‘We have never been so connected, yet feel so disconnected’.
It is a quote that has been repeating in my head every day since I heard it. And it couldn’t be more true. At least in the city I currently call home, London. This was the scene a few days back when a right-wing protester found himself over no mans land and into what he considers enemy territory.
The man carrying him, Patrick Hutchinson, noticed that he was in serious trouble and hurt, and carried him to police. He didn’t want to add fuel to the fire of the far right group and give an excuse for them to protest further. I am sure the white man respects this move, even if reluctantly so. Sometimes actions speak louder than words, and I am sure this moment will be remembered by both.
We humans don’t give conversation a chance all too often. The chances are if we disagree on something, we walk a very thin tightrope of discourse. We are emotional beings and show our emotion very easily. And the other person reads this emotion and bam, gets emotional as a result. A snowballing of emotions and a lack of willingness to listen kicks in, and before we know it our aim isn’t to understand the opposition, but to defend our position. A shouting contest. An ego trip. Sometimes, violence. We see this everywhere, from the streets to our parliamentary debates. If our leaders are susceptible to losing composure and even the odd fistfight, what standard are we expected to live by?
I am not sure if social media has ruined conversation, but it isn’t promoting it. Everything about a post is designed to boost our ego. There is a reason we are unable to dislike a Facebook status…. who is going to dislike it? We surround ourselves with people that think like us and if someone was to keep disliking our posts? Delete. Goodbye, friend.
Who needs that kind of negativity anyway? Not me.
But it is pretty vital. The more we surround ourselves with like minded people the less prepared we are socially for disagreement. At the same time, trolls and the very nature of being behind a username means we can be even more cruel to those that disagree with us. So now we are being more harsh than usual to a group we hardly engage with anyway… so if these groups find a day to meet in the street, why would we expect anything less than violence?
Saying that, most protests have been peaceful. However unfortunately as I type this, news is breaking that three people have been stabbed to death in a park in Reading, UK. More people have been injured in the incident. Living in an online world, word got out fast. And with that, assumptions were made fast. Especially with it taking place in a park hours after a BLM protest took place.
And this to me showed how much of a mess we are in.
-Racists blaming black people for the attack.
-Black people worried that right wing protesters carried it out.
-Media breaking news with ‘Stabbing at Black Lives Matter protest’ despite the earlier protest being peaceful and already finished
-Tweets from angry white people believing this headline is assuming white people went to carry out an attack without waiting for more information
-Tweets from angry black people feeling this headline suggests BLM protesters turned violent
I also read a tweet from a black Twitter user accusing the BBC of racism for the ‘Stabbing at BLM protest’ headline, despite the journalist in the article being black himself, and possibly worried that this ‘stabbing at BLM protest’ may have been carried out by a white protester.
The thing is, when we feel our beliefs are being targeted, any headline can seem like it is against us. ‘Stabbing at BLM Protest’ can sound both pro-BLM or anti-BLM. The perspective that hits us the hardest is the one we tend to stick with.
I refreshed the article as the evening went on (Saturday, 20th June, yesterday when this post is published), to see the headline edited from ‘Stabbing at BLM protest’ to ‘Stabbing at BLM protest site’ to ‘Reading stabbing attack.’ However those initial few hours of very little information had some people incredibly convinced they knew exactly what happened, by who and why. We can’t even wait for the information to come out before we need to tell everyone how we feel, and this is worrying in a world that seems more unstable as the months go by. We need conversation more than ever.
Protests aren’t conversation. They might be good at making governments act when tensions are highest, but the opposition in the general population aren’t really affected. Not in an educational sense at least.
Lets picture an angry mob of fifty white men, all in their 20’s-60’s marching down the street to confront BLM protesters, as seen recently in British cities. Do we really think the guy three rows from the front is reading the ‘No to Racism!‘ sign 50 meters away behind a line of police and a cloud of tear gas… with an aim of being educated? Are they really listening to the protesters as they try to drown out the chants with football songs that they haven’t been able to sing in the past few months without football? Maybe one or two protesters, if I am being optimistic. Away from a protest being used as an uprising against a government (which can be effective and caused the Minneapolis City Council to consider dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department), it is merely a shouting contest to boost ones ego. I cannot imagine too many people on both sides of a protest going home feeling they have learned something new like it was a walk to a college lecture. And not much changes when we go home and online to give further thoughts on how we feel.
Instagram Stories. Facebook Statuses. Twitter comments. They are all methods we use to tell everyone how we feel, and what’s right. They are all ways for us to tell everyone we are right, and that you should listen. And it isn’t working. The less time spent having conversation is more time the gap between the left and right has to widen. The differences become bigger. The hatred becomes more fierce. And the internet is not helping.
We need a way to promote conversation and be willing to engage with the opposition without being seen as the opposition. Sticking with our tribe is great for strength in numbers, but terrible for education. Being in a group of like minded individuals, what do we learn? Absolutely nothing. As a leftist (that is becoming ever more frustrated with the supposed left) we should be wanting to engage with those that have a difference of opinion if we are to find some common ground to build on. Understand the reasoning behind thoughts, engaging in conversation and educating. But I am seeing it less and less, the right and the left are becoming harder to differentiate.
The right needs to stop using violence as communication, and the left needs to have more patience in conversation.
That’s my thoughts on what is going on right now, and I would love to hear how you agree or disagree on this.
Featured Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash