If there’s one thing I’m certain of it’s that I know far less about the world than I used to think I did. Take human history, for example. It’s less than seventy years since the end of a major war against fascism. Yet we’re living in a nation where the police can turn up on your doorstep and demand that you take down something you’ve tweeted. Even though no actual crime has been committed. This can apparently happen simply because a particular political party, with no democratic mandate, objects to the views you’ve expressed.
As a dedicated blogger, a Twitter songbird and a lover of free speech I’m more than a little concerned by the implications of this. If someone from said political party chose to trawl through my tweets or the annals of this blog they’d find plenty to object to. Am I going to be be woken at dead of night and told to take down the blog? Over-dramatic at the moment I realise. But if they can wield that much influence already, who knows?
My mother used to tell me when I was a child that if Hitler had won the war I would never have been born. She’d have been locked up or shot rather than submit to the loss of freedom. I think many of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations felt the same. How quickly we’ve forgotten. I’m not suggesting their opinion was based on sound historical analysis of the causes of the war. But there was a definite sense that they’d battled a force of evil and prevailed. I don’t mean by that the nation of Germany. It was rather the political philosophy of fear, expressed as hatred and control, at the root of Nazism. Yet here’s the same force rearing its ugly head again in a surprisingly thin disguise.
Fear is an incredibly potent political tool. And a very dangerous one. Hitler drove a nation to its knees by instilling an irrational fear of a small minority. And devastated a continent as a result. Fear can turn us against our neighbours. Our friends. Even our family. Anyone we perceive as different. A threat. It’s been wielded as a weapon of control by governments. Dictators. Corporations. Religious institutions. Bosses. Sergeant Majors. Rapists. Abusers. Anyone who thirsts after power. All down the ages. We seem to fall for it every time. We go running to the dog with the loudest bark. Pleading for protection.
But here’s the twist. Fear’s the thing that makes that dog ferocious in the first place. If you see someone strutting and posturing. Telling you they know all the answers. You can be sure they’re scared of something. So we end up with a political and economic system that’s founded on fear. And greed of course. But what is greed if not the fear of missing out on something someone else has?
So what’s the antidote? As I said, I know far less about the world than I used to think I did. I’m not about to come up with a magical solution. But there’s one idea all the world’s major spiritualities agree on. I say ‘spiritualities’ rather than ‘religions’. Religions have a very unfortunate record on the abuse of fear. I used to teach this ‘golden rule’ as the definition of respect when I worked with primary school children. Always treat other people the way you would like them to treat you. Or if you prefer it the other way up. Never do anything you wouldn’t want someone else to do to you. It works just as well either way.
Of course if everyone followed this path there’d be no room left for fear. As the Christian bible says there is no fear in love (1 John 4 v 18). The same book teaches its followers to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5 v 44). I think we’ve got a way to go on that one before we can call ourselves a Christian country.
Tonight I’ve made a decision. I’ve signed the Charter for Compassion. I don’t know whether it will make a difference. I do know something has to change. In our country. In our world. But the first step towards any change is always in ourselves. As for those who want to suppress free speech. To promote fear. Hatred. Suspicion. I’ll be praying for you. But this songbird ain’t gonna to stop singing. Songs of freedom. Loud and long. Not now. Not ever.
I’m blogging to raise funds for a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of One25’s work with vulnerable women in Bristol. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you can find out more about what I’m doing by visiting One25’s website at http://www.one25.org.uk/. You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=JeanMutch where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.