Monday, 25 July 2011

What's It Gonna Be?

Following on the attacks in Norway, Jeremy Paxman got busy today interviewing English Defence League leader “Tommy Robinson” (real name Stephen Yaxley Lennon). The reason being that the man behind the attacks in Norway, Anders Breivik, is rumoured to have had connections with the EDL.

The standard liberal response to the interview, much like the time the BNP leader was interviewed on the BBC, is to call him a “thug” “tosser” and “racist”; to decry Newsnight for giving him a platform on which to spout hatred; and to demand that he just stops talking altogether. 

I belong to the more nuanced branch of the Left, which looks at groups like the BNP and the EDL and sees all the signs of fascism that you would expect when THINGS ARE SO CRAP FOR THE WORKING CLASS.

Fascism, contrary to popular belief, is not condemned by those in power: it’s condoned. 

Here’s why:
*In order to rule the world under a right-wing ideology (that’s what we have now, by the way), you need to convince people that the right-wing ideology is good and right.
*Unfortunately, right-wing ideology only serves the interest of those in power, the rich.
*Here’s the catch: most people are not rich. So in order to convince the poor that right-wing ideology is right you need to create scapegoats.

Scapegoats are those groups who are intrinsically oppressed by the system, who will not cause (much) trouble because they are so powerless or so small in number.

What we have here is a whole lot of people getting incredibly angry because their lives are getting progressively worse. And because they can’t find a reason, they turn against the very people that the rich and powerful tell them to turn against. Which, according to the rules of the system, are always the people below them in the social hierarchy. (read Derrick Jensen’s "Endgame" premises for more on this) The very people on which the system acts out violently, one form or another, all the time. Muslims, single mothers, immigrants, asylum seekers, benefit recipients, etc. Because violence is only allowed to flow in one direction, EDL members are merely asking for a more extreme version of that same violence. And it’s in the interest of those in power to keep the poor and angry trapped in kicking those below them to vent their rage and frustration.

In time, however, this situation is unsustainable. Because when poor people don’t turn against the rich and powerful, things tend to get much worse for them. That is exactly what is happening now.
Poor people get angrier because things are getting worse and because their kicking doesn’t seem to be working. This is where Britain is at the moment. And it’s at this juncture that only two things can happen.

* One, people descend into fascism. The leader of the EDL is right in one thing: if things carry on the way they are going, “something like this (the attacks in Norway) could happen in 5 or 10 years time”. Fascism means the most vulnerable in society get some serious kicking. And… nothing much changes for the poor.

* The other thing that could happen is a revolution of some sort. The poor and dispossessed rise against those in power and force them to “make concessions”, that is, distribute the pie more fairly (which comes under the banner of “liberalism”). Or they succeed in taking over power altogether. That would be socialism.

What really chips my hide is that liberals act all surprised at the words of Lennon. Has nobody read the history of fascism? I haven’t, ‘cuz I don’t like history, but even I know the basic ideas behind it. How did Hitler rise to power? Easy. Germans were very poor and very angry. It was either communism/socialism or fascism. And because fascism always works in favour of those in power, it was fascism. (Indeed, Hitler had to disguise his rhetoric under the banner of “socialism”, because the latter was so popular). When he got into power he brought nothing but fascism, and the proof is in the way poor working class people were treated.

There is nothing surprising about what’s going on with the EDL or the BNP. The poor are angry. You only have to listen to Lennon to realise he’s not your average “Newsnight” interviewee. I can’t remember the last time someone on the BBC used the word “them” to mean “those”, a characteristic, I believe, of regional English. How about the words “working class”? This man is not yet another privately educated rich boy with Oxfordian English, which are pretty much the only people you see on the BBC. He represents the poor and angry who have no idea what is causing their misery and lash against those whom the system tells them to lash against.

I get angry and I shouldn’t. The answer is not anger but compassion. Can we at least try to put ourselves in the shoes of those people who are suffering right now, who are poor and working or poorer and unemployed, who have to struggle every day just to get by and watch how the “establishment”, meaning those in power, sneer at the very thought of them?
Can we begin to imagine what it must feel like for those who have only heard one tune their whole lives, one of hatred against those more vulnerable than them, who have never actually known what the left stands for because the “tune” has made sure the left is not an ally to their interests but the cause of their grief, and who have nowhere to turn but towards an ideology that promises some sort of relief by kicking those below them real hard?

Where is the left, I want to know. Sleeping peacefully and soundly among the well-meaning hearts of middle class liberals? Amongst people who find the word “chav” to be offensive but who recoil in horror at the people who carry that label?

I come from a poor country and let me tell you: I have never seen so much hatred against the poor. Yes, they are entirely misguided in their politics. Yes, they are islamophobic, racist, misogynist, homophobic, classist, etc. That’s-the-point. If they weren’t, we would have had a revolution by now.  

We must be very careful not to fall for the trick of hating on the poor ourselves. Islamophobia, racism, misogyny, homophobia, classism, etc. are not all that surprising: we deal with them on an every day basis. But it's always much easier to hate on the poor when they start spouting these... "ideas". It's much easier because, amongst other things, we get to side with Jeremy Paxman. 

The alternative, as always, is compassion. And dialogue. Lots of it. Yes, even if it is painful and we feel like hating on the haters. Feminists should know; we put up with it everyday. 


Mary Sunshine said...

So clear! Thanks, Mary, for writing this.

Mary Tracy said...

Happy to hear that! :)

Robert said...

I agree with most of this but my problem with having compassion for these people is when the truth is explained to them they just ignore it because they prefer the fantasy version more than the truth. They don't want to know the truth and they don't care what the truth is, they just want to hurt people and restore Britain to some idealised imaginary past by getting rid of all the undesirables. They enjoy hating and are very cruel and sadistic. They are also entirely impervious to logic, evidence and reason.

Mary Tracy said...

I hear you, Robert, I really do. I am all too familiar with the haters. However, I believe that most people are not sadistic. Some of them are, that's for sure. But most people aren't; most people do not want to hurt other people. They are angry because they are suffering.

That said, there are official ways to deal with sadistic haters, namely "the law". I believe it is possible to feel compassion for the haters and send them to prison for what they've done or the vile hatred they spread out. Feeling compassion doesn't mean accepting passively what they do, or condoning their behaviour in any way.

Compassion is just a healthier alternative to hatred. Which is exhausting and hurtful for us. And we need all the energy we have.