You're wrong (blog post)
I begin with the expression that always follows from a blog post…on the clear understanding that this is an opinion and ideas only hold as much value as one chooses them to.
Here’s the thing. You go on the Internet, you may be watching a video, or reading an article of some sort, or just strolling through social media, and then you’ll see the spiral into debates and provocative personals that are recycled throughout the internet. You could be innocently watching a funny video of cats and it would still be unsurprising to see an eruption in the comments section into your average atheist vs. theist/West vs. East/Class-based/sectarian/insert-anything-else-of-relevance bashing session.
It’s not so much the central issues that revolve around these debates of fury that are as concerning as the manner in which they escalate into belittling and ridiculing a stranger-turned-nemesis. It’s the arrogance by which a person can dismiss every element of a persons concerns or views, albeit often poorly articulated, to being stupid and nonsensical. More so, it’s the disintegration from a more civil rational/intellectual level, into an emotive platform for superiority complexes and mockery.
I think a good example of this can be seen with ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson and his FreeSpeech debate. The focus and criticisms become concentrated as personal attacks on him and who he is considered to represent, rather than what might be largely misunderstood issues which should be addressed, as was very well highlighted by rapper Akala during the video:
The downplay, at large, of what are often genuine, ignored concerns surely plays a large part in the eventual radicalisations into offshoot groups and extremes. Taking the EDL/Muhajiroon as an example, when you consider how the EDL came into place, and the context, the concerns in their core seem reasonable. They came into place because of a build up of the extremist ‘Islamist’ movement – ‘Al-Muhajiroon’ and their manner of disrespect to British soldiers in their demonstrations, as well as a general feeling of unease relating to immigration and concerns about Islam and Muslims. ‘Al-Muhajiroon’ came about in the first place because of their concerns about foreign interventions and wars in Muslim countries and Western policy that caused issues in their homelands. Such groups rarely spontaneously form due to an isolated event, but a gradual build up of events that amplify a sense of disempowerment and the feeling of having concerns ignored. Sadly, extreme reactions always seem to garner more attention than their moderate counterparts.
As is the case with many disagreements, if you were to consider the state of mind, and point by point issues in context from both sides, you could at least see that there may be genuine, but complex issues at the core, from people at either side who feel helpless and that their ‘own’ are threatened or attacked. Are the formation and aims of off-shoot groups like Al-Muhajiroon and EDL justifiable as the right way to address their concerns? Certainly not. But in our condemnation, we should not reduce or ignore what may be real concerns that may lead these groups to form.
In a nutshell, whether its Tommy Robinson on FreeTalk regarding the EDL, Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan arguing about the existence of God, or even more trivial loggerheads about sporting rivalries, there would be far more progress if from both the leader/influential level and the layman level, we could engage with more respectful, cool, collected discussions as opposed to unfruitful, hot headed debates. Not with an aim to disprove, but to learn. Not with the intention of belittling or scoring points, but with the acknowledgement that there’s a good chance of gaining a better understanding of your own misconceptions, and, as with anything in life… you could well be wrong.
Tolerance is not the same as acceptance. It takes great strength to try to restrain from being drawn into reflex responses when key elements of your identity are being ridiculed in a belittling manner, and sneered at with foolish self-certainty. And if tolerance and understanding is too much to ask for, then at least leave the funny cat videos in peace.