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Raging Not Hating by Val Waldron

No-one deserves or asks for violent death because someone else thinks you don’t deserve to live. If that were the case there would be a death penalty for women who walk home alone at night or for daring to pack up your family and meagre belongings and set out across the channel in a dinghy and for supporting the ‘wrong’ football club.

Last week the continuous line of bile fed its way through the media channels much as usual. Patel, and her immunity for state sanctioned murder of refugees. The continuous denial of Brexit as a major force for decay. The fall-out for vulnerable people from fuel price rises and benefit cuts. Endless cynically disguised targeted attacks on the poor by their Tory ‘friends’. Then Douglas Ross initiating the sexist trend of gaslighting the First Minister with his ‘knackered’ slurs, (the baton willingly picked up Alex Cole Hamilton and Times columnist Kenny Farquharson). At that point a burst of real hatred seemed to cross the barriers of screen and airwaves all the way from Ross’s gut.  Party politics is a funny old game, with knockout rounds played out in public before the players head off to participate in cross-party work, or to sup together many a time, leaving us to feel the pain. Some, like Ross appear to hate for real though, and it’s disturbing.

If you ever feel real hatred, you’ll know how sickening, debilitating and uncomfortable it is to live with, and that no good comes from it (see Ross). It may be impossible to avoid the person or situations that create the emotion, but I decided to make a concerted effort to differentiate between the deeply felt surges of rage about injustice that can and must be channelled for change, and the gut nagging, ulcerating, rawness of hatred. This, even before the unspeakably awful death of MP Davis Amess.

This is not a rant about hatred. In an act of rank hypocrisy, our news outlets are already seeing to that. I know little or nothing about this MP except that he should not have been murdered and that he leaves behind him a devastation of personal grief. My honest response to the news that an MP had been murdered was a) Hope it’s nobody whose politics I value.  b) Tory policies continue to cause untold suffering and death. c) The grown up in me kicked in. I’m not proud of my initial responses. The fight has to go on with those who are alive and willing to press ahead with the obscenities that they call politics.

No-one deserves or asks for violent death because someone else thinks you don’t deserve to live. If that were the case there would be a death penalty for women who walk home alone at night or for daring to pack up your family and meagre belongings and set out across the channel in a dinghy and for supporting the ‘wrong’ football club and so on. Brutal yes, and brutal to live with and die under the mantel of hatred that has enveloped us in the name of vastly extremist differences.

We know that this pointless death will be fully weaponised, that it will lead to a spike in racism and targeted restriction somehow or another. There is every likelihood that, as with the murder of Jo Cox, others will be targeted and possibly will die, partially as a result of careless media intervention.

While the security of working politicians, GPs and others who have been a target for hatred will, and must be a matter for concern, the media will continue to erase any aspects of blame from their own door. They will desist from acknowledgement of or responsibility for the culture of confrontational attack dog interviews with politicians. Interviews that feed into populism, offer little in terms of information and inspire anger about real or imagined bias. North and south of the border the BBC is accused of being a creature of the Tories or of The Left respectively. The answer must lie somewhere in between, but not in the ‘balanced’ sense, and it’s in their own gift to change this culture.

I was unaware of the real sense of hatred within the UK political sphere until Thatcher and Neoliberalism took hold. This is why I can’t preach against hatred. She created that monster and left many without the fight in them, bereft of their job or a functioning Trade Union. It was a bonnie fecht though for those with the means and the anger and maybe the youth to channel it. The anti-poll tax movement, and the big London riot for instance. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t experience the optimism as a younger activist with one clear enemy. It was Thatcher who ushered in an era of emboldened disdain towards the poor which took its format in every aspect of life from the comedic ‘Loadsa Money’ Yuppy scene, to the asset stripping of our lives and our communities. Ken Clarke, one of her cabinet ‘vegetables’ has re-invented himself as the face of an acceptable old Toryism. Some of us remember him differently.

The genie was out of the bottle long before Brexit and the rise of populism in the west thanks to Thatcherism. Hatred is one hell of a shape shifter though and it comes to our door in many guises. It lives in Scotland through sectarianism. It arises from vengeance via Salmond and the media and unionist opposition who showed a united face of opportunism throughout the vile Salmond Inquiry process. It arises from misinformation, cue covid scepticism and the fear and myths of self ID around the Gender Reform Act.

Hatred grows with resentment, as those once regarded as harmless/powerless become more visible. The stereotype of Scots as funny drunks is replaced by an image of dependent scroungers. Many vocal Scots unionists like to sow an image of xenophobic blood and soil nationalists. Entitlement breeds hatred and bitterness. After years of Labour hegemony (‘they’re stealing our votes’ Jackie Baillie recently, on the SNP) it’s too much to bear for some on the Holyrood opposition benches. Then there’s the Greens, subject to  rumblings within the Yes movement around election times but never treated with contempt until their pro GRA stance was encapsulated as policy.

Populism and the far/alt right have taken clever turns towards victimhood in their quest for freedom of speech to slur and destroy. There are those who refuse to differentiate between actual threat/abuse, and challenges that call out their extremely controversial ideas, and it is not beyond them to exploit the death of Davis Amess in this way. The signs are there and we should be vigilant and even more concerned for our rights to peaceful protest and non-abusive criticism of abhorrent policy changes and movements. All of this comes with the caveat that the fight for (existing) rights should not be up for debate. Tricky times ahead.

There’s no easy answer or optimistic conclusion to this period of our lived history. It can feel like one would imagine the early 30s in Germany at times, and that did not end well as we know. We need all of our energy to survive, to keep the earth alive and thriving for the next generations. We owe that to them. Anger is fine. Own it, channel it. Create change.

Val Waldron

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