I was listening to an interview with a recovering White Supremacist and he was asked what made him change. He explained that it was the weapon of kindness by the very people who he thought he hated. His manager at work was a lesbian and she treated him fairly, giving him opportunities to develop as her staff member. He had an African American neighbour who was always cheerful and helpful, and then there was the Muslim petrol attendant who always had a joke to share. The hate he felt became impossible because of the remarkable kindness of others, even when confronted by a 6 foot 2 skinhead.
In America we have seen the election of Trump and in the UK we have Brexit, which pollsters ascribe to the anger people feel. Instead of seeing debate where people respect each other we see anger and the developing trend of Twitter trolls. We have seen the murder of an MP and we have seen a huge increase of hate crime.
In Society we talk about the economy and GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as if this shows if we live in a good country or not. Of course we want to live in a prosperous society but actually if in reality the wealth of a country is held by a few, at the cost of the many, how is that helpful? I can be very poor in this country even if our economy is booming. In reality, what we need to focus on is a sound economy which works for all. This for me is a good Health Service, support services for the most vulnerable, education services that give every child a fair opportunity and a workforce that has a good work life balance. What I want to see is a society where people are kind with each other and celebrate each others success, but also feel the pain of others when things are not so good.
We live in never ending austerity, where cuts to services supporting the most vulnerable will continue at pace. In the field of substance use in England there are massive cuts, and in Wales we must fear for the worst in the next few years. I feel that taking from the most needy is not a great plan and I think if we want a change we need to increase Income Tax, which is the fairest tax.
I fear that in the current situation public services will reduce and in order to get good services people will need to pay for them. My father was recently very ill and the NHS could not make a diagnosis. In desperation we turned to a Private Consultant who diagnosed him within an hour, and now he is being treated back in the NHS. How can that be acceptable? In education we are seeing serious cuts in real terms because of the increase in children of school age. The state system is at breaking point and the beneficiary will be Private or Grammar Schools at the cost of other schools, in order to keep the upper middle class happy in England. For me, Private Education should be abolished if we believe in enabling every child the same opportunities. Private Schools keep the wealthy away from the average child and perpetuates the old school tie advantages. If we want a meritocracy we need a more even playing field, but instead we create a mountain for many children who increasingly find themselves in poverty, which blights their future hope.
The politics of failure is burning like wild fire. We need change but maybe this is not by rage, but learning through kindness. The latest album by Hurray for the Riff Raff called the Navigator is about pride. This is a band led by a Puerto Rican singer dealing with the Post Trump election, and she comes out with an Album that celebrates her cultural history against the prevailing winds of assimilation. She gains strength from her community roots to sing of hope. Pa’lante is the central song of the album which means “Onwards, Forward” for her community and those who identify with hard times.
To me we need not to lose faith in everday people, the Riff Raff, we must remind them of their ancestors hope of faith. Be that during the time of the Chartist, the Quakers, the suffragettes or the anti apartheid campaigners. We, the people, must not lose our identity and we must not lose our kindness to each other.
When in Bradford recently seeing some of the excellent work of our team I was struck by an initiative the admin team had called Thoughtful Thursdays. A simple action was to show some kindness to your colleagues in the day. Such a day may not change the world, but in a Country where hate crimes are on the rise the best way I can see to make real change is to show our humanity and our love, creating community and happiness in our world.