Out of the Wreckage

I’d like to begin by wishing everyone a happy new year! I hope you all managed to have a lovely holiday period despite the impacts 2020 has had on all of us.

I’ve definitely had a dry patch with ideas for posts. I kept coming up with ideas that felt easy or boring and I realised that I didn’t start this website to aimlessly post without any real intention. It was to allow me to learn and to share what I’d learnt with all of you. I love to read, learn new things, and to write, that’s why I made this blog. Getting back to that root motivation has been important to me. I would rather post quality over quantity and share something truly interesting and beneficial with you all. Something I’ve put real work into learning about and producing. That is what brings on today’s post and future posts to come.

Reading is a huge factor to inspiring me and allowing me to learn new things, it triggers thoughts and usually is what motivates me to learn more. I got a lot of books for Christmas so I’m excited to learn from them and share what I learn with all of you. That being said, let’s get into today’s post.

Neoliberalism

I recently finished the book ‘Out of the Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis’ by George Monbiot. Within the book he discusses ways to improve governance in order to lead us to a better future. The book is politically and economically focused, introducing effective solutions to the key issues we face in society. Monbiot highlights issues and areas of corruption and how they are causing a strain on democracy and society. He begins the book by talking about how neoliberalism has essentially doomed us from the outset.

Neoliberalism is characterized by free market trade, deregulation of financial markets, and the shift away from state welfare provision. Simply, neoliberalism favours the market and aims for a restriction in the welfare of the people. It desires less government spending. Neoliberalism has warped itself into our political and economic systems, even our daily lives. Monbiot explains that we are so used to it’s presence it’s hard to even step back far enough to see it.

We are all cogs in a machine going around scrambling individually to get to the top, a point that an overwhelming majority won’t reach. We need community, we need empathy. These two factors are key in Monbiot’s rethinking of politics. It is sad to say that without these factors society will continue on it’s path of self-destruction. The rich only get richer and the poor sink even further, struggling to survive and unsupported by their government. A neoliberalist world would view the rich of society wealthy because of their own merit, ignoring any aspects of society that gave them a foot in the door such as education, inheritance, and class. These unequal boosters would be classed as the natural order of society.

Neoliberalism’s definitions have evolved over time but it is essentially solidified in competition. We are all trying to get ahead of eachother, and that is part of the problem. Humans are essentially capital. Society rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. Neoliberalism views effort to create an equal society as morally corrosive. Limiting competition and enforcements of tax to support a welfare state are viewed as inadequate and hostile. Neoliberalism believes in the full privatisation of services, everything is a transaction. Ideals of welfare prevent the natural winners and losers of society from being discovered. Neoliberalism is cold and unkind to anyone who slips below the line, but sadly in a neoliberal society, most of us would be classed as below the line already.

We certainly have not gone to the far extremes of neoliberalism yet, but world leaders have tried, such as Margert Thatcher in 1979. Huge tax cuts for the wealthy, abolishing trade unions, privatisation, and even attempting to remove universal healthcare. Thatcher was stopped of course as we know but, these cold methods of neoliberalism live under the fabric of society and affect so much more than we realise.

Biased Perceptions of the Poor

Have you ever wondered why there is such an increase in mental health issues, self-harm, eating disorders, and depression in our generation? It’s because of comparison and competition. In a world where we are constantly told to do more, be more, and get ahead, even when our own circumstances restrict that from happening, psychiatric impact is bound to weave it’s way into our lives.

In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind come to be defined and self-defined as losers. The rich are the new righteous, while the poor are the new deviants, who have failed both economically and morally, and are now classed as social parasites.

George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage

Our society tells the poor that they are a loser and it is purely all their fault, not the system, and that lack of empathy needs to change, in a neoliberal society, it won’t. Deprivation happens because of soaring housing prices and unstructured employment systems, not because someone mindlessly threw it away like a disposable income. People are struggling to make ends meet, unemployment is rising. Perceiving the poor as losers or the failing flock of society is unfair. People need help and in a society woven with neoliberal ideology, help won’t always be there.

In the last five years the need for food banks has increased by 74% in the UK according to the Trussell Trust. The total number of people using a food bank this year was 1,900,122. The Trussell Trust put out a statement to say that food banks were already experiencing record levels of need before the pandemic and this need has only risen since the impact of the pandemic planted it’s roots. The Trussell Trust and it’s partners are urging governments to use their power more to ensure everyone has the essentials they need in this financial crisis.

There is an estimated 14.4 million people in the UK living in poverty, 23% of the population. 4.5 million of those people are children. These figures were recorded before the impact of the pandemic, which means people’s lives will only get more deprived. In a neoliberal society, those people don’t matter, they simply failed at the game of life. They were not born a natural winner. This kind of ideology is wrong and leads to staggering levels of inequality and social deprivation.

Neoliberalism is already here

In the UK, we don’t live in a fully neoliberal world of course, privatisation does not fully exist, if it did it would be detrimental to the welfare of society. The rich would become so overwhelming rich that society would simply fall to pieces. When privatisation is at it’s peak it would mean we would have to pay for services. When people can’t afford services, they don’t get them, that’s it. Whilst this is happening the rich are investing into these privatised services, earning from the essential needs of the people. These elements of neoliberalism linger in the fabric of our society today.

Investment in essential service

If we go over to the US and look at Kelly Loeffler and other US senators, we see a similar issue taking place right now that really shows the impact neoliberalism has on society. In January, Loeffler invested millions into PPE stock whilst simultaneously stating that the hysteria building around coronavirus was just democratic nonsense that was misleading the American people. She knew, like many other senators, what was coming, so she benefited from it whilst still downplaying the impact coronavirus would really have on the US. She would earn money, whilst people died from the pandemic. To phrase this another way, whilst 350,000 people died from coronavirus in the US, whilst people lost their jobs, families and businesses, Loeffler was earning money off of their pain. If this doesn’t horrify you then I’m not sure what else to say. In a neoliberal society, Loeffler is simply a winner because she manipulated the market to earn money. The people struggling are the losers, and that is a cruel way to live.

This is what happens when services become privatised, the rich gain even more money from essential services we all require. Neoliberalism benefits the rich of society, after all, neoliberalism years ago was endorsed by millionaires which started it’s long political narrative and history.

Political influence from the rich

The rich already have an overwhelming influence on politics, particularly in the US. It’s well known that the large corporations and business heads give money to the parties that offer the polices they want. “Corporations and the very rich spend their money almost exclusively on politics that favours their interests; less taxation of the rich, less redistribution, less protection for people and the planet.” Monbiot refers to this as the pollution paradox. Large companies need to pay their way into politics and they do this by paying for grassroot and thinktank organisations to speak on their behalf. They buy up political space and capture the system.

In other words, this is not democracy, but plutocracy.

George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage

Don’t be fooled though, in the UK donations to parties still takes place here. While there are limits on campaign spending, there are no limits on how much a donor can make. This means the rich can buy their way into parliament to speak. British MP’s will deny this but an Oxford University research study showed that the probability of this denial being true is ‘approximately equivalent to entering the National Lottery and winning the jackpot five times in a row’. Do what you will with that information.

Concluding thoughts

Neoliberal ideology overtime leads to the disempowerment of democracy. Neoliberalism is essentially a market world, without money, you can’t speak, you can’t make change. Voting without money would essentially mean nothing. We can’t continue on a path that puts all the power in the elite’s hands, it is purely unequal. George Monbiot’s book explains how we can change this path and steer towards a politics that navigates us out of the wreckage. We as humans have the capacity of altruism but neoliberalism supresses this, instead pushing for alienation, competition, and individualism, strongly turning away from community. Monbiot states that, “by confronting the politics of alienation with a politics of belonging, we rekindle our imagination and discover our power to act.” The reason neoliberalism has such a strong hold is because we haven’t reimagined a way out of it, created a new direction for society. Once we do this a new politics can grow at the heart of community.

Protect your mental health this Christmas

Christmas can be a difficult time of year for a lot of people. In a season where everyone seems to be feeling merry and bright, you can feel even more alone and unusual for not feeling so jolly. After the recent UK announcements and restrictions, Christmas will feel a lot more gloomy for many. The stress of the holiday period to please people and sometimes added feelings of loneliness can trigger depression and anxiety. The pandemic has really only amplified these feelings. Christmas looks very different this year, for some it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. I felt it was important to share some reminders for this Christmas period.

