(That title is lifted from a song by the brilliant Suzanne Vega by the way.)
Are you blue? Or red? Or maybe yellow?
Are you a leaver? Or a remainer?
Are you right? Or left?
Does it matter?
I’ve always thrown the word ‘lefty’ around like I’m part of a club; a side. “Well, our lot are all lefties aren’t we”. But is that true? And is it a good thing to aspire to?
A good friend who is always a source of brilliant inspiration and debate recently encouraged me to listen out for something called ‘the Intellectual Dark Web’…what’s that?! Well don’t worry, it’s not a snuff channel or anything, it’s a group of opinionated individuals who in their debates tackle all sorts of left/right issues (google it). The insane thing is, because they’re bringing up some uncomfortable topics these people have been banned from many lectures, radio stations and I witnessed first-hand an attempt to belittle one of them on our own Channel 4 news (Britain’s lefty version of Fox News – I like my presenters with a bit of character but don’t try to tell me how to think, ta very much).
So just to be absolutely crystal: the ‘intellectual dark web’ is not the same as the ‘dark web’, it was a nickname given to a number of debates taking place online and the ‘dark’ insinuation is merely because people are frightened of it. The nickname has now stuck.
So anyway, I found links to this Intellectual Dark Web and I had a listen to some debates, presentations, interviews. Ok, there is a lot of opinion in there BUT there’s also a lot of unadulterated fact and statistics too and I found myself listening to the likes of Ben Shapiro (he’s labelled as pretty ‘right-wing’) talking about how capitalism is a good thing and I was thinking (to a lot of points, not all of them) ‘well yes, of course Ben, obviouslythat’s the case’. Now, there’s a lot of this stuff online and I have seen a relatively tiny sliver so I can’t say for certain that some of these guys don’t have any hurtful views but so far my observation is that they’re ordinary folk using facts to help explore some potentially difficult views…and they’re being shut out.
Have I gone all right-wing?!!! The fear hit me like a smack in my liberal chops. I had to do a quick check : do I still think Trump is a dangerous man-baby? Yes. Good. Would I still rather skip dinner than see someone go hungry? Absolutely. Great. Get the joss sticks back out, everything’s groovy.
Life is surely all about balance though, isn’t it? And you can’t pre-ordain how a human will turn out so as long as there are 7billion of the little weirdos running the show, you can expect some pretty varied perspectives. More importantly to my point, you can’t expect perfection all the time. We all (well, dangerous man-babies aside) seek an end to war, prejudice, greed etc but guess what: it’s not going to happen. Not ever. Not as long as there are human beings.
So what’s my point? And what can we do? Well, it’s not necessarily for me to say, we must all make our own decisions but a few I am considering are…
Firstly, if I can say “I’m left/right wing”, then surely I’m already missing the point? You can’t expect to find balance by weighting only one side of the scales and you can’t expect to meet people in the middle by shouting at them from the other side of the track. Starting an argument with ‘I’m not interested in understanding things from your perspective’ seems disrespectful and unintelligent to me. So I personally – starting now – am going to stop labelling myself. Ok, so I have a tendency to veer to the left, but I now vow to remember the importance of balance and will try to remain open to all views at all times.
Secondly, I will not base my views on history or opinions; I will try to base my opinions on the current facts. Seek facts, do not consume opinion. People change, circumstances change, leaders change. Even brands change. Whenever faced with an opportunity to vote, support or oppose, I will try to make sure I make my choices with the facts in mind, not opinions based on something that may be – or maybe used to be – true. When Katie Hopkins posts a video of a man – who happens apparently to be Muslim – lashing out at police, UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT – who is the guy? What happened just before he lashed out? What provoked him? Would you have done the same? Does he speak for all Muslims? Is he actually a Muslim? Is his religion relevant in this context? Why are you listening to Katie Hopkins? What are you doing on social media anyway, the sun is shining, there are things to learn, the cat just did something hilarious etc etc etc.
I will almost certainly stop using my Facebook accounts (I can’t delete them because Facebook own the other good social media sites and you physically can’t have eg Instagram without a FB account…can you see how fucked up this is?). All social media has the vulnerability of being manipulated by its users or industry influencers – hopefully you’re aware by now that Facebook have actively controlled what you see for the last few years and have been therefore fuelled whatever fires they feel are most important. See ‘confirmation bias’. See Cambridge Analytica.
Finally – and most importantly, and yes I will put this out as advice – we can all do something to help the balance and equilibrium of the universe: just don’t be a dick. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: be nice to people, animals, the earth. You, personally, can’t end poverty but you can give a few quid to a homeless person. You can’t end pollution but you can stop buying bottled water (in case you didn’t know, plastic bottles are killing the world and WE DON’T LIVE IN THE THIRD WORLD, YOUR TAPS ARE FINE TO DRINK FROM!!!!! Sorry, bottled water is a pet hate of mine. Anyway, point being: if everyone took a little more care of the things around them we wouldn’t need to worry so much about what ‘side’ we’re on.
Don’t choose a side. Choose the right thing.
Much love x
PS, thank you to the close friends who inadvertently helped with this toughie, I won’t name you in case I’m not expressing your views!!