearly are, but others have genuine concerns.
Our Fear and Hope report shows that the numbers of people with strident anti-immigrant views are declining. Many more though have concerns about the pace of change and the pressures on public services and society’s infrastructure.
Whether we agree with these concerns or not, it is vital we don’t dismiss them without a second thought and write off these people as racists.
I – like most other people – celebrate Britain’s multicultural society. But let us not kid ourselves that everything is perfect, because it is clearly not.
Our cities might not have the planned segregation of the US and racism might not be as open and acceptable as in some European countries, but too many communities live parallel lives.
There is too little interaction, understanding and empathy between communities. Rather, there is suspicion, fear and distrust. And this is not just the fault of government, public policy or racists, but accepted and encouraged by communities themselves.
I say all this because if we are to really defeat the forces of hate we have to address real problems and concerns. We need to engage with people where they are and not where we would like them to be and we have to do more to bring people of different cultures and views together to discuss and resolve the difficult issues.
And yes, that means involving people who have sharply different views to our own and finding common ground where everyone has to give a bit.
Hope not Hate will start this process by calling a weekend of action on 3 and 4 December. We will go into communities across the UK to begin a process of engagement. And we will keep going back into these communities, building links and establish trust.
Over time we will seek to address local issues and bring divided communities together. It might not provide the instant self-gratification of going on a demo or or denouncing the right on our social media echo chambers but it is far more important work.
In fact, it is the only work that is going to make any real difference in the long run.
We face a really difficult and painful few years but if we get organised, develop better policies and engage people in a more mature and non-lecturing way then we ensure that hope wins out over hate.
If we fail to do this then we have only ourselves to blame.
The far right are on the ascendency but they do not own the future.
Nick Lowles is chief executive of Hope not Hate. He Tweets @lowles_nick
Leave a Reply