Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Politics of hope not hatred

Curious. I got into a bit of a storm with UKIP supporters on Twitter today. 

I’d suggested that part of the appeal of the party is that it provided people who have been treated as worthless by society with a way of feeling superior to somebody else. In UKIP’s case, that would mostly be immigrants (Nigel Farage, the party leader, has said how unpleasant it would be to live next door to Romanians; I can assure him, from bitter experience, that there are Brits I’d swap for some decent Romanians as neighbours any day of the week). 

Interestingly, the people who replied seemed so upset that I can’t help feeling they saw some truth in what I’d said.

Having people to look down is important. You may remember Arlo Guthrie talking about how good it is, when we’re having things bad, to have a friend point out to us, “hey, look at that guy, he’s got it worse than you.”

Well, this is the same kind of thing. Read Gone with the Wind. The contempt with which it talks about “white trash” is fascinating to behold. But such “white trash” could still look down on somebody: the black slaves who had it worse than them.

The same was true of apartheid South Africa, where poor whites were at least better off than any black. Or Nazi Germany where any struggling German could at least congratulate himself on not being Jewish. So today it’s true in Britain or the US, among others, of immigrants, particularly the illegal ones: we may be having a bad time, but hey, we’re better than that lot.

At least whites despised by other whites
had someone else to push around
And a lot of people are having a bad time right now. We heard today that unemployed people in Britain risk having their benefit stopped if they don’t take zero-hour contracts. Zero-hour contracts offer no fixed hours and therefore no fixed pay. They treat human beings as having no employment rights at all. But we want to deny benefits to people who won’t accept that further humiliation.

It’s pretty obvious that people in that position, or the many other positions of extreme precariousness and vulnerability society has generated across the wealthy nations, feel full of gloom, pessimism and hatred for what is being done to them. So an organisation like UKIP which provides a way of directing their feelings against a group it can blame for its troubles, and which can’t hit back, offers them the dream of a lifeline.

Unfortunately, it is only a dream. An illusion. Hating Romanians isn’t going to fix the health service, improve education or get more people into proper jobs. It’s just going to increase hatred.

What we need in society right now isn’t more hatred, it’s more hope. And more people to work together to give us back governments that will help realise that hope. Which would give worth back to the very people who have been treated as worthless – and who have real worth and only need to be allowed to fulfil it.

Rather boringly, that means backing a party that actually has policies to do that.

UKIP has no such policies. In fact, from reading its manifesto it doesn’t seem to have any policies at all, unless you count wanting to cut taxes while simultaneously improving services as a policy, rather than wishful thinking if not, quite simply, a pipe dream.

On the other hand, UKIP does offer some good targets to fulminate against. The European Union, above all. And, of course, immigrants. 

Great if you think what we really need in politics is scapegoats.


Faith A. Colburn said...

I can't imagine how miserable a person who chooses hate has to be. Their mean-spiritedness makes it hard to pity them, but maybe they deserve more pity than the people they hate.

robin macfarlane said...

British Senior citizens Alliance has just the policies. We agree with Ukip on Cutting taxes, don't know why you can't see that "AUSTERITY" is the wrong way. It is duty of Gov't to use the peoples "CREATED MONEY" to provide Jobs by building assets. Gov't always has things wrong way round B'cos they don't understand Macroeconomics