|Sign of the times / Dave Riggs|
It's up to all of us to make a more inclusive world
A week ago, there was a march for peace and tolerance in Brussels, organised by the leading religious and secular organisations got together to counter a growing atmosphere of division and mistrust in the city and more so throughout Europe.
From the Golden Dawn in Greece – who may benefit from a regime change Berlin seems determined to engineer, Pegida in Dresden staging their 30s revival marches to UKIP pledging to rip up equality legislation and mainstream parties pledging to banish the curse of the poor migrant, eradicating the curse of Islamic terrorism from our pure shores, the mood in Europe is ugly.
It’s better to be in a crowd of people from all faiths and none, getting along with each other, than in an angry mob, screaming for murder.
This view is more controversial than you may think.
The next day I attended a meeting which showed the value of peace and tolerance, by its absence. A ‘citizen group’ was complaining about violence from their nation’s opposition party. Certainly they have a dubious record and alliances that seem highly unwise, but I’ve never seen a situation where one side was entirely right and the other entirely wrong.
This was of no concern and amid disaster porn photos of burns victims, there was a propaganda video full of outrageous accusations and inflammatory statements, emotive music over dramatic edits of a burning vehicles.
The fact that children were seriously injured was presented as proof their entire argument was right, and their enemy was entirely wrong.
The hyperbole continued and the opposition leader was accused of personally ordering murders ‘in every corner of the country every day’ of being so evil that ISIS took inspiration from them and that they were trained agents of the Taliban, ISIS and the claims, never backed by anything that could pass as evidence, continued.
No solution was offered, no answer to the problem and no indication that the situation was more complex than we good, they bad.
I was permitted one of only two questions accepted by the speakers, a request for evidence that produced nothing. My follow-up would have been how the government felt having seen their nation portrayed in such a way how they could possibly attract any investment at all, for if they were right, only a lunatic would risk a cent there.
Outside the opposition had gathered, demanding democracy, justice and the release of some people, explanations of some they said had ‘disappeared’ and so on.
There is a problem with violence around the edge of a lot of politics in many places at the moment and I’m using one example – and there is no point naming them – to make a wider point.
When faced with a fire, many of us would have the instinct to look for a fire extinguisher or water or something. These guys thought pouring petrol was the best move.
There are so many inflammatory fires burning across Europe that it needs to be tackled, but how?
With peace and tolerance. By accepting things might be ever so slightly more complicated than the petty demagogues suggest, more nuanced than the ‘line to take.’
By realizing your opponent can also be a decent person, that disagreement is not the sign on inherent evil in another.
By listening and trying to understand rather than shout down.
Sadly, it seems that our political systems are just not set up for this. So, it’s up to us, the people.