Maybe it’s as a result of the forthcoming referendum, or maybe it’s a sign of a much deeper, more insidious malaise, but Facebook and other social media seem to be awash lately with hate-filled rants. These diatribes are accompanied by a willingness by ordinary people to “Share” or “Like” the most vile messages concerning fellow human beings whose backgrounds don’t correspond exactly to their own cultural heritage or their own personal view of the world. It is the deeply vitriolic nature of some of the statements which makes them so shocking.
We have seen recently a return of the drink-fuelled aggression, violence and hatred between rival football fans which used to be such a feature of regional, national and international competitions. Driving has become a daily nightmare on some of our roads, motorways in particular, with reckless, aggressive and selfish manoeuvring seemingly becoming the norm. Again, you can be subject to hate-filled rants from red-faced, gesticulating racing drivers, particularly if you try to keep to the speed limits and actually obey the rules. Yes, ‘twas ever thus, but it does seem to be more widespread, or just more apparent; another visible sign that we are not very good at being cool lately.
We have a free press, which, in part, uses that freedom to encourage its readers to hate those groups that the owners of the newspapers hate, the easy targets, the vulnerable and weak, particularly if they are very visible, without accepting responsibility for the consequences. Certain politicians encourage a “Me, me, me” attitude.
It’s only five minutes since we demonstrated a completely different side to our collective character when we opened our arms and welcomed the world to Britain for the Olympics and the Tour de Yorkshire. Volunteer Games Makers showed our ability to transform ourselves into the perfect hosts and present the friendliest of faces to our visitors. With self-deprecating humour we made fun of ourselves in parts of the Olympic opening ceremony.
The flip side of the hate-filled rants is the ability of very large numbers of people to respond to negative incidents and a number of recent atrocities with love, empathy, and a willingness to show solidarity and to identify with those caught up in the violence.
This stuff is important because society provides the context within which we carry out our work, and if society accepts casual hatred and does not stand up for the marginalised, hate is allowed to prosper and this “gives permission” for young people to replicate the behaviour they see all around them and incorporate it into their own norms and values.
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