Christmas creates a lot of build up and expectation. December is dedicated to preparing for just one day. Spending a whole month working to make sure everything goes perfectly sets a huge expectation that can end up leading to disappointment. Don’t expect your Christmas to be smooth sailing, you can’t please everyone and be everywhere, doing everything. Being with the people you love, even if that’s over Zoom, is what’s important.

Don’t compare your Christmas to everyone else’s online. Social media is a highlight reel, especially at Christmas. Don’t feel guilty if you see people sharing their overpriced gifts online, thinking to yourself the gifts you bought for your loved ones weren’t as good. That is never the case and Christmas should not be so commercial. After a financially stressful year for many, presents shouldn’t be anyone’s number one priority this year.

This Christmas, after such a gruelling year, try to look for the small things to be grateful for. Don’t focus on the material or commercial side of Christmas. Focus on your loved ones and how lucky you are to still have them around. Be grateful you have someone worth missing under these new Christmas restrictions.

Set boundaries with your loved ones. If you are in a part of the country or world where you are able to visit a loved one, don’t feel pressured to if you feel it is not safe or if you feel your mental health would suffer. It is okay to protect your own needs, even at Christmas. Adding to that, do not feel pressured to break tier 4 rules if your family or friends are trying to persuade you too. Set your own personal boundaries in order to protect your mental health and to stay safe in the pandemic.

It is okay to feel low this time of year, not everyone is merry and jolly all the time, even at Christmas, it is normal. It is okay to feel fed up after being restricted from seeing loved ones for almost a whole year. It is okay to not be okay, you don’t have to force a smile just because it’s Christmas. Your feelings are valid. After such an emotionally draining year, you are not alone. If you do feel like you need to reach our for support this Christmas, I have left some links below.

Mental health support links

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, whatever it is your doing, stay safe and prioritise your mental health. Let’s all hope for a better year, good riddance, 2020! I’ll see you all in 2021!

Productive communication: Jubilee’s Middle Ground

I’ve had a lot of response to my posts on communication in political conversation. Figuring out the best way to communicate with people who oppose our political views can be tough. I’ve spoken in past posts about the difficulties involved with speaking to people who disagree with us, polarisation has effected us as a society and had led to divisions. A divided nation does not make for an effective democracy, learning to communicate even when we disagree with people is essential for productive debate, but also for respect.

How do we reconcile or communicate with people who disagree so deeply with our values? This is a question I have received from you all in response to my articles and a question I do ask myself. I think the best way to approach this question is to offer a resource I have found helpful and one I’d like to share with you all, the Jubilee YouTube channel. I first of all want to shout out one of my friends for introducing me to Jubilee, Arty! We are obsessed with the channel, its a great conversation starter tool. The videos often spark questions about society and make us look into our values, watching it with friends and family can allow us to have important conversations that we should be having about our society and the way it benefits and disadvantages people. We can understands others perspectives and that is so important. I heavily suggest you check out the channel.

Today I’m going to be talking about their Middle Ground series. This series brings together two opposing groups to discuss their similarities and differences. Examples of opposing groups they bring together are; LGBTQ+ and Christians, Flat-Earthers and Scientists, Rich and Poor, Atheists and Christians, Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun, Feminists and Non-Feminists, Socialists and Capitalists, Democrats and Republicans, and so on. They have so many videos so be sure to check them out, they’re very insightful. I will leave a link here for you to check out their Middle Ground playlist of videos.

Today I’m going to be sharing three of their videos and highlighting parts I think are interesting and important. I’m going to be selecting the videos more focused on political policy and societal issues to keep it related to the past posts I’ve already been discussing.

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice

What is interesting about this video is the diversity in peoples experiences. You’ve got someone who’s had two abortions and regrets that, a man that actually works for planned parenthood, and then a woman who works to reverse abortions after a change of mind. There’s a mixture of people who all have different experiences associated with abortion. We get a humane picture. When I say humane I mean peoples stories. Often when we talk politics or policy the actual people get left out of it. When you hear peoples stories and experiences associated with a policy, such as abortion law, it has a greater impact. I like that we get to see that in this video.

It is also interesting that when asked if anyone ever questions their belief about abortion, half of the group steps forward, explaining that some debates make them question what they believe in. One girl even says she feels that her religion drives her pro-life belief and if she wasn’t religious she would understand the pro-choice stance.

It is refreshing to see people with such different beliefs, still respectfully discussing their opinions and even mentioning that they respect the other persons faith or belief but, this is how they feel. It’s an amicable disagreement, and that’s okay. In the last question, when they are asked if anyone was shocked by a response they heard, they all admit that they respected eachothers responses. One of the women even mentioned that too much of our dialect is through screens and not in person and that creates a whole different way that we respect eachother. I think that point is important to make because at they end of the day we are all people and the internet has affected the way we all communicate and how we respect eachother. It’s a lot easier to not respect someone through a tweet or a Facebook post because you don’t see that real person, they are behind a screen, that influences the level of empathy and understanding in discussion.

Feminist and Non-Feminist

This is a really interesting video, similar to the last one, they respect eachothers views and they listen to eachothers points. They definitely don’t always agree but the effective communication is there. We see this when the non-feminist side agree with the guy talking about his mum, a teacher, being seen as lesser at work and feeling uncomfortable in the workplace. It’s nice to see that respectful agreement is taking place within this conversation, empathy is being utilised.

It is also interesting to see two people from the feminist group disagree on the statement ‘would being a man make life easier?’. This shows how diverse all of our perspectives can be, even within the same group. This is something that is mentioned at the beginning of the video by Faith, a non-feminist. Faith says she isn’t feminist because she doesn’t believe in core feminist ideals. Later in the video she explains that she is pro-life, but she was raised by strong women and she is an independent, strong woman too, but feels certain values of the feminist movement mean she cannot be a part of it. Faith believes in the strength of women and that there should be more women in government, but feels she can’t identify as a feminist due to her other views.

There’s some in the group who do not agree, that’s obvious though, not everyone’s going to agree, this is literally feminists and non-feminists communicating. They definitely reach some tension at certain points. In one part of the video a non-feminist states that there is no wage gap and that women choose lesser paying jobs because of culture, this is going to offend a feminist and is also not factually true. One of the feminists states that as an attorney she is paid less than her male colleagues for the same job and compared to some, she is more qualified. We see this situation happen in many workplaces and for a non-feminist to say this is because a woman chooses a lesser paid job just doesn’t make sense, especially if the job is the same. Conversations that become close to our personal lives become more emotional and we feel attacked when people don’t agree about obvious situations such as the pay gap, which has been proven countless times. Frustrations rising in this scenario make a lot of sense.

The phrase ‘disagree-agreeably’ was mentioned towards the end and this is exactly where we need to strive too. Productive communication can’t take place in an environment where respect and listening are non-existent. There is so much noise, but no listening and understanding; these are imperative for communication to be successful.

Democrats and Republicans

Alright, so this one gets a little heated. Let’s just dive right in.

They do all seem to agree on media bias and the misuse of news channels. Josh (democrat) points out that we live on different information spaces, we all have access to different information which can make it hard to communicate. Both groups do however say that the other party is worse in media bias, so they are clearly not agreeing on one being worse than the other, but are defending their own side. This is probably because of the different access to different information.

On the ‘should me make America great again’ statement the conversation becomes heated. Charity (democrat) discusses how America was not a good place for minorities and people of colour, which is 100% true. There should be no desire to go back to a time where there was less equality. The conversation gets heated because of a more personal comment when Charity (democrat) refers to the group having white privilege and Christy (republican) who is Hispanic is upset by this comment. This whole conversation breaks down because Charity wants to explain her point but Christy won’t let her speak because she is clearly upset. This creates a lot of commotion in the group. Michael (republican) says the statement is based on going back to economic strength and growth, not racism. There is mention of the statement ‘make America great again’ being too broad which I also think is a fair comment to make. If someone says ‘let’s make America great again’ and also is referring to the social issues and racism, that was in even worse shape than our current society, then that is wrong and shouldn’t be something we want. I think the reason why the statement ‘make America great again’, shook up tensions in the group was because people were interpreting that statement in many different ways, there was no shared understanding to begin the conversation and this stunted productive communication here.

Interestingly when speaking about the right to carry a gun, Josh (democrat) actually believes that there should be a right to carry a gun and that it’s a false view to think all democrats believe we should not have this right. Michael (republican) believes there should be more access to education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Between these two people who have different political views, we see some cross over in belief. Another democrat, Alan, says that gun safety is what should be focused on and that there should be more regulation on gun control, which they all seemed to mutually agree with.

