I know, I know.
This is a travel website, and I should stick to talking about travelling. Well you know what, fuck that, because the way the world is heading now, travelling won’t bloody exist in ten years. I’m not going to sit here penning happy tales of beaches and bars while the world goes to shit around me.
Throughout this year, I’m sure you won’t disagree that there has been a slow bubbling over of hate and selfishness. I want to take you right back to bedrock here. Enough of politics for now, because we can’t address key issues regarding our laws and the lives our loved ones without first addressing the ideologies beneath.
I see humanity as split into two groups: you have those who can project themselves into others situations, who can feel pain on behalf of others, empathise and sympathise. And you have those who cannot. This is the basis for everything. Empathy isn’t a skill taught in school. It’s a social skill you pick up. I learned it through guilt – from hurting people I care about and feeling dreadful, all through my life, whether it was breaking someone’s heart or stealing their Pokémon cards. Seeing the pain I could inflict on people taught me to constantly project myself into other people’s shoes, to predict how they would react, and to avoid causing pain in future. I still try and fail at this regularly, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try.
Empathy is the seed that grows into compassion, and the willingness to share. If you don’t understand that your friend having less while you have more will cause them upset, you won’t think twice about gobbling all the Haribo before they can get their hands on any. This mindset starts in childhood and continues into adult life. If you can’t imagine living their life, if they seem alien to you, what do you care if they are killed by a drone strike? What do you care if they now stay locked in their house for fear of racist abuse in the street?
We grow up watching our heroes on the silver screen continually sacrifice their lives for others. Every superhero film sees bold individuals make martyrs of themselves, holding fast to the principles of Good and Justice even if it costs their lives. Religions are founded on it. Jesus Christ died for our sins. The entirety of Christianity is based on this – it’s in the bloody name, in case you forget it. People are not being asked to die for anyone else’s sins, but maybe they are being asked to give up their guns, or pay a little more tax, or give refugees a welcoming environment to integrate into – but they’re not having any of it.
If Brexit had been a referendum of young people alone, the UK and the EU would still be one (and I would be a great deal bloody wealthier, as the pound wouldn’t have crashed and taken my savings with it). If only young votes were counted in the US election, almost the entire country would be blue. So when does this change happen? We learn sharing and empathy as children, and yet as we grow older, it seems we drift further and further away from these values.
When it comes to discussing taxes, an infinitely popular saying among the older population is ‘but it’s my money’. See also: ‘I’m not paying more so people can sit at home scrounging benefits’. If similar words were spoken by one child to another, the child in question would be scolded. It’s good to share, it’s wrong to be selfish – until you grow up, then it’s apparently fine.
We are in a bitter, nasty era. Until last week I was convinced social liberalism (not necessarily economic) had turned the tide enough for a lasting victory. I remember two weeks ago comforting an American at a house party, saying I believed that at this stage, we were past the event horizon of a utopia – that the spread of kinder, more compassionate attitudes was past tipping point, and that the current cruel ideologies touted in the media were a passing phase. I believed the rise of Donald Trump was nothing more the violent death throes of the Angry White Man in the face of us damned dewy-eyed snowflake liberals and our rainbow flags and our disdain for words like ‘nigger’, ‘paki’ and ‘faggot’. These people did vote for Donald Trump. But I was wrong in assuming they would be his only voters.
It is hard for me to swallow my pride and admit that not all Trump voters are racist, or bigoted – but it’s true. However, one thing is undeniable: these voters wanted better lives for themselves so badly, that while not directly agreeing with it, they were willing to accept racism, sexism, sexual assault, bigotry, incitement to violence and raw hatred as part of the deal.
What we need, before we even begin to discuss any policy at all, is an ideological shift. I am anti Donald Trump, however I am not anti-human. People voted for him, and that needs addressing. I believe people voted due, in part, to the reasons outlined above – the want and need to better your lot in life, with little thought given to the possibility that in doing so, you might make someone else’s considerably worse. This is the shift we need.
We need a world full of people with the courage and the capacity for self-sacrifice that their heroes have, whether that hero is a religious figure, a civil rights activist, any one of the millions of unknown soldiers lost on ashen battlefields, or a caped superhero. It doesn’t matter where you draw inspiration from, only that you find the courage to do the opposite of stepping on others: supporting them. You don’t need to worry about looking after yourself. A world filled with hearts brimming over with compassion and the desire to help others, is a world where every single person in it wants to help you. Despite everything, I don’t believe that’s an impossible goal.
I’ve seen it, in small doses. Festivals, sporting events, gigs, days of national pride and national grieving. It is that palpable magic in the air on Christmas Day. Good will to all. If we can have one day a year where we practise good will to all, why not a week? A month? Every day? It can happen, and I still believe it will. I’ll keep writing this shit until it does.
I don’t have the answer, I’m afraid, for how to bring about this ideological shift. Perhaps such a shift can only come about after a global catastrophe. After both World Wars, there was a period of prosperity. People had seen enough death, and enough hate. Mass suffering brought people together. I simply hope that the uniting global catastrophe this time around has already taken place, with the election of Donald Trump, and is not some unforeseen event occurring as a result of his Presidency.
Ideological revolution is the name of the game. Bring it on.
Oh look, I was searching for a header image and came across this. Seems Einstein and I are in agreement. Good to know.