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The Rise of Intolerant Isolationism

by Beth Divine 14 Aug 2018

In the 90s and 00s it seemed that we were heading, globally, to genuine unification all around. The Berlin Wall fell, symbolically setting us up to be welcoming and inclusive. Mobile phones, the internet and digital cameras meant that everyone could be connected with  - and feel intimate with – people on the other side of the world, without leaving the safety of their own homes. We became friendlier, looking for and finding similarities with strangers, and travel boomed.

Then came the rise of terror (inspired, perhaps, by the IRA’s less than savoury actions) with bombings, threats and beheadings striking horror into television audiences all over the world. The more fearful in society retreated into insularity, refusing to travel to certain destinations, subscribing to fear-mongering news outlets and taking refuge with like-minded souls. An array of severe terrorist actions: 911, the 7/7 bombings, and a series of kidnaps and beheadings shook the normally complacent Western world. Leaks about the appalling treatment meted out by the supposed ‘good guys’ to ‘enemies’ who sometimes turned out to be innocents written off as collateral damage, saw faith in governments and the military somewhat shaken.

More recently, the election of Donald Trump, an undiplomatic wide boy with a penchant for bankruptcy and the big screen, and Brexit have heralded the rise of a new threat: that of the unrepentant and hate-filled right-wing.

These actions have sharply divided society – instead of the softer times of the 90s, when a person could truthfully claim to be apolitical, everyone now must, necessarily, pick a side. But at the same time, we still have hangovers from a kinder time, when we were told to look for the similarities and that ‘hate goes both ways’ that has left us feeling guilty for our fears, and uncertain of how to react in the face of blind, wilful anti-ism. No matter who is hating who, it is very hard to say ‘I do not agree’ – but it is becoming vital that people do.

‘I hate immigrants, they are x, y, z.’ ‘I disagree, I know several immigrants and they are lovely people.’ The words are simple, but they are hard as uttering them can forever change a relationship or family connection. It is essential that they are said though, as not saying is implicit of acceptance and agreement: if you do not wish to be thought a bigot or racist, learn to speak up…

The alternative – one that is already seeming quite likely – is that everyone will end up locked into their own houses, scared to leave and not needing to. This will be because work will be sourced online, to be completed from home via the cloud; shopping will arrive at our doorway, delivered by drone as the term ‘manpower’ becomes a misnomer. Nights out might take place using virtual or augmented reality, while we sit cocooned in our houses…

If this awful reality does come to pass, we will only have ourselves to blame. So act now and refuse to let terror and hate win – step outside your door and reach out a friendly hand. If not you, then who?