In the final question they all agreed that the nation is too divided. Hope (republican) says she shouldn’t have to lose friends over her political beliefs, but she is, which she says proves the nation is divided. The group say that we need to agree to disagree. Being willing to come to the table and have productive conversation is so important. This was a good end to the video and I think an important note, we need to be able to agree to disagree and to have respectful conversation or we will remain divided.

Concluding thoughts

A lot of the times we can think of our opposition as some radical psychopath. But these videos show us that our opposition can agree on some beliefs that we hold. We can communicate. We don’t always have to agree, but we should still be respectful when having social-political conversations. These videos show that even when people have polar opposite beliefs they can still communicate. I hope these videos showed that respectful and productive communication is not a lost cause for our society. When communicating with someone who has different beliefs to you, remember that you don’t have to agree, but if we want to see any lasting change in policy etc. we have to learn how to communicate with our opposition. These videos show us that this can happen, but mutual respect has to be there, we have to agree to disagree, we can’t force our beliefs onto someone.

I hope you enjoyed todays post and found it interesting! Be sure to check out Jubilee’s other videos on their YouTube Channel. I also wanted to add a thank you for 100 followers! It means a lot that you enjoy reading my posts and that you find them interesting, so thank you for following and please keep your comments and feedback coming, I love to hear from you! I’ll be back soon for a post on mental health during the Christmas period so be sure to come back for that post!

Practicing mindfulness

I’ve been uploading quite a few politics focused posts recently, so today I decided to talk about another subject I am equally passionate about…mental health. I love to write these posts and they get a great response from you all, so I hope you enjoy.

If you’re in the UK, like myself, you’ll be in lockdown 2.0 right now, with not much longer to go before another set of changes. Uncertainty is the theme of 2020, honest to god, who knew we were going to be in another lockdown in November. With that uncertainty for the future has come a huge amount of anxiety. Feeling okay with just not knowing what next week is even going to look like can be very hard, I know I’ve definitely struggled with it.

For a lot of lockdown I felt the constant need to fill my time and to be as productive as possible. Whether that was taking online courses, reading, learning a new skill, even making this website, I had to be doing something otherwise I would be worrying about what was going to happen next or where I’d be in a post-corona world (whenever that is lol). I was desperate to not feel like I’d wasted a large chunk of life watching TV and pretty much doing nothing, however throughout an on and off lockdown from March to now, I’ve learnt that doing nothing sometimes is perfectly okay and in some cases is hugely important for our mental health, we can’t always be go go go! I spoke about this more in a recent post called ‘The Wonders of Self Care’.

Since that post I’ve been working on being more mindful, showing myself more respect and being more self-aware, and I have to say it’s done a lot of good. I think the fact that we just never know what’s going on at the moment or what the future holds can be very un-nerving. I’m definitely one to look to the future and worry things won’t work out, but with our current climate it can be even more worrying not knowing what is going on. I’ve decided that in order to combat that feeling I have to be more mindful and self-aware, I need to be doing what I can to stay sane in the moment. We never really know what is going to happen in the future, so instead, focusing on what is going on right now can settle that worry and uncertainty.

What is mindfulness and why is it important?

It is easy to end up living in our own heads and not being aware of what is really going on around us, how we are feeling, or what our thoughts are really telling us. We end up becoming stuck in auto-pilot, living out our days, unaware of our thoughts and how they effect the way we view and talk to ourselves. Mindfulness unlocks the ability to show ourselves self-respect and kindness, this then translates into our everyday lives.

When we practice mindfulness it allows us to see our own thought patterns and why certain situations or scenarios make us feel a certain way, we can train ourselves to better deal with these situations. When we are mindful of our emotions we can notice signs of stress or anxiety and mange them more effectively. If we are more self-aware of what is going on in our head we can control it and not fixate on negative feelings or emotions. We learn self-discipline and how to ensure our thoughts don’t control us, we control them.

Meditation and mindfulness has lots of proven benefits to our mental and physical health. It can lower stress levels, improve your sleep, improve your focus and attention span, help to prevent depression relapses, reduce anxiety and increases the size of grey matter in your brain. It was found in a study that consistent meditation and mindfulness increased grey matter in the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum. These areas of the brain deal with the regulation of emotion, learning processes, perspective and memory. As well as this, there has been evidence to show that mindfulness can reduce chronic pain and lower blood pressure. Overall mindfulness is significantly helpful in improving our wellbeing.

It can be scary or intimidating for some people to meditate or practice mindfulness, when you stop and sit in silence a lot of worries and thoughts come flooding in. It is important to remind yourself that these are just thoughts in your head and the more you focus on them the more they fill you with anxiety. You should instead turn away from them and remind yourself that these are just feelings, they don’t manifest in reality, they are just doubts, they are not real.

How have I been practicing mindfulness?

Each day I’ve been doing a meditation / affirmation morning routine to focus myself for the day. I’ve never been one to think this type of exercise is effective but I have found that it really helps to calm me and start my day right.

I put on some meditation or wave sound music and I breathe slowly and deeply, focusing on that breathing, any thoughts that would try to jump in I turn away from and focus my thoughts back onto following my breathing or listening to the sounds in the music. After this, I continue breathing and practice positive self talk and affirmations, reminding myself of what I’m grateful for right now in my life and focusing on the good, even if they are small things. The constant reminder of these affirmations each morning allows me to check myself and fight doubts I may be having. The journey of self-improvement is never an easy one, some days it is harder to focus than others, but sticking to the routine is so important.

I think meditation and mindfulness teaches you really important skills about controlling your thoughts. It’s easy to slip into a pattern of negative thinking, so forcing yourself even for 5 minutes to sit and breathe and to only focus on that breathing shows you that you have the ability to say no to the negative thoughts or doubts trying to enter your mind. It shows you that you have discipline and that you are in control of what’s going on in your head. I think this is an important mindset to learn and so far this routine has been incredibly helpful for me to centre myself and start my day correctly. Without showing discipline to your thoughts and being more aware of them, it can become much easier to fall into a negative spiral because you aren’t always aware of what does cause the spiral. Understanding your thoughts and being mindful of them is a good way of understanding what can trigger a path of negative thinking and then ensuring that you don’t take that path.

You should take the time to focus on the right here and right now, being grateful for what you have and reminding yourself of the good in the very day you are in, even if it is one small thing like the weather. Reminding yourself of the bigger picture means you get a better perspective of what’s really going on, and maybe that one thing you were stressing about soooo much, really isn’t as big as you thought it was. I think that there is a lot to learn about being mindful, and a lot it can teach us in terms of emotional agility and resilience through challenges times, like this very pandemic. Many of us have found this year challenging, it has affected our whole way of life, even our perspective on life. Checking in with yourself and being mindful of how you are really feeling is more important now than ever. So, take this as your reminder to crack open your window, let in some fresh air, breathe deeply, be grateful, and remind yourself of who you really are, remember that you can control the thoughts in your head.

Can we be friends with our political opponents?

Today’s post is a follow up to my last post on political polarisation. If you haven’t read that one yet, click here. Today I’ll be talking more closely about how polarisation and differing political opinions affect our relationships and friendships.

We have all become very politically saturated in society. Politics takes up a large part of regular conversation, it’s no longer taboo to talk politics, it’s become part of regular discourse. With that, politics has saturated our conversation, including with our friends and family. So, when our friends have different political opinions to our own, can we get along even if we have different political ideals? I’ll be discussing this today.

Politics is personal, its our identity…

Politics has become very much personal over the years. It’s not just a passing remark to say you voted for a different political party, in some cases its an insult or violation to our political identity. To say you voted for a different political party, is to say I value this over what you value. When a certain policy effects the way we live out our lives, for example, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, gender pay gaps or low-income support, it can feel very offensive, and like a personal attack, when someone says they do not believe in a policy that protects those rights. In that case it can feel very personal when someone opposes your political ideals and values.

Our political values are becoming more and more a part of who we are and how we choose to live, disagreeing with that is like saying I do not agree with the way you live your life, and we take that very personally, because it is something that defines who we are and what we believe in.

Friends who don’t support your human rights and values…aren’t friends

I think it’s best to get the obvious out the way. If someone’s political values and beliefs mean that they do not support your fundamental human rights, then they are not a friend to be keeping around. You simply cannot disagree on human rights, and be friends. If someone is saying any of the following statements to you and they correlate with a part of your identity, then they are not a friend.

