Jun 2009

The water through which we swim

Over in the UK, the leader of the far-right BNP, Nick Griffin, was elected to the European parliament. As was another member of his party. On a very low turn-out, over 800,000 British people decided a bunch of thinly-disguised racist thugs were the best people to represent their views. That’s almost a million self-declared cretins.

See, I just have to go with the “easily manipulated idiot” explanation. The idea that so many people could rationally decide to vote for the BNP, in full knowledge of what they truly represent? It’s just too damn depressing. Mind you, we don’t live in a world where the depressing has an inverse relationship with the true.

We are none of us entirely free of prejudice. A wise man once said that “racism is the water through which we all swim”. But the idea is to swim against the current, folks, not get swept along with it. We challenge our racism whenever it appears in us. And we do so not because we’re being oppressed by political correctness, but because ultimately racism lessens us as individuals, it attacks the foundations of the society we live in and it’s no less than a direct assault upon the human soul.

Yeah, you heard me. For whatever the soul may be, whatever you believe it to be, it must surely include the imperative to rise above those blind prejudices that damage us. It is, if it is nothing else, that which inspires us to compassion and empathy. Much of what happens in politics and business… in modern life itself… is a direct assault upon the Sacred. But when people like Nick Griffin are carrying out the assault in such an overt and brazen manner, then we are obliged to challenge it.

The prejudice that lurks within our collective psyche can leak out in any one of us when tempers run high or emotions take control. And we must always be on our guard against that. But to deliberately and with premeditation walk into a polling booth and give voice to it? There’s something wrong there. Those 800,000 voters need to wake up.

This isn’t about the BNP. I still think this will do them damage in the long term as I question their competence and their ability to handle the inevitable internal rifts this will create. It’s about the people who voted for them. Let others try to coax them with promises and warm platitudes. I’m telling them to fricking sort themselves out. To wake up. We live in a profane world. And they are making it that much worse.

A couple of discussions sprang up on the U-Know! message board regarding Griffin’s election. One concerned the recent protest at his public press conference. For those unaware, Griffin was shouted down by a crowd who also threw eggs (personally I was dismayed. None of the eggs appeared to hit him).

I was a little surprised, however, to find this question being asked…

Other than “it’s fun”, which I won’t comment on, what do these people throwing eggs hope to achieve?

Sure, the question is coming from the message-board’s resident Tory, but it represents a theme that I’ve found emerging both in the mainstream media and on blogs. The protest was counter-productive, they say. Or it was hypocritical… restricting the free speech of fascists is surely the tactic of fascism, they say. Let him have his say and he’ll dig his own grave, they say.

They say a lot of things. But they are generally talking shit.

See first thing to point out is that this isn’t really a Free Speech (capital letters) issue. The “right to free speech” is about the freedom to express your views — yes, even reprehensible ones — without fear of prosecution. What it isn’t about, is guaranteeing anyone the right to be the loudest speaker in a given public place. The BNP have the right to stand for election. They have the right to distribute leaflets, publish a web site, hold meetings and so forth.

But when they start to spout their vile garbage in public, then others have the right to express their disgust. To heckle. To shout them down if they see fit. As for what this achieves…? It is a stark message to those 800,000 voters — and to anyone tempted by the rhetoric of fascism — that these views are contemptible. As are those who espouse them. It is a demonstration that those who would give voice to racism will be challenged. A reminder that the rest of us won’t allow this prejudice to gain ground.

Griffin should not be arrested for stating his views. But each time he does so in public, he should be challenged. And each public utterance of racism should be drowned out by a thousand voices in opposition.

Posted in: Opinion