We need to talk about Donald. And Nigel. And Matteo. And Marine.

Politics has become a dirty word.

But then it seems to me that for most of my adult life it has been. One shouldn’t discuss politics or religion. Not in polite society. It’s seen as not quite nice, not the done thing.

But I am afraid that with the election of Donald Trump, with Brexit, with the rise of the far-right, with anti-immigrant sentiment spreading across Europe that sort of squeamishness will have to be overcome. The time for complacency is over.

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Women’s March Rome, Pantheon

It is about the politics. Yes, we will have to start being nicer and kinder to each other, but we are going to have to make a much more forceful political case for a better world. If we don’t start discussing the issues, if we don’t start making our voices heard, then into that vacuum come the Donalds, the Nigels, the Matteos, the Marines. These angry prophets who provide a barage of misinformation, apportion false blame and promise to restore national pride of a fictitious past.

fascism

We have to acknowledge that racism and fascism rear their ugly heads, fester and thrive in times of economic crisis. If we don’t start to provide alternatives to a system that for decades has left many people worse off, more insecure, desperate; if we continue to give people the idea that we cannot do anything to improve their condition, if we can only managerially tinker with the edges of the all important markets, then there will be people who turn to those who give the easy answers, who will offer solutions (however fraudulent they may be).

This does not mean that you do not challenge the bigotry, the racism, the sexism. But to divide and conquer is the oldest trick in the book. Black lives matter does not mean ‘matter more than yours’, equal rights does not mean that people will have more rights than you. Immigrants in the UK did not steal our coal, steel and ship building jobs, they did not sell off all our council homes, they did not sell all of our public utilities to foreign companies and investors. You can talk all you like about sovereignty, patriotism and taking back control, but who owns our water? We need to stress that immigration brings many benefits, much needed skills, workers, tax-payers. That British people often emigrate and this is seen as a positive. We stress that whilst we’re busy blaming Europe, the Eastern Europeans, the Mexicans for our declining industries and struggling public services we’re allowing the real villains to continue to tell us that we can’t afford our hard-fought for welfare state, to continue to cut services, giving tax cuts to the richest and protecting their own interests.

We’ve allowed ourselves to be divided. Everyone wants a home, a decent secure job, to live in peace, to have a sense of community. We should be talking about how we can invest in homes, infrastructure, jobs and training, the green economy and technology. We can and must stress the common ground. The film Pride should be watched by anyone who thinks that politics can’t achieve anything, that solidarity isn’t important, that things can’t change, that people don’t have the power to make a difference or an impact. It’s an antidote to cynicism and superficial politics. It’s about reaching out, defending others and making connections in all the right ways. This is a documentary clip from the real people who inspired the film.

The women’s marches across the world today were important to reiterate that these are not normal times that we must defend our communities.

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It is time to stand up and be counted. I’m very much a fight them on the beaches type. I am not prepared to wait and see what happens. What will you wait for? What will you wait to see before you act? Be vigilant. Be brave. Be outraged. Remember what is normal. Read this excellent article with 6 rules on how to survive:

 Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture.

Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous quote written after his experiences of the rise of fascism in Germany in the 1930s is worth reiterating now.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We have no excuse not to speak out. In 2017 this is the message that we need:

 

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