  • ‘I like you, but I don’t believe in gay marriage’
  • ‘You’re great, but, I don’t think that our governmental systems restrict people of colour.’
  • ‘I think that the gender pay gap is just something women are complaining about’
  • ‘You are transgender though, you shouldn’t be allowed to use the women’s bathroom if you aren’t biologically a woman.’

The person telling you that, is not your friend. That person is supporting policies that restrict how you live, they are dictating your place in society. They are choosing to ignore your rights and on an even more personal note as a friend, your individual struggles, they don’t support you because they don’t value your rights or your political identity. That is not okay, they have to go. Overall, even communicating with someone who doesn’t support your basic human rights is next to impossible, so being friends is just a no go zone.

I think in situations such as this, you get those people who think that just because identity politics doesn’t impact them, they don’t have to worry. If you’re a white heterosexual man, society was built for you to thrive, there’s a fat chance you’ve never thought about your identity or your place in society, because it’s never impacted a decision you’ve had to make. Due to this mindset, thinking about other peoples rights may not cross your mind, you don’t have to worry because it doesn’t affect your life. But, other peoples lives are affected. Even if you don’t need to worry about your own rights, you should worry about others. You don’t have to be a part of the minority to care about the rights of the minority. If you don’t and your friends are part of that minority, it is not okay to not support their rights just because ‘you don’t have to worry’, open your eyes and support other people in society, not just yourself. It’s not a good enough reason to not have to think about how political policy impacts other peoples lives just because it doesn’t impact yours. If you have friends that are oppressed or restricted by a party your vote for, your a bad friend.

Do not be friends with people who do not support your basic rights, this shouldn’t even be political. This is not a debate topic. You can’t compromise when it comes to human rights. You definitely can’t be friends with people who disagree with your rights, that’s for sure.

But what about small disagreements about politics, that aren’t close to our identity?

When it comes to politics or areas in policy we aren’t so passionate about or focused on, we can have a fairly healthy debate and even disagreement with friends. The likelihood of this discussion is that you will still be friends at the end because your identity is not so closely attached to the policy, or you have less passion associated to the area.

Let’s imagine you are talking to your friend about an area in current political discourse that neither of you have strong opinions about, if they were to object to your opinion you would not feel particularly upset or attacked by their disagreement. If you and your friend do not strongly lean either way you may end up being convinced by your friends opinion or you may mutually agree to disagree. Either way you carry on the friendship with that person because you both respect eachothers opinion, even when you have minor disagreements.

The main reason this communication was successful was because you and your friend were both fairly neutral about the topic anyway, you may not agree, but you were not on polar opposite ends of the political spectrum. If however, your friend was to say they didn’t think the recent transgender rights reform was important and you or a close friend or family member was transgender and this topic was important to you, you would feel very attacked by this comment. You are no longer discussing a part of politics that you feel neutral about. You feel strongly about this topic and a friend disagreeing with transgender reform feels like an attack on values that you deem important.

We see this in multiple different scenarios. You may not feel bothered about the way the UK trades with other countries, but you care strongly about protecting low income families. In that case, when someone debates with you about foreign policy you are fairly neutral and engage in healthy debate with friends or family, but when someone challenges you about free school meals or argues that we should increase the charge of transport for kids to get to school, you will not want to entertain a debate such as this because you are passionate about it and you are not willing to compromise on something that is so important to you.

When things are close to our identity or our political values they aren’t up for debate and in some cases, we are not willing to entertain an opponent because, like in the last example, having free school meals is simply essential. There are things we view as ‘not up for debate’ and when someone tries to challenge this, it attacks our literal political identity. We take it very personally.

In that case, if our friends disagree with some of our opinions about politics that we don’t prioritise highly, that friendship can continue, but if a friend doesn’t support the same core values as us, we can find it very hard to be friends with them because our political values and identity are too different. The way we live our lives and the values we hold close to our hearts should be supported by our friends, not challenged.

Concluding thoughts

I think we can debate about policy we don’t hold close to our political identity and if a friend doesn’t agree about a policy that isn’t a number one priority to us, then that’s okay, as long as they do support what is important to us. A friend can’t be your friend but also not support policy that determines your rights as an individual and your freedom in society.

Surrounding yourself with friends that have the same core values as you is important. Especially when those values are so closely tied to your identity. This is why we surround ourselves with people who support or vote for the same party as we do, because we share important values about how society should be and the livelihood of others. However, this is also the reason why polarisation continues to divide us.

Pro-life supporters signs.

Finding a common ground between people who disagree on core political values can be difficult, some policies completely contradict the other, for example, pro-choice and pro-life, wealth inequality and lowering taxes for the richer of society. These different sides of policy often struggle to find a middle ground because they are both on the opposite end of the debate. I’m going to look into this a little more in a post to come with the help of the YouTube channel Jubilee and their series called ‘Middle Ground’ where they put people in the same room with completely different opinions and make them debate, some outcomes are really not what you expect.

Pro-choice supporters signs.

That being said, realistically we can’t be friends with someone who is polar opposite to our political beliefs because we both would impose values onto eachother that don’t correlate with the way we want to live our life. I myself could not be friends with someone who doesn’t believe in LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality or women’s rights because that means the other person is willing to oppress those communities, even giving them the time of day sends shivers down my spine. Learning how to communicate with people who don’t believe in the same thing as we do is important if we are to see change in our society, so I am hoping that looking at how people do find middle ground when they disagree on so much will be insightful, so make sure to come back to that article!

Today’s post felt a little like a ramble of my never ending thoughts since writing my dissertation and how we can reconcile communication with such different people when they really are sooo different, but I hope you still enjoyed it! 🙂

Political polarisation and the future of democracy

Today I’m going to be discussing a topic that has become part of mainstream conversation recently, and in the last couple of years in political discourse, polarisation. This is a hugely important topic to be talking about, especially in today’s political climate. The reason why political polarisation is so necessary for us to talk about is because it threatens the longevity of democracy and the way we communicate with eachother. I have been planning on writing this post since I created this blog and I think with the recent US election, the idea of polarisation could not be more prevalent right now.

At university I focused a lot of my learning around political philosophy so naturally when the time came for me to pick a dissertation topic…I choose politics. My dissertation was about voter ignorance and the effects political polarisation has on our ability to communicate and engage in political discourse. I looked into an argument that critically evaluated the sustainability of democracy in our current political climate. I assessed how valid this argument was and explored ways to combat ignorance and to limit polarisation. Political philosophy was, and still is one of my favourite areas to read, write and talk about, so I hope you find todays article interesting and insightful!

What is polarisation and why does it happen?

Polarisation is when we intensify our beliefs and values because we are surrounded by likeminded people. When we communicate with like-minded people, we begin to hold our beliefs and political opinions in a higher regard. We become a more extreme version of ourselves.

In some cases, we have a strong reason to shift in intensity of our view, we may have been supplied with actual facts and information that gives us a reason to intensify our beliefs.

In other cases, we are merely surrounding ourselves with people who have the same opinion as our own, for obvious reasons this will increase our confidence. We place ourselves into an echo-chamber that is biased towards what we already believe. People are affirming our opinion instead of challenging it.

Another reason why our opinions can polarise is due to the internet and our social environment. Our environments are organised around our lifestyle, identity, and preferences. Politics has worked its way into our identity, because of this, we are more likely to socialise with people who share the same political beliefs as us, meaning we are constantly communicating with people who agree with us. We aren’t being challenged to revaluate our views; we are merely confirming what we already believe. A study I looked into for my dissertation even suggested that people who share the same political opinions are likely to shop at the same places, creating an even bigger divide between us and our opponents, even in the way we live out our daily lives.

As for online, this environment is personalised to what we support. Imagine you come across a tweet that has over 50k likes and is supporting your political belief. This will affirm to you that the belief is worth holding because other people agree with you. You will then hold the belief in a higher regard, making you more extreme. The internet has become a polarisation machine of other people online affirming their original beliefs. We know that our social media suggests certain content to us that we like, so when this comes to our political opinions, we are constantly suggested posts and tweets that are similar to our political values. We agree more and more, without being challenged, furthering our extremity. We live in our own personalised bubbles.

How does polarisation influence the way we communicate?

