This is all wrong . . . and this post is a week late. Nevertheless, it still is nagging at me to be written.
I was moved to tears by Greta Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations last week. Simple words, clear message, belief in a greater good and a non-ego based plea for collaborative action to save the planet and provide hope and more importantly a future for our planet and the species that remain on it. I was also left thinking, but what now?
Last week also saw Lady Hale, Chair of the UK Supreme Court announce a momentous decision around the illegality of the current UK Government’s proroguing of parliament. In contrast to the Thunberg speech, Lady Hale’s measured words brought a huge smile to my face, possibly a fist pump, a sense of justice being done. Again, I was left thinking, but what now?
Both women of course have been celebrated, derided and abused in equal measure and their measured, meaningful words are a stark contrast to the continuing stream of dumbed down rhetoric tumbling out of the mouths of (mainly male) UK Cabinet members and our Prime Minister.
Boris Johnston the former Daily Telegraph columnist who was never short of a slight obscure adjective is now the apparent master of language of the people, and rote phrases such as “surrender bill”, “do or die”, reverted to type at PMQ last week when the only response he could think of in response to the reality of death threats received by female MPs, was “I’ve never heard such hum-bug in my life”. I’m not even going to attempt to try and explain my reaction what happened in Parliament last week, but once again I was left thinking, what next?
The manipulation of language within politics, and indeed throughout culture is nothing new. However, there is something terribly wrong with what is happening just now. So why is it that the real crisis we are all facing and the words so eloquently expressed by Greta Thunberg are not gaining widespread tracked, yet phrases like “surrender bill”, “do or die” , traitor” are?
Like many of my peers, I miss reasoned discussion around our current political situation. I find myself at a loss to understand how many people cannot see that what they are being told about for example Brexit is in many cases simply not true. Brexit cannot “be done” on 31 October. What might happen then is the agreement of a Withdrawal Agreement, there will be many, many more deals and arrangements to be negotiated.
Yesterday, I read a really interesting article by George Monibot, around this very topic. In the article he describes some research into how we react to, and what we hear in times of crisis and stress. The research has shown that “when we feel threatened, we cannot hear calm, conversational voices” and that in times of fear, “it is the deep background noises we need to hear” why is why “In the political context, if people are shouting at us, moderating voices are, physically, tuned out. Everyone has to shout to be heard, ramping up the level of stress and threat.” So what next?
Well in the article Monibot calls for more reasoned behaviour, and mostly importantly respect and the need for safe spaces where calm conversations and equally importantly listening, can take place. It seems to me that education needs to play a key role in creating and sustaining these safe, civic places, where new forms of public pedagogy around climate change (which in turn would lead to discussions around trade, markets, values etc) can develop. We also need to start to reclaim social media spaces in this way too to make them calmer spaces and places. I would love that to be next.