Nobody needed a report entitled Rewarding Social Connections Promote Successful Ageing to grasp the simple concept that being left out in the cold of society, either internationally or locally, can have hugely detrimental repercussions on an individual’s physical and mental health. Especially if that individual already struggles with those things.
Mother Teresa famously said of the West; ‘the biggest disease of today is not leprosy or cancer or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody’. In the UK we’d do well to consider that statement, and its relevancy.
This edition of Notes was originally intended to criticise the scaremongering of both Leave and Remain campaigns, but recent events have well and truly kicked that into touch. On Thursday 16th July, Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered whilst serving her constituency. A politician who, refreshingly, stood for acceptance, empathy and understanding, the theft of this talented professional pales in comparison with the reality that she was a mother of two, a daughter, and someone’s wife.
In the past I’ve had direct experience of sudden, unexpected and irreversible loss, sadly more often than not involving people who were taken well before their time. As such stories like this always resonate. Yet this tragedy should no more be turned into something about me than the Orlando shootings should be used as a tool for xenophobia and Islamophobia. It’s a callous mind that jumps to self-serving opportunism in the wake of horror (see also: Trump’s post-Pulse tweet).
So let’s put personal views and point scoring to one side- strange as that may seem at a time when every news broadcast is focussed on the circus of political oneupmanship the EU referendum has become. What really matters here is that someone as unique as a snowflake, with hopes, dreams, passions, loves, interests, eccentricities, and dependents, has been robbed of their chance to ever experience anything new again. That alone demands mourning, irrespective of whether they were also a key spokesperson for equality and compassion.
At the time of writing it’s far too early to speculate on the real reasons why this happened. The morning after Cox was killed, BBC One’s daily Breakfast broadcast featured an eyewitness, who said the perpetrator used the words 'Britain first' as he committed the crime. The exact sentence appears to be unclear. Other outlets are reporting similar claims. Realistically, though, this is missing the point to some degree.
Although I advocate freedom of speech, and the mantra of defending someone’s right to believe in what they believe in, even this personal obsession with true liberalism has a limit. When an agenda looks to spread fear, hate, anger, resentment, violence, and blame it’s difficult, potentially impossible, to argue in favour of any right to voice that opinion. But the most terrifying thing about the 21st Century is that although all that applies directly to extremism on every side, it also perfectly describes more mainstream thinking, and a good proportion of two hugely influential fields of work.
The media and political powers have been force-feeding the public a doctrine of distrust, frustration, revulsion, hostility and desperation of years, but this has accelerated exponentially in recent times. The world might end if we vote to Remain, the world might end of we vote Leave, depending on who you side with. Those who disagree with either are idiots in the eyes of their enemies, if not altogether dangerous. They should be stamped out. Anyone who hails from elsewhere is different, and we need to be wary, or at least aware, of that. Borders are everything, with even left-leaning arguments focussed on lines drawn in the sand, and how these are not a problem. The real problem is, though, that only reinforces the idea of borders, of an us and them- whether that’s between one perspective and the next, or one country and another.
As this rhetoric permeates through the heart of the nation, our means to protect, heal and love are being stripped away. The safety net has long since worn thin, and there are holes appearing everywhere, in turn adding yet more fuel to the fires of fear waiting to be stoked by insidious reporting and public speeches designed to generate more heat amongst the already hotheaded. It would be anything but an analogy for a piece on Cox to conjure imagery of someone suffering from mental health problems having their support network destroyed by lack of funding, leaving them to spend time alone at home absorbing self-interested politicians and brainwashed disciples with clenched teeth and fists.
It’s a poisonous atmosphere, a polluted culture and a national disgrace the likes of which even the most plastic chair-happy bunch of England fans could never out-nasty.
In light of what has transpired, then, it must finally be time for a return to levelheadedness. A time to start acting with greater responsibility for the consequences of written and spoken bile. History has shown us what happens when society breeds intolerance, fury and hostility at its fringes- eventually it spills over to the centre. Divisions along any lines can never be beneficial to humanity; promoting a rhetoric of unhappiness and nurturing isolation is only ever going to create further problems, which which have a habit of becoming actions.
At the moment we’re staring at the fan, shit in hand, throwing arm ready. My only hope is that someone, somewhere, decides to pull the plug before the perfect storm of ideologies, policies, cuts, economic lies, socio-political mistruths, headlines and shortsightedness blows us down the path of no return. Because once that happens it really is game over.