Effective argumentation and communication cannot exist in a society where its citizens are polarised. Polarisation leads to deep divides. If our opinion is challenged when we are polarised, we cannot effectively compromise or communicate with our opponent. We view these people as completely absurd. In my dissertation, I referenced a recent Pew study from the US, in that study people described their political opponents as ‘misguided, unintelligent, dishonest and immoral.” Even further than this ‘a threat to the nation’. We don’t even want to engage with our opponents. We view our opposition as almost dumb or naïve to have the opinions that they hold. For me personally, in what world would you want to remove access to healthcare or protection for the transgender community? To think that way appears oppressive and malignant to me, but to my opponents they are their ideologies. When we view someone in this way there is absolutely no way, we would want to productively communicate with them or compromise. This only furthers us into our group identity and bridges an even greater gap between those with opposing ideals.

These graphs above and below, show that overtime in the US polarisation had let to even further shifts in the divide between republicans and democrats in their ideology. The republican party becomes even more far-right and the democratic party becomes even more far-left. This is because the parties have adapted to the increase in polarisation; democrats are aiming to become way more progressive to keep up with Black Lives Matter, women’s reproductive rights, gender pay gaps, transgender rights, ending wealth inequality etc. Whilst republicans have become far more right leaning and conservative with immigration laws, white supremacy, lower taxes and actively working against progressive rights. As these two parties continue to shift apart it becomes even harder for them to communicate because their values and ideology could not be more different. The other party works directly against the other.

Something I found particularly interesting in my dissertation is that polarisation even affects the way people interpret information. We don’t even believe the facts that are given to us, we are so stubborn and stuck to our view, we will believe anything that supports our belief, even if it is baseless claims and we will reject everything that supports our opposition, even if it is hard evidence. We see this right now in America with people believing baseless claims of voter fraud, purely because it will protect their own views and discourage the opposing one. If we don’t even believe hard facts, then how are we supposed to reason with people?

Reasoned communication is something we cannot properly do when we are polarised. Reasons are not required for people to shift in extremity of their views; by merely agreeing with someone’s views they can hold their belief with more confidence. Consequently, we are left with a society of people who hold their political belief with a huge amount of confidence, yet cannot adequately provide reasons as to why, nor can they competently reason with other individuals to defend their unjustified views. All we end up having is an abundance of baseless claims and assumptions that cannot further a conversation or any productive political discourse. We have two radicalising sides of the political spectrum that are furthering away from one another, leading to growing resentment and division.

Where does this leave us and democracy?

If we can’t fix this it will only get worse, we will divide even further, which is the conclusion I made in my dissertation. Communication is everything and unfortunately, we are in a very toxic relationship with our democracy and our political discourse. If we can’t learn how to communicate with people who disagree with us and compromise, democracy will fail us.

Polarisation is becoming rapidly uncontrollable; it completely limits our democratic capacity and does create harsh political divides and these divides do undermine democracy. Whether or not we can reconcile is a whole other matter but as we continue to become more extreme and further leaning in our beliefs, communication will only get worse and so will the divide.

Democracy can only function when citizens reason and engage with each other and are open to criticism. In our political climate people are in no way open to criticism or opposing views. We can only hope that changes in administrations and governmental practices will allow us to heal and steer towards a place where we can communicate effectively and reason with eachother.

If we look at the US election, Biden’s win does bring hope that the US can steer towards a place where productive communication can happen, and everyone’s voices can be heard. But the election was tight, Trumpism has not gone away and the divide between democrats and republicans is a bitter one. There are still millions of people in the US who essentially hate democrats and vice versa, they both believe that the other party will destroy the country. These types of people cannot effectively communicate, and it has led to a sour division is America. Without healing that division, it will get violent and democracy won’t be able to support everyone anymore. The way we communicate must get better for the sake of democracy.

But how do you reconcile with someone who doesn’t even support your rights as a human being? Can we effectively communicate with people who have such different political opinions and values to our own? Have we already become too polarised? Politics is very personal; we all have our own political identity. I’ll be looking into this possibility of reconciliation in my next article, so be sure to return or follow to check that out!

I hope you enjoyed todays post and found it informative. Maybe you’ll walk away from this with slightly more of an open mind and a readiness to communicate with someone who challenges your own views. Unless they completely disagree with your basic human rights, in which case…we do not negotiate with terrorists, but I’ll save that for next time!

Sunshine Blogger Awards

Welcome back to my blog, I’m excited to say today that I have been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award!

Thank you so much to the blog Wire Rimmed Glasses for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Be sure to check out their blog for inspiring lifestyle content!

Today’s post is going to be a little different from my usual content, but I am excited to share it with you all! Hopefully you’ll learn a little more about me in the process!

Sunshine Blogger Award Rules

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 11 people and ask them 11 new questions.
  4. Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their posts.
  5. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post.

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those bloggers by other bloggers who are creative, positive and inspiring. Once nominated, a blogger is required to write a post in which they thank the blogger for nominating them and link back to their blog.

Questions

What is something you can’t wait to do after the pandemic is over?

One thing I can’t wait to do once the pandemic is over is definitely travel more. After I graduated, I had lots of plans to go away on trips to celebrate, but unfortunately coronavirus hit us all hard. Realising, the severity of the situation, this really was not the end of the world for me that I wouldn’t be able to travel.

However, once the world is safe again, I’d love to go on these trips with friends and loved ones. My 21st year of life will be on hold until that day, thank you very much.

What is one country or city you would like to see someday?

Carrying on from the last question, I would love to visit Greece. It was on the list for 2020 but sadly did not happen. It just looks like the coolest place, the beaches, the towns, the Mamma Mia vibes. I just would love to see it.

There are so many places on the list, I have been lucky enough to see some parts of Europe, but I’d also love to see Norway and Germany as well! Expanding out of Europe; Vietnam and Bali are also top of the list, though these are probably further off in my life for now. I am realising this is definitely more than one place, I’ll stop now!

Do you think aliens exist?

To think they don’t exist is just boring right? There has got to be something else out there on a different planet, surely it can’t just be us.

What is at the top of your bucket list?

I know I’ve already said it but I just want to travel so badly, it’s just 100000% no 1 on the top of my list. If we are getting specific though, I want to go to a place like the Maldives or Bora Bora with those overwater rooms. They look so magical and peaceful. I could just jump off straight into the sea, the sunsets look amazing, the beaches look insane. Visiting a place like that is definitely top of the bucket list.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would buy?

The sensible answer would be to get myself a house, decorate it etc. And to be honest this would probably be what I would do first, but obviously I’d also love to travel and support my loved ones as well…kind of a typical answer for this one.

What is your astrological sign?

I am a Leo, I was born on July 26th. I’ve never been one to really follow astrological signs, purely because I couldn’t feel further from a Leo as a person, maybe that makes me a Leo I really don’t know?

Leo’s seem like loud, eccentric, and extremely confident, correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve never really thought those were defining features of who I am, I’m definitely not one for the limelight. However, they do seem like loyal friends and determined people, so I’ll take that!

What is your favourite movie or show?

I definitely prefer TV shows to movies. One of my favourite shows is Bojack Horseman. It’s a cartoon sitcom about a famous human-horse living in LA who peaked in the 90’s. I know, it sounds weird and there is actually no way to explain it without it sounding weird.

I love the show so much because it deals with such important topics such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety, workaholism, actual alcoholism and identity crisis’. You’ll be laughing and then crying, I really do recommend it. I must have watched the whole thing through 4 times at least.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Honestly, I really don’t think I do, but I can do a pretty good Australian accent and a dolphin impression if that counts.

If you could meet any person in the world, alive or dead, who would it be?

This is one of those question I think about for an unacceptably long amount of time and still will never be completely content with the answer, there are far too many people I would just want to sit down and have a long discussion with. I’m actually going to try and stick to one answer for this question.

I would want to meet Kimberlé Crenshaw and just talk to her and learn from her about her theory, intersectionality. I read huge amounts of papers and books by philosophers, politicians, and economists at university, but when I was learning about intersectionality and identity politics, Crenshaw’s paper and research was just so interesting to me, so to be able to just hear her talk about it would be inspiring. There are many other philosophers and theorists I’d love to hear from but Crenshaw is definitely top of the list.

If you would like to read a bit about Crenshaw’s theory click here. Alternatively you could watch her TED talk.

What is the last thing you ate?

Tuna and avocado salad…tryna remain healthy in lockdown 2.0.

What is your favourite month and why?

My favourite month would have to be October, or to be slightly less specific, the Autumn season.

Every year I cannot get enough of the crisp air, the leaves changing colour and the weather getting a little colder.

