Well the last fictional character interview I did was really fun to write… I actually want to do more. MORE! Let’s do a whole load of them… The Coffee House Interviews! I’ll do them for as long as they’re fun to write and I have characters to interview. So let’s continue with my current biggest hitter and twin brother of previous interviewee Marco.
I’ve been saying for a long time that Western society is due a major shift of some kind. Until now I didn’t know what form that shift would take but in the last few months I think that I have seen its beginnings. It’s being signified by the likes of the rise of the so called ‘alt-right,’ the ascension of Cirque du Trump and a surge in what is being labelled in some circles as ‘populism.’ As much as the likes of Trump and his die hard supporters, as much as all the right-wing trolls would have us believe we are facing the death of ‘the liberal elite,’ or what everybody else might refer to as the death of progressive thinking, I don’t think we are. What is happening right now is only a precursor, the start of a societal shift and when that does come it will be their end. It will be the end of their way of thinking, the end of misogyny and racism and discrimination and the start of a new dawn for humanitarian thinking, the dawn of a new enlightenment. What we are seeing is the death rattle of something that should have died a long time ago, one final scream before it goes hurtling into the void, forever.
I’ll admit that things look bleak right now. Trump is the most powerful man in the world. Read that sentence again… TRUMP! Incidents of hate crime are up… Everywhere. The trolls think they’re in the ascendency, claiming that the rest of us should shut up because ‘we’ve lost.’ France looks to be in the same situation the US was a few months ago- A fascist (in the form of Marine Le Pen) is sailing perilously close to the presidency. It’s the same in other European countries. Britain, meanwhile, is circling the drain thanks to an inconclusive referendum where (and this irritates me) a lot of people either DIDN’T FUCKING VOTE or didn’t think the issues through carefully enough (in most cases, not at all) or were outright racists in the first place. The government didn’t have a plan in place for the possibility that this would happen… And now the PM is head appeaser to the wig-wearing cock-womble in chief. It looks like all the misogynists, racists and fascists can now do whatever they like. It looks like the human race has been beaten.
But look at the reaction to all that has been happening. Look at how people have stood up to be counted, look at how they have stared the aggressors in the face and refused to be silent. We’ve all seen something of it on the news, I’m sure- The women’s march, protests against the Muslim ban, the ‘rogue’ twitter accounts from U.S government agencies, Wikipedia banning the Daily Mail, the petition against a Trump state visit. There has been the celebrity reaction- Meryl’s speech, Ewan McGreggor and J.K Rowling’s ‘battles’ with Piers Morgan, to name but a few. There have been the memes, today’s equivalent of the political cartoons of old. One of the things that most sticks in my mind is something that happened on a New York Subway train. Some arsehole(s) had covered every advert and window and whatnot in swastikas and anti-semitic graffiti. Somebody on the train, full of people, saw this and, said ‘You know what’ll get rid of that? Hand sanitizer!’ Then everybody got up, searched in their bags and they all scrubbed that train clean. THAT, boys and girls, is humanity at its very best. People have shown they’re not going to roll over and die. They’re not going to let the bad guys win.
There is nothing wrong with differing views and opinions, nothing wrong at all, but when you use your views to continually trample on others, to make their lives an utter misery, to make yourself appear superior, when your beliefs stop people from living safe and good lives, when they lead to the subjugation of others, THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE! You can be conservative. You can be liberal. You can be socialist if you want. But don’t you dare ever, ever, EVER use your beliefs to put yourself ahead of other people. You are NOT better than they are. Fascists do exactly this, they think themselves better than everyone and they use their opinions to put themselves over others. This is what we are seeing across the Western world, certain people, many of them with fascistic beliefs, putting themselves over others, acting superior. People are fighting to stop them, not for themselves, but for everyone, so that anyone, anywhere has the chance of a good, safe life away from misogyny or racism or hatred, away from being treated like shit.
Respect for other people should be the keystone of society. I mean respect in all senses. Women and men deserve the same rights and the same respect. The same for people of different races, religions and cultures and sexualities. But when you are systematically abusive, when you would put yourself and your own on a pedestal, above all others, at their expense, you lose the right to that respect. It isn’t a matter of liberalism or socialism to grant someone the freedom of religion or sexuality or to choose the direction of their life, or to allow them a good education. It’s a matter of humanity. They shouldn’t even have to be granted. They should be given at birth.
The racists, the misogynists, the homophobes… Those that people all over the world are now standing up to and protesting and fighting… They know that their position is tenuous. They know their time has come and they’re trying to prevent the inevitable. So long as people continue to stand up to them and KEEP standing up to them then they are fighting a losing battle. They are being pushed further and further towards the void, where they belong. It may take a long time to utterly defeat them but it will happen one day. One day all human beings will be judged not by what category they fall into but how they act, how they behave towards others. It won’t matter if you’re man or woman or black or white or Asian or happen to be in the mood for a dude, what will matter is what you do with your life and how well you do it.
This darkness we see sweeping across the western world, it may be tempting to see it in the same light as what happened in the twenties in the thirties but let us not forget that was a different time. They did not yet know of the real horrors such beliefs were capable of. Now we know of the horrors and we all know about the last time something like this happened. Now we have the internet, a connected world where even the smallest person can be heard if they shout loud enough. The same tools which they are using to put themselves above the rest of us can be used against them, and are being used against them. In the past people fought and died to protect the world from these people, people have devoted their entire lives to ensure that everybody could have the same treatment, regardless of who they were. To give up the fight now, to let them win, would be to throw away all that they did. We must go on.
Look how far we had come before all this shit flared up… Uninterrupted we could have had an enlightened, peace loving, respectful society within twenty five years, sooner if we had really pushed. Now things are different and we may get that even sooner, as soon as this nightmare ends perhaps. People have shown, more than at any time before, that they are prepared to stand up for basic human liberties, for decency, for freedom of expression and choice. They’ve shown that they are ready for equality, for basic rights for all. When they write our volume of the history books they will say that this was when the new enlightenment began, when fundamental and inalienable rights for all people, regardless of who they were, were cemented, when the ways of the racist and the misogynist were finally cast out after years of hard fight.
In reality we have yet to beat them… But we will. The way the Cirque du Trump is going I can’t see it being too long before something snaps. He’ll be impeached for one thing or another, eventually. I can’t see his head appeaser lasting until 2020 either, not the way she’s handling things right now. As for the French elections, let us hope that things turn out alright. Let us hope the French choose sense.
We will win. We will beat them. It may take a bit of time but we’ll do it. They won’t be coming back either… Because we’ll remember this stuff and we’ll all make sure that their sort can’t come back. This could well turn out to be the defining event of our lifetimes and when we come out of the other side of this, whenever it happens, society will be different. It will have changed in a major way, and hopefully for the better.
NOTE: This piece is also available (along with loads of other pieces) in A Journal of Nearby Places – Available from Amazon
There’s only one way to get to the Wirral. In this case it isn’t a cliché as there is only one way for me to get there. The trains aren’t running due to maintenance work, I don’t drive and walking is definitely out of the question. You can also put swimming right out of your mind. That leaves only one option, the ferry across the Mersey- That which was immortalised in song by Gerry and the Pacemakers, the best way to fully appreciate the UNESCO world heritage site of the Liverpool waterfront and a boat so famous that a trip on it must be taken at least once in a lifetime. Even if all the above weren’t in play, the ferry might be better anyway. If I am to venture into that strange land across the Mersey I can think of no more elegant or interesting way to get there than this… If that sounds pretentious then it probably is.