There is nothing better than a crisp sunny autumn day and I feel like October has the best Autumn days before it turns completely cold and rainy and all the leaves have fallen.

I nominate…

These are some of my favourite bloggers right now that I love and would like to nominate for this award too. Some are recent discoveries, all are inspiring and creative people!

Questions for nominees

  1. What’s your favourite season?
  2. Where is one place in the world you would love to travel to?
  3. What’s something you’ve learnt about yourself during the pandemic?
  4. What’s your favourite book?
  5. What happened today that made you smile?
  6. What do you love to do as a form of self-care?
  7. Who’s your favourite artist/musician?
  8. What advice would you give to someone as we enter lockdown 2 or generally throughout the pandemic?
  9. What’s your favourite food?
  10. What’s something you wish you could tell your childhood self?
  11. What made you start blogging?

Thank You

Thank you again for the nomination Wire Rimmed Sunglasses. I hope you all enjoyed this post today and got to know a bit more about me. Also welcome new followers to my blog! I hope you enjoy the content and thank you for the support!

Some good news

After my last post I felt the need to share some good news in the world. It can be hard to find the good in such a challenging year. We are constantly bombarded with COVID-19 updates that seem like there is no end in site, another horrific and heartless attack on a minority community and never-ending politics from governments that fail to support communities that need it.

These are all very important news stories and we need to bring awareness to them as much as we can. But for today I’m going to take a breather and share some good news because as important as it is to be politically and socially aware, sometimes we need some good news to know that the world isn’t a complete lost cause.

Consuming too much bad news can be detrimental to our mental health. There are plenty of studies out there to show you that consuming negative news will lower your mood. Having a blend of positive news with general news helps to lessen the burden that is 2020 and it’s constant stream of bad news. So, consider this your positivity pick me up of the day.

Marcus Rashford’s ‘end child food poverty’ campaign

Marcus Rashford has been nothing but an angel this year. After Rashford’s successful campaign to secure free school meals over the summer, Labour bid to extend the free school meals over the Christmas holiday which was rejected by Tory MP’s.

Despite the Tory’s turning a blind eye to hungry children, communities and councils have rallied together to ensure children will not go hungry this half term or this Christmas. Councils such as Manchester, Birmingham, Kent and Kensington have agreed to still supply vouchers for pupils over this half term. As well as the PM’s own constituency.

A map that shows places offering free meals to kids this half term. To access the map click here.

The government and Tory’s may have failed this country, but it’s communities are there to support children who need it. Marcus Rashford’s end child food poverty campaign has seen hundreds of restaurants and food providers rally together to donate food and hot meals in their local community. All over the UK small businesses and organisations, football clubs and universities have been donating food to those on free school meals. On the hashtag #endchildfoodpoverty on twitter there are many organisations pledging lunches and hot meals in various local areas.

Rashford helping out at Fare Share Greater Manchester, an organisation helping to offer meals to children this half term.

Rashford stated “even at their lowest point, having felt the devastating effects of the pandemic, local businesses have wrapped arms around their communities today, catching vulnerable children as they fell.” Even though our government may have let down the children who need support, our communities have carried on to give all they can despite the hardships the pandemic has had on many of us.

Huge organisations such as Sainsburys, Hovis, Heinz, Nando’s, Weetabix and Tesco to just name a few have joined the Child Food Poverty Task Force to support the 3 national food strategy policy recommendations. As a collective these companies endorse these recommendations to tackle child food poverty. Some of these organisations are also pledging food to vulnerable children such as Tesco and their partnership with Fare Share.

If you enter your postcode in this link it will direct you to places that are offering free meals this half term, not all participating organisations are on this link so do still check online to see what places are donating: https://www.schoolmealfinder.org/Search?postcode

Also click here to sign the petition to end child food poverty and to expand access to free school meals. It is close to a million signatures now!

Tasmanian devils make a comeback in mainland Australia

More than 3000 years ago, Tasmanian devils had died out in the mainland of Australia, now 26 Tasmanian devils have been introduced back. They have been released into a wildlife sanctuary in Sydney by Aussie Ark.

Aussie Ark’s release of the Tasmanian devil’s

These new Tasmania devils have come from an Aussie Ark breeding program. They grew from 44 in 2011 to now more than 200. The devils have been raised with natural behaviours so that they have a better chance of surviving in the wild. Tasmanian devils, like most of the wild, natural systems of the earth are great for our ecosystem. They are scavengers which helps to keep the environment free from disease, they also help to control the populations of feral cats and foxes which hunt other endangered species.

Aussie Ark are hoping to reintroduce other species into the wildlife sanctuary in part of their plan to re-wild the environment, as well as more Tasmanian devils. This project offers a ray of hope after the wildfires at the start of this year that struck disaster to the wild environment in Australia.

Tim Faulkner, the president of Aussie Ark, said that “in 100 years, we are going to be looking back at this day as the day that set in motion the ecological restoration of an entire country.” He explained that the Tasmanian devils can restore and rebalance the forest ecology and they will engineer their own self-sustainable environment.

To read more about the release of the Tasmanian devils in Australia click here to view the Aussie Ark’s website and to donate to the project.

Eba the eco-warrior dog

Eba, a young shelter dog is using her unique talent to help save the orca whales. Eba can detect whale poop and has been assisting a University research team. Eba’s owner is a marine biologist at the University of Washington’s Centre for Conservation Biology. Eba was not adopted with the intention to become part of the research team but has proven to be a useful team member.

Eba is now part of ‘Conservation Canines’, a dog training programme that helps to hunt for marine wildlife poop. This has proven incredibly helpful for researchers as it allows them to access information about genetics, general health, stress levels and the presence of toxicity in the whales diet. Eba’s role is so important because it means the researchers do not have to get to close to the orca whales and stress out the pod in any way, they keep at a respectful distance because Eba can smell from far away.

Eba and her owner Deborah Giles conduct their studies in the Canadian Gulf Islands, the pod they research has 74 members. Their work goes towards ensuring the conservation and recovery of the endangered orca whale species.

For more good news…

If you’re looking for a place to find your good news I would recommend Positive.News, they do a great weekly round up of all the good things that happened within the week as well as other positive news stories. I have linked some of my personal recent favourites below.

For Instagram you can check out The Happy Broadcast and The Happy News!

Domestic terrorism: white supremacist terror

Today I’m going to be discussing a very important topic that poses a threat to all communities. It is an area that is increasing in threat levels. This could be a trigger for various minority communities as I will be discussing far-right hate attacks and ideologies. This is one of those topics that is not nice to hear about, but, one we need to be aware of as I believe it is one of the biggest threats to modern society.

There is a racial and prejudice stereotype about terrorism in the West. This has created hostility towards non-white communities, particularly Muslim communities. This prejudice continues to grow and has created a whole group of people who bring about terrorism in the west; white supremacists or far-right extremists. Their hateful ideologies are causing harm to our communities and recently white supremacists have become the biggest terror threat to the western world.

White supremacist terror is very prominent within the US, but that doesn’t mean the threat doesn’t exist right here in the UK. So, today I wanted to briefly talk about the US and then dive more into the threat in the UK.

What is white supremacy?

White supremacism is the belief that white people are the superior race and that they should therefore dominate all races. This is a far-right extremist belief. It is a hateful and dangerous ideology that has led to colonialism, increase in hate crimes, genocide and a long painful history of oppression.

The term has become a political ideology that wishes to maintain the social, political, historical and institutional domination of white people. The beliefs often rely on the now discredited scientific racism doctrine and on pseudoscientific arguments, meaning that they are mistakenly or wrongfully relying on scientific methods to prove something that is false.

White supremacists in the US

The best way to get an idea of the threat white supremacists or far-right extremists pose in the US is to look through the statistics. This is purely because the facts are all there. Domestic terrorism is high and it continues to rise.

  • Since 9/11 white supremacists and other far-right extremists have been responsible for 3x as many attacks on US soil as Islamic terrorists.
  • 2019 was the 6th deadliest year for domestic extremist-related killings. 90% of these killings were from right-wing extremists.
  • The September 2020 draft report from Homeland Security stated that white supremacists presented the greatest threat to the US. These attacks have become far more lethal since Trump became president.
  • From 2009-2018 far right extremists have been responsible for 73% of domestic extremist-related casualties.
  • 2018 and 2019 were the most lethal of all domestic extremism movements over the last 20 years.

The main point we can take away from these stats is that far-right extremist attacks are the biggest threat to the US, and they are still on the rise. These attacks are racially and politically motivated and they aim to incite hate. They are becoming more and more lethal. The added factor of gun violence means these attacks just keep getting worse. There is an epidemic of tragic mass shootings.

One of the biggest factors as to why domestic terrorism has been reaching record highs is also due to the President himself. Trump continually downplays the threat of right-wing extremists. In the early days of his presidency, Trump stripped Homeland Security which focused on combatting violent extremism. As well as also pulling funding that was meant for organisations countering neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other likeminded groups. Efforts to combat domestic extremism came to a halt. In fact the Trump administration focused federal resources on Islamist terrorism even though the greater risk was coming from right-wing extremists. Trump even tried to change the name of ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ to ‘Countering Radical Islamic Extremism’. Trump repeatedly turns a blind eye to the real threat posed to the US; hateful ideologically driven violence.

In a very recent study from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies it was found that white supremacist groups were responsible for 41/61 terrorist plots and attacks in the first 8 months of 2020. That is 67%. Many Americans believe that Trump’s denunciations of left-wing activists and his refusal to condemn an extremist right-wing group has raised fears throughout the year of politically motivated violence. The study warned that violence could continue to rise after the presidential election because of concerns about polarisation, economic hardships, racial injustice and the ever-growing issue of coronavirus. If Biden was to win the report believed white supremacists would violently mobilise against Black, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQ+, Jewish and Latino communities. Protestors and demonstrators are increasingly being targeted which is alarming, particularly when those protesters are exercising their freedom of speech.

White supremacists in the UK

Police have said that the fastest growing UK terror threat comes from far-right extremists. The head of counterterrorism in the UK, Neil Basu, said that 7/22 plots foiled since March 2017 where linked to far-right ideology. Some of these plots were designed to kill, mimicking the attacks seen in jihadist attacks. This rise in threat and hate crime came in the period following the vote to leave the EU in the years 2016-2018. These groups in the UK range from anti-immigration, anti-Islam, Islamophobia, white nationalists, neo-Nazi’s, National Action and Sonnenkrieg Division.

Examples of white terror in the UK

David Copeland

David Copeland, a self-confessed racist and homophobe, was jailed for attacks on Brick Lane, Soho and Brixton in 1999 in a 13-day nail bombing attack that killed 3 people and injured 139. The first attack in Brixton was intended to harm the black community, 48 were injured. A week later in Brick Lane a second bomb was set to target the Bangladeshi community in east London. A passer by in a stroke of luck found the bag containing the bomb, mistaking it for lost property and put it inside their car, reporting it to the police. The final attack was targeting the LGBTQ+ community. This bomb had 1,500 nails and went off at Admiral Duncan Pub in Soho, central London. When Copeland was arrested police discovered Nazi flags hanging in his bedroom along with news reports of his bombings.

Thomas Mair

Thomas Mair, in a politically motivated attack, murdered Labour MP Jo Cox outside a library in West Yorkshire on June 16th 2016. It was discovered that Mair had been using the library computers, just where Cox was devastatingly attacked, to learn about the KKK and how they had killed people supporting civil rights. When his home was raided they discovered an extreme nationalist and racist library, as well as Nazi ornaments and literature about white supremacy. The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an American anti-fascist organisation, has published records that showed Mair had bought books about explosives from the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Those orders were made days after the Copeland attacks in London, attempting to start a ‘race war’.

National Action

National action are unashamedly racist and overtly neo-Nazi. The group claim they are patriotic yet are hostile to all rules of law, democratic processes and people who do not share their views. They were disbanded in 2016 after a government assessment that deemed National action to be an extreme racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic group that raised a concern of terrorist action as well as glorifying terrorism and extreme violence. The group was described as “a really dangerous, well-structured organisation at the heart of a neo-Nazi ideology that seeks to divide communities.” They do still remain active in places but some people have been convicted for holding a membership.

The group was founded in 2014 by Ben Raymond and Alex Davies. They believed British far-right organisations had been diluted so they aimed to respawn far-right extremism. They believe in white power and targeted specific political leaders for being ‘race traitors’.

Oskar Dunn-Koczorowsk and Michal Szewczuk

These two teenagers were jailed for terrorism offences and for being part of the far-right extremist group Sonnenkrieg Division. They encouraged an attack on Prince Harry for marrying a women of mixed race, outside of his own race. They deemed he should be shot for being a ‘race traitor’ and stated that white women who date non-white men should be hanged.

The teens ran personal accounts sharing far-right propaganda that encouraged terrorist attacks, specifically lone attacks against the public. Police found Szewczuk in possession of bomb-making instructions and a white resistance manual when he was a student at the University of Portsmouth.

Martin Snowden, the head of counter terrorism policing in the north-east of England, explained that the teenagers saw themselves as superior to the majority. He explained that it “only takes one individual to be encouraged or be inspired by that propaganda to take that further step” and this “represents a significant risk”.

Links to extra resources

I have linked articles and reports on UK terror attacks from far-right extremists below. I have summarised here their ideologies and attacks in an attempt to censor horrific details, this is also the reason for the lack of photos in this article. If you would like to read more about this topic and the prison sentences, as well as responses from judges, they are all in these articles. The Copeland article features reports from victims 20 years on.

The fuel of the dark internet

Both in the UK and the US, even globally, the internet is the fuel to hateful ideologies fire. It continues the spread and extends the reach of hate groups online. The internet has brought about a new era of violence. White nationalism grows because of the dark corners of the internet that incites violence and allows aspiring white supremacist terrorists to draw inspiration from other killers. They in some cases on different message board forums and sites attempt to copy eachother and one up different attacks. The internet has allowed hateful ideologies to spiral out of control, particularly in the US, where gun violence poses an even greater threat to communities.

Prejudice towards Muslim Communities

Throughout all of this the Muslim community have been discriminated and terrorised against. The islamophobia present in white supremacists hateful views creates violence against innocent Muslim lives. There is a mainstream prejudice against Muslim communities, one possessed particularly by far-right groups that expresses violent hatred against all Muslims. Unfortunately this hatred has led to various targeted attacks towards Muslim communities, with the attack on mosques.

This prejudice is fuelled by false and toxic narratives in the media. When a white supremacist killer attacks communities they are called ‘mentally ill’ or ‘lonely’, not terrorists, even though their action is politically and socially motivated, aiming to bring harm, the definition of terrorism. A US study showed that between 2008-2012, 81% of terrorism suspects that were subjects of news reporting were Muslim, which was a far greater percentage of terrorist attacks in the US actually committed by Muslims. This is a harmful bias that incites violence against the Muslim community.

These prejudices and false media narratives led to the Finsbury park attack where Darren Osborne drove a van into a crowd of Muslim’s near a north London mosque. Osborne injured nine people and killed one. The judge of Osborne’s case said he was rapidly radicalised over the internet where he became exposed to racist and anti-Islamic ideology.

Ignorance and misunderstanding of Islam

The false media narratives fuel the ignorance people have towards Muslim culture, religion and beliefs. The majority of Muslims reject the Jihadist violence involved in terrorist attacks, they believe it is not justified by their religion.

ISIS follows a jihadist tradition, they are a militant Islamist group. They reject all innovation in the religion and aim to return to the early days of Islam. The group has been condemned by many Muslim leaders, explaining that their extremist ideas decay the earth and destroy human civilisation which is in no way a part of Islam, it is an enemy to Islam. Leaders have explained that their sacrifice without legitimate cause it not jihad at all, it is criminality.

An academic criminology paper called ‘ISIS is not Islam: epistemic injustice, everyday religion, and young Muslims narrative resistance’ by Sveinung Sandberg and Sarah Colvin does a great job at explaining the harm prejudice has done to Muslim communities as well as correcting ignorant mainstream beliefs about Islam. They aim to debunk dominant western narratives that construct young Muslims as easily radicalised and potential violent extremists. They undertook a study that addresses prejudices and biases towards Muslims and Islam. Young Muslim participants were interviewed, they openly spoke out against martyrdom and terrorist action, saying it goes completely against Islam. They referred to terrorists as anti-Islamist, wrong and satanic. One participant stated that “It is not only the jihadists who are acting wrongly but also a mainstream media that actively furthers epistemic injustice by spreading the jihadi misrepresentation of what Islam says.” Participants wanted a voice to present another image of Islam than the one they faced daily in the mainstream media. The mainstream media fuels this false idea of Muslim and we urgently need to remove the narrative and present this religion for what it really is.

I urge you to read the paper to learn about Islam from young Muslim accounts and to find out more about the danger false narratives can have on Muslim communities. To read this paper click here and download the PDF.

Concluding thoughts

Far-right extremists and white supremacist groups are the largest and most rapidly growing risk to society. They incite hate against innocent lives and they threaten the very foundation of a multicultural world. They bring harm to the Muslim community with their abhorrent islamophobia. But not only do these groups incite the violence, the media and political leaders spread false narratives of what terrorism really looks like in society. The truth is right here in what I have said today, domestic terrorism and far-right extremist groups are a radicalised and growing threat to the western world. Our political leaders cannot turn a blind eye to their hateful ideologies.

The Wonders of Self-care

In honour of world mental health day being today, I wanted to share a post all about self-care and the positive benefits it can have towards our outlook on life, as well as the way we view ourselves. I encourage everyone, every now and then, to take a mental health day, recharge your batteries, and incorporate your own form of self-care and self-reflection into your lives on a regular basis. It can realign your perspective and allow you to start fresh and get back to whatever keeps you busy each day with better focus and a clearer mind. Self-care is about slowing down and enjoying the silence for a moment. We are all constantly focused on everything in our lives rushing by and occupying us. Instead we should take some time to reflect and have a mental check in with ourselves about how we are really feeling.

Enjoying quality time alone is unbelievably important. Finding the perfect balance between socialisation and quality alone time is key to a healthy and happy life. It’s hugely important to take time to yourself to recharge your batteries and reflect on your life. We all need to feel comfortable and calm in our own company, focused on ourselves, not preoccupied a million miles away thinking about everything stressing us out this week. Self care is about investing in yourself, it is no way selfish because it lets you excel better in your relationships and life. You have to invest in yourself before you can invest in others.

Finding the right balance of self-care is very important. You should in no way isolate yourself from your loved ones or use ‘self-care’ as a means of distraction or procrastination in getting something done that needs to be done. However, if you’re feeling burnt out and lacking in energy to fulfil a task, if you’re overthinking or anxious about small things that wouldn’t normally irritate you, then taking some time to yourself is an important remedy.

Self-reflection

Whilst self-reflection isn’t technically part of self-care, I think the two come hand in hand. Taking time to look back on the week, the highs and lows and how they made you feel, can allow you to better understand yourself. This can simply be done by just sitting with yourself and thinking about it, or a more popular version, journaling. Having this form of self-reflection can allow you to keep track of your thoughts.

I think these moments alone are so important because it allows you to understand yourself, what you like and what you don’t like. If you’re reflecting on your week you can ask yourself why a certain scenario that played out frustrated you, or why something made you stressed or anxious. Moments of reflection really let us look inside ourselves to understand our behaviours and emotions.

Feeling comfortable in your own skin and in your own company is a form of self-love and self-acceptance. When you slow down and just sit with yourself you learn things about yourself that you potentially hadn’t noticed before, sometimes comforting or uncomforting things, but you do learn. During the pandemic I realised how much of a workaholic and perfectionist I really am. Although I already knew I was this way, having so much time alone allowed me to understand why I behaved the way I did and how to control those emotions. As a person I have to fit in time for my own forms of self-care for my mental sanity and to prevent burn out. Sometimes self-reflection can feel like a reality check and a wake up call to who you really are. It can shake you out of a rut you are in and wake you up.

I’m not really someone that knows a lot about the law of attraction and manifestations, but self-care or self-reflection is similar because of it’s consistency. Self-reflection is very important for your mental health and outlook on life, it can give you a lot of clarity and help to change up your mindset when you’re feeling low or overwhelmed for whatever reason. It’s like a reset period. I like to use self-care time for affirming behaviour and readjusting my sense of direction, such as setting out monthly goals or focusing on what I achieved in the past week and how that outweighs whatever may have gone wrong. It is similar to manifesting and changing up your mindset because you are taking time to reflect and push yourself in the right direction towards what you want to improve in your life and achieve. Taking time for yourself is one of the most important steps in that process.

Another reason why taking the time to sit with yourself and self-reflect is so important is because a lot of the thoughts we have are sub-conscious, we don’t always realise we are having them and they become part of our nature. Overtime, if we continue to have sub-conscious thoughts revolving around stress, anxiety or lowness, it can build into something much worse. Our minds are powerful; our thoughts have the ability to affect our emotional lives. When we have an irrational or low thought, that has a huge impact on our emotions, even when that thought is falsely interpreted from our reality, it will still have a huge impact on our self-worth and emotions. When we self-reflect, we take the time to actively question these thoughts and stop our mind from taking control.

Self-care is a habit

Turning self-care into a consistent habit is very important in seeing it’s benefits. We have to make it a regular occurrence to take time to ourselves, to self-reflect and to recharge our batteries. It doesn’t always have to be the same activity, but making self-care a part of your routine is revitalising. Keeping up with it means you are always looking out for yourself and showing yourself love and respect.

Self-care really can be anything, it’s completely subjective, but it should be slotted into your week, even your days. For some people self-care is their skincare routine, others it’s watching TV or playing a game, even tidying your room. Something where it’s just you and you are giving undivided attention to yourself.

My own personal self-care really does fluctuate. I find the gym very therapeutic and destressing. Endorphins and moving your body is unbelievably good for your mental health and makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. However, I also cherish unwinding at the end of the day slowly, either reading or slowly going through my skincare routine, throwing in a face mask. Whatever allows you to relax and focus on yourself…do that.

Finding happiness in the simple moments

I think that taking time alone to breathe and relax, maybe on a walk or just sitting in a spot you find comfortable, can allow you, even for a second, to really feel content and grateful. It’s a difficult feeling to explain, but it is feels almost like a glow. You could get this feeling maybe looking out at a view after a walk, the fresh air in the morning, the comfort of your own home, looking at old pictures. Anything that sparks gratitude and peace.

Holding onto those moments is important because they can keep you going and motivated. I think it’s encouraging to know that there is a potential for peace in your life. No matter what you’re going through, those split seconds can show you that it’s there. It doesn’t mean that things are great right now, or that things will be better in a week. But those simple moments where you feel at peace and grateful for something, potentially during your self-care, is something to hold onto and to cherish. They ground you and they keep you sane.

Moments like these are so important because it allows us to take control of our thoughts. When you are sat alone in silence and that feeling of happiness comes rushing in, even for a second, it shows that happiness or peace is out there for you still, no matter what you are going through. Negative feelings often have the ability to take a strong hold in our mind, removing and displacing them can become a hefty task. A lot of the time repetitive thought patterns keep us feeling low or anxious. Replacing the negative repetitive thoughts can be done in moments of silence. It gives us the time and space we need to turn away from those thoughts, breathe and refocus ourselves and our mindset. Constantly and actively choosing to change your mindset and not let the thoughts consume you. Reminding yourself of something to be grateful for, like those simple moments, can keep you going.

A disclaimer regarding mental illness

Although self-care and self-help techniques are helpful in keeping your mind clear and taking time to relax. It is not a complete remedy to mental illness, it may help you in your bad days, but if your bad days consistently continue you should seek mental health support. It doesn’t have to be taboo and there really is nothing wrong with asking for support when you need it. Reaching out to a loved one or looking for therapies and counselling is normal and should be done more. Don’t undervalue your feelings or disregard them just because they don’t feel as big as other peoples problems because that’s how problems worsen.

It can be frustrating when a family member or friend tells you to just take some time to relax, meditate or write everything down when you are in the midst of feeling low. The same techniques don’t work for everyone and you have to find what works for you. It can be particularly hard to self-reflect productively when you have allowed your anxious, irrational, or negative thoughts to consume you because in moments of self-reflection you can find yourself spiralling. Sometimes you can’t help your self and you need more support, which is why therapy or counselling is a great option, especially cognitive behaviour therapies (CBT), which focuses on displacing those irrational or negative feelings. So, if you are feeling low or anxious and taking time to reflect and focus on yourself is not helping to relieve any burdens, then do reach out for more support. Also remember that your bad days do not equal to a bad life. This is a feeling that you will get through.

Mental health support links

  1. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/
  2. https://www.samaritans.org/
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/?WT.tsrc=Search&WT.mc_id=Brand&gclid=Cj0KCQjwt4X8BRCPARIsABmcnOr94uOrYxgOCHVkR4eYhAB0A0i08VNKgL_xqb4JIh5odFRGdpBHbUIaAtCqEALw_wcB
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/
  5. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/where-to-start/